What do you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when you're a vegetarian in a country known for its meat-centric cuisine? In this week's post, Shivani navigates life as a vegetarian abroad in Argentina and shares tips (and some clever tricks) on how to thrive and enjoy eating out in the city. Want to know what else to expect in Buenos Aires? Let Shivani guide you through her Argentinian vegetarian experience so far!
Argentina is filled with a large amount of farms and ranches, which has a direct correlation to its main food dishes. Steak and other red meat is very famous and can easily be found for lunch and dinner everywhere. Whenever I would tell someone I was going to be staying in Argentina, 9 times out of 10 I would get the question: “Wait, but aren’t you vegetarian?”
Yes, I am vegetarian.
And yes, I am still going to go to study abroad in country that is known for its meat-filled cuisine.
After hearing this question multiple times and also googling common Argentine dishes, I got more and more nervous about if it was possible to maintain my diet abroad. I packed quite a few snacks just in case and assured myself that I was not a picky eater (beggars can’t be choosers!!).
I realized I was definitely being ~DRAMATIC~ when I was genuinely scared of eating rice and lentils everyday. With that being said, there were still aspects of my diet that did change tremendously.
Breakfast is typically very small here. Usually people drink mate or coffee with maybe a croissant or toast. I have noticed that peach jam, strawberry jam, and caramel are very common spreads to have with toast or a croissant. I never have a problem with breakfast, since breakfast here does not include foods like bacon, sausage, or any other meats.
A typical Argentine breakfast.
Lunch? That has been more of a struggle (not too much, though).
I am not a big bread eater, but every meal at restaurants is given with some bread and butter and I do end up eating a lot of it… I have to say, the bread here is a lot yummier than the United States. As for actual entrees, I have been able to find multiple vegetarian options at several places. One thing I have gotten accustomed to doing is if I do not see anything that pops out to me as vegetarian, I always ask the server if they know of anything on the menu that does not have meat in it. This has helped a ton to not only help me find the options I have, but also asking has definitely made navigating through a full Spanish menu much easier.
Beware, though… Many Argentine folk think that being vegetarian means not eating red meats, but things like fish or chicken are okay to eat. Sometimes, I’ve had to make it clear specifically what types of foods I do or do not consume.
Honestly, it does not hurt to be more specific than less. A week ago, I ordered a salad with basil, carrots, eggs, and a few other ingredients. I assumed the basil would be the base of the salad but when I received it, I realized the basil was just sprinkled on top a little and most of my salad was filled with shredded carrots. So, for that meal I felt like I was solely eating carrots with olive oil, which wasn’t what I expected at all. I realized that I cannot even assume the way salads are made in Argentina; every country is different. With that being said, there are still many super delicious salads out there (like the one below)!
Delicious vegetarian salad options.
Something else I have noticed is that many of the restaurants keep menus posted on their windows or outside the door, so it is very easy to take a peek at the menu before committing to a restaurant. After strolling a bit in Palermo, I walked upon this one food place after looking at its menu and ordered some DELICIOUS pizza. Caramelized onions and goat cheese? YES, PLEASE!!!
Caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza.
Lastly, googling restaurants and places that look promising is always a way to go. Not only do Google and apps like Yelp tell you other people’s opinions, but it is also easy to search based upon keywords like “vegetarian options” or “vegan” and etc... I googled Indian restaurants recently and discovered a really good one in Recoleta. The place was a little fancier and the service and aesthetic were great, as well as the food. I was even able to meet the chef, and we had a 20-minute conversation about his restaurant, living in Buenos Aires, and other topics like that. It was a great experience overall!
Dessert from the Indian restaurant.
Usually for dinner, I eat with my host mother, her boyfriend, and my two roommates. My host mother is absolutely amazing and always serves a vegetarian dish with a salad on the side and fruit for dessert. Not only are our conversations great, but she also switches up dinner with a variety of healthy foods.
In general, even though there are going to be bumps in the road, I’ve realized that being vegetarian is definitely easier than it seems as long as I am not afraid to try new things and ask about various options. Even asking for the restaurant to substitute meat in for a different vegetable is okay to do, and opens a lot more doors. Every individual has been extremely nice and willing to help tailor to my diet and that is a lot to ask for!
We are not only surviving, but WE ARE THRIVING!! :P
Shivani Pandya is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2019, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Bioinformatics major at University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
Shivani's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.