United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Silvia said:

Are you planning a trip to the UK? Great, it is such a nice country to travel and discover. Lots of fantastic landscapes, long held traditions, many centuries of history and culture. Driving on the other side and narrow stone walled streets add to the adventure. Only the food culture is not exactly what we are looking for. Traditionally meat and fish dishes are prepared with a lot of butter or lard (an animal fat either from pork or beef). The rich and varied pie culture also uses butter or lard in the dough. We can forget altogether the rich tea time goodies and most puddings.

More and more vegetarian dishes are finding their place on the menu as an alternative to meat and fish. Unfortunately meat and fish are mostly being replaced by cheese and cream. Vegan restaurants are rare especially outside bigger cities.

It is the law in the UK that places which offer food have to declare allergens on the menu. Some of the restaurants list all ingredients on the menu. There is for sure a higher awareness of dietary restrictions but this does not mean a restaurant will cook specially for your needs.

Keep in mind that dairy free often means made with margarine, animal fat i.e. lard, vegetable oil or coconut fat, milk or cream. You will find many vegan restaurants but they often cook with coconut fat and cream, or margarine.

Nuts and dried fruits offered in bars and pubs often are coated in vegetable oil and roasted in a frying pan instead in an oven.

Many restaurants which offer a cuisine other than British (e.g. Turkish, Lebanese, Chinese etc.) traditionally would not use butter, but do use butter in the UK. Please make sure your rice which comes as a side dish is not coated with butter, cows milk or yoghurt to prevent it from being too sticky. In case you eat fish make sure, when they grill it for you, the chef does not glaze it with milk for a nicer texture or for more colour. Also certain breads which by tradition are not made with any dairy product could contain dairy in the UK.

Another factor to consider is that vegetarian broth for soups and noodle dishes is not made from scratch; instead it’s often made with convenience powder which could contain dairy products. Keep this in mind when you are craving a Japanese noodle soup or a Vietnamese Pho.

If you rent an apartment or studio with a kitchen you can find health food stores in bigger cities to get basic groceries. Even when staying in a hotel, bringing a soya, oat or rice milk with you will help make the start in the morning more pleasant.

In bigger cities you will find a lot of chain places which have jumped on the band wagon of healthy vegetarian foods to take away or eat on site. A popular food program on a UK TV station revealed recently what to look for when going there for a quick snack. So, keep in mind that the most calories and hidden fats come in the dressing. Choose salads where the dressing comes on the side in a separate container. Soups often contain more salt than declared. If a place offers soups directly out of the pot, consider the day time because the longer it cooked and got reduced the more salty it will be. But salt is not the only ingredient which you may find not correctly declared; the sugar content is also often higher.

If you care for sushi keep in mind that the rice of mass produced sushi rolls, which you can buy in take away shops and fast sushi food restaurants, are often prepared with mayonnaise. If you have ever tried to manage sushi rice yourself you know how sticky it is. Normally you use water with vinegar to prevent the rice from forever sticking to your fingers but it seems mayonnaise works better for mass production.

I am sure there are so many more factors to consider and tips on what to do and where to go. What are your experiences and tips for a successful trip in the UK?

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Tom Gerson says:

When visiting England, I often buy a salad at Pret a manger. They have a salad with halve of an avocado and prawns, that is OMS compliant. It comes with a dressing, but the dressing is in a plastic cup and I always throw it away, just to be safe.