Eating out –Maybe not the greatest way to stay healthy… But, eating out is inevitable. Among the daily rush of getting kids ready, tackling work assignments, volunteering etc., eating out is a necessary option for working parents. Being a vegetarian outside India, here’s my take on the various cuisines. Remember, meat eaters will find all the cuisines below much more exciting than vegetarians. So, it is a very one-sided view, I am very well aware of that.
Let us review the common take-out options for us vegetarians and let me give you my highly biased opinion :).
- Indian/Pakistani restaurants – Too greasy, too rich. Our moms never cook like this!! Eating Indian take-out every day may not dent your wallet, but may lead to clogged arteries in a few years.
- Italian – All the sophistication and price for maybe one or two vegetarian menu options which typically ends up being variations of boiled noodles and tomato sauce!!
- Mexican – Yummy deliciousness!! But it falls in the same category as Indian. It is most often too carb heavy. Authentic Mexican restaurants (we found one in a random truck stop in Wyoming) that carry lots of fresh salsas are awesome, but so hard to find.
- Japanese – So healthy, but I challenge you to find one menu that is not printed in Japanese or do not have fish in their broth. Also, have you seen their portion sizes? An adult is given a child’s serving in most places. Which is more a reflection of my appetite than their problem, ahem…moving on…
- Thai – A balanced approach between health and taste, but why O why all the coconut?
- Chinese – When I was in college, we used to take-out hot Chinese fried rice for a $1.50 at the students union. While it was a great deal as a student 15 years ago, now-a-days oily fried rice does not ‘digest’ well – Signs of me getting older!!
So, are you ready for the healthiest vegetarian take out, according to me?? Drum-roll please….
It is Vietnamese – Ta da!!!
You will have either of the 2 reactions –
1) “Duh!! I totally knew that!!”…In that case, since you are already aware of the awesomeness of this cuisine – fist bump buddy!!
2) “What? Since when is Vietnamese even known for vegetarian food”? If that is you- my dear reader, you HAVE to explore the nearest Vietnamese restaurant in your area ASAP!!
Vietnamese cuisine, is always focused on healthy, vibrant vegetables. There are kind of similar to the Chinese/Japanese South east Asian cuisines – they use rice, rice noodles and broth based soups; however they use very little oil and use a lot of fresh herbs like basil and crunchy vegetables.
Exhibit – A: Healthy Entrée’s
You can order Pho, which is a rice noodle soup (vegetarian version is called Pho Chay). You can also order stir fried rice with veggies and tofu. I like the fact that they do not cook the vegetables to death like in our Indian cuisine. The fiber in the vegetables will decrease the glycemic index of the meal and also keep us full for longer. If you are a fan of well-mushed veggies, it might take a while to get used to the crunchy veggies. Also, notice the proportion of veggies are a lot higher than an Indian take out, which predominantly has the carb – naan or rice as the main feature and not the side dish.
Exhibit – B: Healthy Desserts
Even their desserts are healthier. They have a 3 bean dessert which has 3 types of beans in it. Indian desserts usually feature grains (high glycemic index) with more sugar. Add that to our carb heavy entrée, no wonder our pancreas are working overtime. Beans have a lower glycemic index compared to grains. So, beans in desserts are a great idea. Furthermore, the dessert is vegan, sweetened by coconut milk. How awesome is that?
Exhibit –C: Healthy starters
Their starter features a lettuce wrap rather than a fried spring roll or a samosa. The lettuce wrap is a bunch of crunchy veggies with tofu wrapped in soft rice paper. They are tasty and healthy. My kids love them. I do not have a picture of them, but you should be able to google ‘Vietnamese spring rolls’ and find something similar.
I hope I have been able to persuade you to try something new this weekend. While Vietnamese is quite popular in the Bay Area, it is not a very mainstream cuisine in other places that I have lived earlier. BTW, if you land in a Vietnamese restaurant where they do not speak English, ask for “Chay” dishes. Chay is the Viet word that means non-meat or meatless.
What is your favorite take out? Do you favor any particular cuisine? Are you a fan of Vietnamese food? Holler your thoughts!! Would love to hear them…