India doesn’t have a lot of vegan restaurants just yet. Worse, almost everything in most “vegetarian” restaurants has a hint of butter or milk, so a vegan has to choose between options on the menu.
When you go to a non-vegan restaurant and don’t know what to order, here are a few things you can do.
1. Do some research first!
If the meeting is already set, why not choose the restaurant ahead of time as well? Before you go, find out a little bit about the restaurant. These days, you can also find menus online, and a quick look through the list can tell you if there are any vegan options. If not, you could suggest a different place that might have more vegan options.
2. Make all the food vegan!
The problem with a country like India is that even though there are a lot of vegetarians there, they also eat a lot of dairy. Even people who are vegetarian here don’t like the idea of going vegan. So there aren’t many places where you can get 100% vegan food, even if they are vegetarian. Everything has butter or ghee in it, so the only thing you can do is make the vegetarian food you already have vegan. For example, you could ask the chef or waiter not to add any ghee, butter, cheese, or honey.
3. Tell them you can’t have lactose.
When you say you’re vegan, restaurants don’t always take your request for no dairy seriously. Instead, you could say you can’t handle lactose, which would make them more likely to do what you want. It is terrible that we have to do this to eat cruelty-free food, but in some cases, this is the only way to make sure that your food doesn’t have any kind of dairy in it.
4. Use it as a chance to teach someone something new!
If your waiter or waitress is open and friendly, tell them why you want to eat food without meat or dairy. You never know if it will touch someone. Also, leave comments and ideas about how to add dairy-free options, and try to get the message to the managers. They might listen to you and agree to add some vegan options to the menu if enough people ask for them.
5. Make a list of foods that are safe.
If you have vegan food options that are easy to find in restaurants, that would help your cause even more. You can always count on rice, pulav, pasta with arrabbiata sauce (without cheese), dal, chapatti, and other similar foods.
6. Always have some dried fruits or even fresh fruits with you.
If you absolutely have to meet someone at a restaurant that doesn’t serve vegetarian or vegan food, you have no choice but to skip the meal. To keep from going hungry, always have some dry fruits or fruits on hand to hold you over until you can get a proper meal somewhere else. Sounds rude, but being ready is better than going hungry.
7. Keep a small Tetra-pack of non-dairy milk in your bag!
If you’re addicted to coffee or tea or want those thick fruity and milky shakes, you should always play it safe to keep your willpower as strong as ever. Bring a 200-ml packet of soy, almond, or cashew milk. You can fit it in your purse without taking up much room. I keep soy milk powder on hand in case I need it while travelling. You can always ask the chef to substitute one of these plant-based milks for dairy milk and still enjoy your favourite drinks.
So, these were some great tricks that we really liked. We’d love to hear your ideas, too, if they’re interesting.