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Guest MestariTomte

Vegetarian food

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Guest MestariTomte

As a person who has a) never visited China, b) is about to and c) is a vegan I'm wondering how easy it is to avoid meat/milk/eggs/etc there. I'm putting my hopes on the "monastery-culture" and the denial of "earthly pleasures". Right... If those terms sounded funny put it on my tiredness :)

And does people get insulted if one refuses to eat what is on the table on the basis of veganism?

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geek_frappa

don't like meat and Chinese family offers it to you?

eat it.

or face the wrath of losing face.

bwwaaahahahahah!!! :lol:

when in rome, do as the romans do...

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Tsunku

Watch out, they like to sneak meat into things that you might not expect to have meat. For example, don't assume that your tofu dish is meat free, lots of times there's pork in the sauce.

You can eat vegetarian in China, but you need to make sure they understand that when you say no meat, you don't mean just a little bit of meat. One of my roomates in China was a vegetarian and people would often tell her the dish didn't have any meat, and then when it would come out, there'd be some meat in it, and the the Chinese would act like the meat wasn't enough to count or something and get agitated when she complained that the meatless dish did, in fact, have meat.

If you say you're a Buddhist, that should work. If you eat in temples or monasteries, the food will be vegetarian. Kunming has a really hardcore vegetarian restaraunt where they go to great lengths to make veggie dishes that look and taste like meat. I think it's in the Lonely Planet guide (where are you going anyhow?).

Avoiding dairy isn't hard, you'll only have to avoid eggs really, which isn't as hard as avoiding meat.

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wix

Have a look at the webpage I created http://taiwan.8m.net/vegetarian.html It uses traditional characters, but you should still find it useful in China. I am no longer vegetarian, but I used to be. At times it can be a major hassle as people simply don't understand your food requirements. Any restaurant should be able to prepare a vegetarian dish or dishes if they put their mind to it, but sometimes they just don't get it.

The phrase "wo chi su" (I am vegetarian) may simply be interpreted as "I want to eat vegetables" rather than being vegetarian. You will be served a plate of green vegetables and rice. IT happened to me several times in the beginning when my Chinese wasn't so good.

I would advise you to write down in Chinese exactly what you want. (You could cut and paste the appropriate sentences from my webpage into MS Word if you like). Don't be afraid to be specific as another problem is that many people think vegetarian means "quan su" or total vegetarian in the Chinese Buddhist tradition. This prohibits the eating of onions and garlic.

Once your spoken Chinese is OK you might like to say something like "I can't eat meat or seafood. I can't eat eggs. I can eat onions and garlic." This will communicate the message more effectively than just saying "I am vegetarian"

Also have a look at the China and Taiwan sections of the Happy Cow website. http://www.happycow.net/

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geek_frappa

i have heard of vegan cuisine in the cities.

but in the countryside? other than temples... where else can we find dishes in areas outside of the cities??

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Guest Alainna

Just tell people that you're Buddhist. I've had more success with that than with telling people that I'm just "su de". I also didn't eat much when I was in the countryside and tried to ignore the fact that things were probably made with animal fats. My stomach didn't ignore this, but at least I didn't pass out from malnutrition.

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chengdude

I always remember a good friend of mine telling me that traveling together with a vegan in China was the worst travel experience of her life...no offense to the OP, obviously.

One issue that hasn't been completely broached is where exactly in China our vegan traveller is planning to visit. I managed 2 years in Sichuan as a vegetarian with few problems...although I wasn't bound by ethics as specific as veganism, so I'm not under the illusion that I didn't end up ingesting some taboo bits here and there. In Sichuan, the primary cooking medium is rapeseed (AKA canola) oil, so that lessens the worry of animal fats in one's food. Sichuan is also an agricultural heartland, so fresh vegetables and fruits are a given. There are uncounted streetside eateries that display their veggies du jour in plastic baskets; just point out an appealing combination and they'll fry it up. But, coming back to the "worst travel experience" anecdote, it's true as has been pointed out, that bits of meat-for-flavor find their way into everything. Also, restaurants big or small don't really assign a wok for meat, a wok for vegetables, etc., so your veggies might be coming into contact with the residue of the last meat-filled order. Granted, the temperature on the surface of the wok is on the order of a million or-so degrees F, but if you're strict enough that something like this becomes an issue, then it will be difficult. There's always the possibility of reused cooking oils as well....can the OP ignore that for hunger's sake? There are wonderful vegetable combinations stuffed in jiaozi (AKA dumplings), but they will be boiled in the same water that meat-filled ones are and there will always be some inevitable leakage of juices. You will be able to eat noodle soups: tofu and vegetable combinations are always good and should use water rather than stock as a base. In Sichuan, hot & sour noodles from one of the innumerable noodle stalls are also OK, but you have to request that they leave out the instant chicken boullion powder that is inevitably one of the ingredients spooned into the bowl. Fried rice mixed with vegetables is another possibility, with the caveat of residual contact in the wok as mentioned above. And, as already discussed, you'll be able to eat at any Buddhist temple with a restaurant that you run across. And, then there is breadstuff on the streets: steamed bread is OK, as should be baked breads like "guo kuei," which are pretty basic. Of course, in proper bakeries, the specter of eggs, fat, and/or dairy rises. Any bread fried on a giant griddle has to be viewed skeptically, although again in Sichuan, the fried breads with green onion or chives will be OK. In the north, the fried breads with generic names like "da bing" or "bing zi" will be suspect for their cooking fats...

