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Vegetarian  in  china

Vegetarians and vegans planning trips to China often have questions about how to find acceptable cuisine.

This page aims to answer your questions by familiarising you with the historical, cultural and practical implications of being vegetarian in this fascinating part of the world.

First of all, don't be discouraged from travel. It is possible to travel widely in China and find vegetarian or vegan food. It just takes some effort and a bit of flexibility.

Most foreign vegetarians arrive in greater China with no local language skills, which was exactly the case for me.

Vegetarianism is not highly common in China; however, in major cities like Beijing, vegetarian restaurants are slowly being established. Although Chinese food is vegan friendly by default (without the added flesh meat), it is likely that most vegetarians in China do consume either dairy and/or milk. "Vegetarian" in Mandarin Chinese is pronounced, "Chur Su," which translates to, "Eat Vegetables." The word for MSG (monosodium glutamate) is good to know when traveling to China and other parts of Asia, because restaurants there are generally accustomed to using heavy amounts of it.  MSG is pronounced, "Wei Jiing," so you could say, "Wo bu yow wei jiing," which means, "I don't want MSG." See chart below for more key phrases to use when traveling to China. HappyCow's Useful Phrases for Vegetarian

HappyCow's Useful Phrases for Vegetarian Travelers to China:
English
Say
Chinese
I eat vegetarian
Wo chur su

I do not want...
Wo bu yow...

I do not want MSG
Wo bu yow wei-jing

I do not eat meat
Wo bu chur rou
I do not eat fish
Wo bu chur yu
I do not eat egg
Wo bu chur dun
 

Where to Eat Vegetarian Food in China?  

Beijing

Beijing has a growing number of vegetarian restaurants available for people to enjoy.Beijing Vegetarian Restaurants

It is a vegan restaurant, which arranges classic book review and various lectures at weekend in all of its three branches.
Average price per person: 30-300 yuan (US$3.8-38)
Tel: 6202-5284/6287-8726/6405-2082
Website: www.ertong.org

Tian Chu Miao Xiang
It has always been committed to promoting vegetarian culture and Confucious ideology.
Average price per person: 30-50 yuan (US$3.8-6.3)
Address: First Floor, Chuangye Plaza, Tsinghua Science Park, East Gate of Tsinghua University
Tel: 6279-7078/6278-0859/8983-3390
Website: www.liaofan.com

Gong De Lin
A combination of southern and northern flavors and tries to maintain original tastes of materials.
Average price per person: 40-50 yuan (US$5-6.3)
Address: 158 Qianmen Street (Due to the renovation of the street, the restaurant now pauses sales.)
Tel: 6702-0867/6511-2542

Shanghai

Jing'an Temple Vegan Noodle Restaurant
Address: Jing'an Temple, 1686 Nanjing Xilu
Tel: 86-21-62566366

Miaode Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 76 Keji Road
Tel: 86-21-88220222

Juelin Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 250 Jinling Donglu
Tel: 86-21-63260115

Guangzhou

Buddhist World Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 2-8 Ersheng Gongqian, Niunaichang Street, Tongfuzhonglu
Tel: 86-20-84407261/84244376

Shuiyuntian Vegetarian Tea House
Address: A2-2 Dongjun Lijingyuan, 8-12 Zhongshanbalu, Liwan District
Tel:86-20-61270777
 

Xi'an

vegetarian food restaurant in xian

      With the fashionable dining style, vegetarian dishes also spring up in Xian and are popular with Xian people. But the cost is more than meat dishes presently.

List of Chinese vegetarian dishes

Here is a list of common Chinese vegetarian dishes and/or street food, including names in Chinese and English, ingredients and vegetarian/vegan status.

