This month marked four years since I turned vegetarian. 4 years since a Sunday morning bacon butty. 4 years since a kebab after a night out. 4 years since a BBQ’d beef burger on a hot summer’s day.
You know what? I don’t regret the choice at all. I used to love meat. I’d grown up in a household where most dinners contained meat and I often took a ham sandwich in my packed lunch. At uni, relishing being able to eat what I wanted, I spent much of my first year making sausage sandwiches for breakfast. I didn’t like salad, I wasn’t fussed about legumes (unless they were of the baked variety in a fry up) and the only vegetables I’d eat were carrots and broccoli. Meat was a big part of my diet, and my life. Until it wasn’t.
So, four years in, I thought I’d share my thoughts on vegetarianism and a goal for 2020.
As soon as people find out I’m veggie, many often ask why? I have two answers for this, really. The first is the truth about how and why I made the change. The second is more important. The third is a more recent shift in my mentality.
- I turned veggie because Oli, my boyfriend, was veggie. We were cooking for each other most days and it obviously made sense to eat the same. After a couple of months, when cooking for myself, I stopped being bothered about meat. I decided to stop eating meat at home, but told myself “I’ll eat it when I’m out for dinner. I don’t want to miss out.” I never actually did.
- I really try to do what I can to help the environment. Time and time again, it’s been proven that the single best thing we, as individuals, can do, is to have a plant-based diet. I’m not vegan (yet), but the environmental impact is now my main motivation to be vegetarian.
- I never liked the thought that the meat I was eating was actually an animal. I wouldn’t eat chicken on the bone or anything that suggested it used to be alive. Since living in Hanoi, I regularly have to see meat being chopped up, when shopping in the wet market or even just walking to my bus stop. I see chickens, ducks, sheep, cows and dogs cooped up in cages strapped onto mopeds or squashed onto lorries and I know where they’re going. Personally, I don’t like that thought.
All that, plus I honestly think being vegetarian has made me a better cook. I think I used to rely on the flavour of meat, but now I know what seasoning and spices combine together for something delicious (at least, I think I do).
Initially, I just gave up meat. I’d never loved most fish or seafood, but did enjoy the fish cakes at the chip shop and tuna pasta bake. In time, I stopped being bothered about eating them.
It was September 2019, over 3 and a half years into my vegetarianism, when I got funny about eggs. I was working my way through an absolute mound of sloppy scrambled eggs at a hotel (I’d ordered a double portion accidentally) and suddenly went off eggs. I don’t think I’ve had any since (other than eggs used in making cakes, because cake).
Cows milk, too, gradually left my diet and has been replaced with plant-based alternatives. Slowly, I’m heading towards veganism. Most of what I buy to cook at home is vegan, but I haven’t worked up to giving up my favourite treats yet. Chocolate, cake, halloumi? Hanoi needs more vegan alternatives, asap.
One thing I will say is that now Crust Pizzeria serve up proper pizza with vegan cheese, that’s sorted out that issue for me.
I’m going to start sharing more of my favourite veggie and vegan recipes, Hanoi-based meals and plant-based finds from my travels in later blogs. But I thought I’d share just a few of my favourites from recently.
Bloody incredible. Completely vegan and there are so many choices. This is a fake chicken and bacon cheeseburger with VEGAN POUTINE, HELLO. Considering moving to Auckland purely for this on the reg.
Possibly my favourite dish in Hanoi, and that is a bold claim. The vegetarian falafel bao is delicious, their edamame beans smothered in garlic and soy are divine and the Cajun fries make me happy. Vegan options available too!
I took my Mum here a couple of weeks ago. There was some confusion and she ended up eating some of my bean burrito instead of her beef one. Before realising, she honestly said, “God, I could never be veggie! This tastes too good!” She was eating a vegetarian dish.
If you’re not in NZ or Vietnam and those descriptions aren’t enough to make you jump on a plane, here of some of my favourite vegan recipes for cooking at home:
- Eating Bird Food’s Tofu Sofritas are on the menu on a weekly basis at our place. Serve up with rice or in wraps
- Pinch of Yum’s ‘Golden Soup’ is a perfect winter warmer
- This Tofu Katsu Curry is almost as good as the Wagamama’s vegan katsu that I LOVE
As I say, I’m trying to eat more plant-based this year. If you’ve got any great vegan recipes to help me on my journey, or are privy to some info on vegan halloumi in Vietnam, please let me know below or on instagram.