Indonesian cuisine has plenty of vegetarian options for those eschewing meat for ethical or health reasons, with tofu and tempe (glorious tempe) being staple proteins of many local diets and superb veggie-centric delights like peanut sauce smothered gado-gado and meaty gudeg (made from unripe jackfruit and coconut milk) considered to be amongst the country’s most iconic dishes.
But vegetarianism as a lifestyle choice is still something of a novelty in Indonesia (vegetarians here often joke that when they tell people they don’t eat meat, a common response is “don’t worry, we have fish”) so we were pleasantly surprised to see Indonesia ranked near the top of the new Global Vegetarian Index released by Oliver’s Travels at #16.
The travel website put the index together in honor of October being World Vegetarian Month and to help vegetarian adventurers in planning their future trips. It’s based on three metrics: number of vegetarian restaurants, number of vegetarian restaurants in relation to population size and annual meat consumption per capita.
According to the index, Indonesia has 438 vegetarian restaurants (though we’d have to guess the vast majority of those are located in Ubud) and an annual meat consumption of 11.6 kg per capita (about 1/10th that 111.5 kg of meat your average Australian eats per year, which probably explains how Indonesia managed to beat The Land Down Under by one ranking).
The data used to determine the number of vegetarian restaurants per country comes from HappyCow.net, the world’s leading vegetarian and vegan restaurant listings website, but still we find some of those numbers hard to swallow (there are only 697 vegetarian restaurants in all of India, really?).
But the data on per capita meat consumption is pretty solid and shows that your average Indonesian is getting way more of his calories from plant-based sources than people in most other countries (yes, rice is technically a plant!).
Do you think that Indonesia is truly a vegetarian-friendly country or is this index full of baloney? Let us know in the comments below.