English Name & Image

Pinyin
Vegan
Description/Comments
Breads and Pastries


bing
Some
Pinyin Description

wo tou
wo wo tou

North-eastern steamed corn bread.
jian you bing
Folded fried pancake.
guo tie
Lightly salted baked pancake.

jian bing
Fried pancake. (Pictured left.)

chun juan
Pancake roll, sometimes with filling.

you zha bing
Fried pancake with filling.

cong you bing
Fried spring onion pancake.
Cabbage and Mushrooms

bai cai mu er
Yes
Stir fried cabbage with wood ear mushrooms, and a few other vegetables such as carrot.
Candied Vegetables

gua jiang
Yes
North-eastern dishes of candied vegetables, usually pumpkin. Very sticky and difficult to eat after they set!  When hot, really hot - some restaurants provide dipping water to cool the pieces down.
Chinese
Pinyin
Description

nan gua gua jiang
Pumpkin candy. (most common)
tu dou gua jiang
Potato candy. (also common)
xiang jiao gua jiang
Banana candy. (uncommon)
ping guo gua jiang
Apple candy. (uncommon)

Chinese Buns

bao zi
Yes
Breakfast buns filled with all sorts of tasty goodies.  You can acquire these from streetside vendors - just look for steaming piles of round, bamboo containers.  Most buns are lightly salted.
Chinese
Pinyin
Description

hua juan
Salted flour bun with diced spring onion throughout.
 *
cai bao
Catch all name for buns with vegetable mix inside.
*Watch out, some  contain a small amount of diced meat, so remember to ask before buying!

xiang gu cai bao Salted bun with mushroom and vegetable mix inside.

dou sha bao
Sweet bun with red bean paste inside.

Cold Cucumber Salad

liang ban huang gua
Yes
A lightly salted cucumber salad with chilli, served cold.
Crispy-Skin Tofu


cui pi dou fu
Yes
Blocks of tofu served sweet red sauce.
Dumplings

cai jiao zi
Yes
These are little, boiled, flour-wrapped packages with various veggies inside, usually served in a soup, with additional sauces such as vinegar and soy for flavouring.
Warning: Many places serve these in soups which include chicken stock.  Some places may include small amounts of meat.  Ask using the phrases listed above, or inspect before ordering.

Egg and Tomato Soup

fan qie dan tang
No
A simple soup made of eggs and tomato.  Salty, and available country-wide.
Eggplant with Chilli and Potato

di san xian
Yes
Stir fried eggplant, chilli and potato braised with soy sauce.  Northern dish.
Fried Beansprouts


chao dou ya
Yes
Stir fried beansprouts, lightly salted.  Sometimes accompanied with carrot or cucumber.  Sometimes served cold.

Garlic Fried Chinese Spinach

 


suan ni bo cai
Yes
Garlic stir-fried Chinese spinach.
Golden Needle Mushrooms & Cucumber (cold)


jin zhen gu ban huang gua
Yes
A cold dish: mixed golden needle mushrooms (long, thin, white ones), shredded cucumber, coriander and garlic.  Northern dish.
Green Chilli & Potato Shreds


qing jiao tu dou si
Yes
Northern dish. Shredded green chilli and potato, lightly salted and fried with oil.  The chillis are not usually very hot.  Sometimes includes onion.
Green Chilli & Dried Tofu

qing jiao gan dou fu
Yes
Northern dish. Green chilli slices and piles of thinly cut dried tofu sheets.  The chillis are not usually hot.
Homestyle Tofu

jia chang dou fu
Yes
A mild, slightly sweet and chewy tofu dish with a tomato-based sauce and veggies.
Warning: Sometimes has meat. 
Ask using the phrases listed above, or inspect before ordering.
Hot & Sour Soup

suan la tang
Yes
A hot and sour soup, usually very thick, with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, carrots and chilli.
Warning: Sometimes has meat. 
Ask using the phrases listed above, or inspect before ordering.
Hot Pepper Tofu


ma la dou fu
Yes
Not to be confused with ma po do fu, which has meat, this is a hot, stir-fried tofu dish which goes well with rice and can be eaten right across the country.
Hot Pot


