25 OCTOBER 2010
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Recent trends show that a vegetarian diet is continuing to become more popular, with many choosing the diet for environmental as well as dietary reasons. An estimated 3% of people in Western Countries are now thought to be vegetarian, and campaigns such Meat Free Monday, led by Stella and Paul McCartney, are highlighting the potential benefits to the environment of avoiding meat for one day each week.
There are still however many countries which have very few vegetarian foods on offer, for a variety of cultural, religious and historical reasons.
To mark the occasion of World Vegetarian Day earlier this month flight search site Skyscanner looks at the top five places for vegetarian food lovers, as well as taking a peak at some more extreme meaty destinations for the more dedicated carnivore.
India remains arguably the world’s finest vegetarian destination. With up to 40% of Indians thought to enjoy a meat free diet, there is an abundance of delicious vegetarian fare on offer across this huge country. Some entire towns, such as Pushkar, are meat free, which can be heaven for vegetarians who may often have their choices restricted to one or items on a menu.
Last year the city of Ghent in Belgium became the world’s first to host a weekly ‘veggie day’, shunning the traditional fish and shellfish the town is famous for. Every restaurant in the town now features at least one vegetarian dish each Thursday, and schools will follow suit by giving children a meat free main meal at lunchtime.
There an amazing 6,000 vegetarian eating establishments in Taiwan, where an estimated 10% of the population follow a vegetarian diet. Taiwan is thought to have some of the world’s toughest food labelling laws as a result of the high proportion of vegetarians and also due to Buddhist law. Much of the vegetarian food in Taiwan is often very light sweet and different to other savoury Taiwanese food.
With a multicultural population across the majority of its major cities, the United Kingdom offers fantastic vegetarian food. Birmingham ’s famous Balti Triangle is home to some of the country’s finest curry houses, many of which regularly win national awards. The city also hosts the UK leg of the Veggie Pride parade, which was simultaneously held in Prague, Milan and Lyon in 2009.
Turkish food, often served in a delicious mezze platter containing several dishes, flatbreads and a variety of dips, is ideal for the vegetarian diet. The traditional foods of the Ottoman Empire, many of which are a fusion of Middle Eastern, Balkan and Asian influence, are hugely popular and include stuffed grapevine leaves (yaprak dolmasi) and baklava, a rich sweet pastry made with syrup and nuts. Even Turkish Delight is vegetarian!
And five places for your extreme meat fix…
Scotland’s most famous dish, haggis, is notorious – although many people may not know what is inside the ‘delicacy’. Traditionally cased in sheep’s bladder, haggis is made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs and is particularly popular across the country on Burn’s Night on the 25thof January, the annual celebration of the life of Scots’ poet Robert Burns.
Eating dog is illegal in South Korea – apart from on one day per year. On the 17th of August each year, groups of South Koreans, mainly older men, tuck into dog as part of a celebration of the date which is known as ‘Malibok’ in the Korean lunar calendar. It is thought that despite the ban on eating dog, thousands of restaurants still serve up dog meat soup, with the animal estimated to be the fourth most popular meat in the country.
It is said that the Franco Regime of 1939-1975 strongly discouraged vegetarianism and associated it with the political left. Perhaps as a result, much of Spain’s food is strongly meat-based, with pig in particular a firm favourite in many tapas dishes. For something more unusual try stewed bull’s tail (Rabo de toro) originating in Cordoba, or Cojunodo, a slice of chorizo served on fried quail egg.
Horse lovers should probably steer clear of the Red Hot Horse take-away in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana – one of the most popular dishes at the café is horse burger. Many Slovenian supermarkets also stock horse meat if you’d prefer to cook up a burger yourself.
Notorious for their love of meat, the US has a range of restaurants claiming to offer the world’s largest steak. For something with a more distinctive taste, head to Florida – many eateries here offer Alligator on the menu.
Your Editor would like to add that for those real meat eaters the only place to go is the Argentine. Not only is the beef soft and delicious but you are only expected to order one helping for two customers. What you will be delivered is enormous. It’s no embarrassment to offer your dining partner a portion even at the finest restaurant.
Skyscanner is a leading travel search site providing instant online comparisons on flight prices for over 670,000 routes, and on over 600 airlines, including cheap flights, car hire and holidays. Fly to your food. www.skyscanner.net
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