50. Gastric Treasure Hunting

Gastric Treasure Hunting: It’s been really fun to look for vegetarian food around Asia. It was super easy to find in India, what with the whole Hindu cow worship thing and the Gandhi influence. Since then, “vegetarian” isn’t a word easily understood outside of large cities. In most Asian languages, there isn’t even a word for vegetarian. I can express “no meat” in a native language but that just means “no beef” to many people and I end up with a plate full of chicken necks or fish heads. But when I’m in big cities, like Kuala Lumpur, I can take my radical vegetarian tendencies almost anywhere – especially those restaurants that are shamelessly 100% vegetarian.

These places are the best, as much for the food and variety of soy “meats” (mock mutton!) as for the attitude. I can’t think of many places in the States, even in hippie havens like Portland, that can pull off the height of veggie propaganda without fearing some radical self-righteous label. Most vegetarian places here spare no expense in broadcasting their ideology – it’s on staff t-shirts, window paintings, and Gandhi speeches muralled on the walls, like this one: “While we should adopt humility and tolerance in our relations with meat-eaters, we as vegetarians are not just allowed, but required, to voice our ideals.” Since all of the messaging is done with a grace that’s inherited from Buddhism and Hinduism it feels ancient and inarguable.

These are good days for eating and I plan to enjoy it now because I hear the Philippines is pretty meaty, if you know what I mean.


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