huo guo
Yes
Most parts of China have 'hot pot' restaurants, which provide respite from endless rice or noodle dishes.  The basic idea is that you get a pot, with boiling water or soup, and then order various things to put in.  Because this is entirely voluntary (opt in on each ingredient) it's entirely safe for vegetarians and vegans.  The only problem is the soup - use the phrase list above to ensure you have hot water instead of a meat stock to start with.  The hotpot pictured on the left is a 'yuan yang guo', which features two soups - often one hot and one watery.
Ice Cream

bing qi lin
Some
There's a huge array of ice creams available across China, which usually vary a lot more in texture, material, taste and price than those available in western countries, which are mostly dominated by the products two or three ice cream companies.  Vegans can probably safely try the green or red bean flavoured ice poles.
Milk

niu nai
No
In some cities milk can be found on the street at special vendors.  In many places, however, you will have to go to a store.
Mushroom & Gluten Clay Pot

xiang gu mian jing bao
Yes
A hot clay pot containing a soup with fragrant mushrooms, green veggies and gluten balls.  One of my favourites.  Southern dish.
Warning: Sometimes the soup may contain chicken stock.  Ask using the phrases listed above, or inspect before ordering.
Mushroom & Veggie Hearts


xiang gu cai xin
xiang gu qing cai

Yes
Mushrooms in a thick, strong, salty sauce, with green vegetables.  Occasionally includes additional vegetables such as carrot.  Some restaurants will lay the dish out in a quaint flower pattern.
Naan
(Moslem Bread)

xin jiang da bing
nang

Yes
If you miss bread, as I sure did, just find a moslem restaurant.  A great many of these will have 'Xinjiang' (the name of China's westernmost province) in the name.  The phrase I have heard used is 'xinjiang da bing' (Xinjiang big bread/biscuit), however you can say naan instead (the name for bread in the Turkic languages of Central Asia).
Oyster Mushrooms

hao you shuang gu
No
Various mushrooms stir fried with oyster sauce.  Not particularly common.

Porridges (Congees)

 

 

 

 


zhou
Some
Chinese
Pinyin
Description
hong dou zhou
Red bean porridge (sweet).

da mi zhou
White rice porridge (sometimes sweet).

hei mi zhou
Black rice porridge with jujubes (sweet).

ba bao zhou
Eight ingredient porridge (sweet).

xiao mi zhou
Millet congee.

yu mi zhou
Corn / maize porridge.

lv dou zhou
Green bean porridge (sometimes sweet).
Shredded Kelp

liang ban hai dai si
Yes
Just what it sounds like - kelp.  Reportedly good with vinegar.
Sour Spicy Cabbage

suan la bai cai
Yes
Cabbage dish made from chilli, salt, garlic and cabbage, sometimes with  pepper added.
Soya milk

dou jiang
Yes
Soy milk, often found boiling at breakfast time.  Plain, sweet or salty versions are available.  Usually if you have a bowl of this at breakfast, you can also eat various munchies alongside.
Chinese
Pinyin
Description

you tiao
Deep fried doughstick. Long, munchy things hard to handle with chopsticks. These soften up once you give them a good bathing in soy milk. (Pictured left)

Stir-fried Cabbage

chao bai cai
Yes
Stir fried cabbage, usually with a little bit of chilli and salt.  See also Sour Spicy Cabbage.
Tiger Salad

lao hu cai
Yes
There are two main variants of this.  North-eastern (dong bei) and North-western (xi bei).  Both dishes are essentially a mix of onion and chilli strips tossed with vinegar and usually coriander.  The xi bei variant, which I prefer, also includes tomato.  Goes great with breads.
Tofu Brains



dou fu nao
Yes
Great breakfast-time soup dish made from tofu, woodear musrooms, coriander and chilli.
Warning: Watch out for dried shrimps - some places will sprinkle them on top.
Yoghurt


suan nai
No
In many places you can buy yoghurt in glass bottles with tinfoil or paper lids from street vendors. These are most active in the morning.  Also, in other areas you can often buy yoghurt in larger food stores or convenience stores.

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