(co-written by Anouk)
I have been vegetarian for most of my life. My parents tell a story about me gagging in the meat department of a fancy grocery store when I was just 6 months old. I don’t know if the story is true, but for most of my remembering years, I’ve been a vegetarian.
But being vegetarian in Beijing Is. Not. Easy!
Most foods, especially those that are packed in small bits of deliciously fried or steamed dough (read: dumplings) look rather scrumptious. But even a discerning palate like my mom’s cannot often guarantee that the minced up food inside is meat-free. So I usually have to take a hard pass!
And many “vegetarian friendly” foods in local restaurants have chicken, fish, fish sauce, or mystery ingredients that I can not be sure are vegetarian.
Additionally, I’m what my mom calls, “a lousy vegetarian” because I don’t like tofu and mushrooms–two foods that are in many Chinese dishes that ARE vegetarian.
So what is a lousy vegetarian to do?
Here are my top tips for eating vegetarian food in Beijing:
- Eat out with a friend who speaks the language.
- Learn how to say, “Is there meat/fish/chicken/pork/beef/lamb/etc.” in this?
- Always keep snacks on hand. If you’re going out, be sure to be loaded up with healthy-ish food that IS vegetarian because you never know what you’re gonna get.
Quick anecdote: During the New Teacher/Family Orientation Weeks there were MANY dinners out. On a number of occasions, my meal consisted of roasted potatoes and/or white rice with a HUGE helping of dessert. There were some beautiful looking vegetable dishes that were laden with chicken or mushrooms. Um… no!
- Check the menu first. With the internet at your fingertips, you can often check the menu before you decide where to go. And with WeChat’s translation services, you can figure out what most food is. (Except for my mom’s cappuccino the other day. WeChat translated it to: Cow Curry Morphine. Which I guess it kind of is– milk. Hot. Caffeine.)
Anyway, here is some fascinating food we’ve found here in China:
by Anouk and
P.S. the carb heavy french fry and fried egg concoction tasted great!