I spent this past weekend in my hometown of Chicago to celebrate the birthday of my youngest daughter, my stepmother and aunt. We enjoyed the view from the 96th floor of the John Hancock building and I got to hang out with my too-cute nephew. At 18 months he already knows how to work an iPod and pushes the buttons on a remote then looks around to see what happens.
My daughter and I had lunch at our favorite Chinatown restaurant. We ordered a bean curd dish and a vegetable and noodles dish. But, I'm afraid I wasn't doing my vegan due diligence. As we neared the end of the meal I suddenly tasted scrambled egg.
Here are the mistakes I made
First, I didn't tell the server I am vegan and don't eat ANY animal products.
Second, I failed to recognize or remember that the noodle dishes often have egg.
In general Chinese, Thai, Indian, Mexican and many other international restaurants make good choices for vegan dining out. Not only are they often not meat centric but your non vegan friends and family will find what they want too. That said, there are still things you need to do to make sure your meal is animal free.
Follow these suggestions to insure that you don't have any "Aaak!" moments of your own
Say it loud! I'm vegan and I'm proud!
Be sure to let your server knows you don't eat any animal products. Clarify that statement by saying no dairy or eggs. Don't worry about being a pest. Say it again after the orders are taken just to be sure or if you have any doubt that they really understood.
Ask for suggestions
Ask your server what on the menu is vegan. In today's society many restaurants are knowledgeable and prepared for vegan and vegetarian diners. The chef may even be willing to create something that isn't on the menu.
Look for a vegetable or vegetarian section on the menu
Then skip the rest of the menu. This way you will be less likely to be tempted by food you are avoiding. You can modify what you find by having them leave off the cheese or egg etc.
Get familiar with the likely problem ingredients
Thai food often has fish sauce. Mexican may use lard or use meat broth in their rice and beans. Fried rice and noodles often include egg. Indian dishes may use ghee (clarified butter) or yogurt. This way you will be prepared to request that your dishes be made without those ingredients. Then be a pest again and say "No fish sauce!"
Send it back
Even with all of that you may still get something you don't want. SEND IT BACK! You don't have to eat something you know isn't right.
I'll chalk this up as a learning experience. Usually Nana Kwaku does all the being a pest functions when we dine out. I need to remember to do a better job of it myself when he isn't around.
Have you had a "Aaak!" moment? What did you do? How do you prevent them? Leave us a comment below.