I guess I could go on and on, but without knowing where the OP will be or just how strictly they view the contact/preparation of food, it's kind of a waste of bandwidth.

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Guest MestariTomte

So it looks like that I'm going to be a monk, eh? :-) Anyway, thanks for replies and about the issue where excatly will I be going ...well I'm not sure yet. If I get really lucky and get the job I'm wanting to I'll be then found from Changsu which is quite close to Shanghai (assuming that job-Changsu is map-Changsun). If that doesn't happen - well perhaps I just take off and go where ever... north most likely - perhaps somewhere near Beijing...

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Guest WallyRus

Good job putting an effort forth! i bet it'll be hard! Ive never been to china, so I have no advice for you, but good luck. How long have you been a vegan?

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TSkillet

My then-girlfriend came to visit me in Guangzhou a few years ago - and she was veggie - mainly for moral reasons against commercial farming. She found it easier to give it up for a while (not suggesting that this is what you do - it's your own choice) and eat mainly vegetable dishes or tofu dishes, but not really fuss when there were random bits of meat thrown in there -or worry about the food being cooked in animal based oil.

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Ian_Lee

If you are a vegetarian in Hong Kong and choose to eat Chinese food, you have to make up your mind on whether you choose it based on moral-religious reason or just health reason.

For the former, there are quite a lot of vegetarian restaurants in the city which is affiliated with Buddhist or Taoist foundations. Nothing in the restaurant is related to animal (In fact, you are advised not to bring in any meat since it will pollute the premises.)

You can rest for sure that no food served carries animal stuff, i.e cooking oil or broth.

You can also eat at those temples or monasteries but they are at outlying areas.

If you just dine on health reason, then go inside any restaurants and order from the vegetable column. Usually no meat is attached. But the broth they use as gravy may be distilled from ham and stewed chicken.

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Kristyx

I was reading this thread with interest, as I'll be spending a year in Beijing (next year). I'm not vegan, but I am a strict vegetarian. Just the thought of eating vegetables that have been cooked in meat stock makes me feel ill.

Are there many vegetarian restaurants in Beijing? I'll be living in halls, I'm not sure if I'll have facilities to cook my own meals.

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Gary Soup

Here's another website of interest:

Vegetarian in China

Major cities have great vegetarian restaurants, like Gong De Lin in Shanghai. I think a restaurant of the same name is in Beijing, too. These Buddhist vegetarian restaurants have developed dishes that are widely enjoyed by non-vegetarians, too, like kaofu and mock goose.

I used to scoff at vegetarians, vegans and tofu. Then I married a Shanghainese woman who seemingly has hundreds of ways of using tofu in its various forms. We're far from vegetarians, but so many of her tofu-based dishes could easily be made vegetarian/vegan that I could easily become one and still enjoy eating.

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hughitt1

You should be able to find bhuddist vegetarian resteraunts and buffets that have a lot of good food, also alot of people will leave out meat if you ask.

Keith

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Kristyx

I've been to China last year but only for a short holiday. I spent a week in Shanghai, and ate at a fantastic vegetarian restaurant called Vegetarian Life Style (77 Songshan Rd). however, in Beijing we couldn't find anywhere to eat (we couldn't speak Chinese and didn't have friends in the city). Since then I've made a couple of friends from Beijing but they can't think of any vegetarian restaurants. maybe because they aren't veggie??

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tlevine

I just gave up being vegetarian while I was in China. I normally didn't like the meat, so I didn't eat much of it, but I didn't try to get dishes without meat; I just ordered things that didn't have that much.

If you're staying for a while, you could just cook your own food and avoid all of this.

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johnd

There must be vegetarian restaurants in Beijing. Take a look at Lonely Planet, or is it Rough Guide or both? They always has a vegetarian section.

I remember a shop somewhere around Wangfujing that sells vegetarian products - mostly fake meat stuff. It was supposedly famous for selling to the royal court. Can't remember exactly where it was though!

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Kristyx

I've pretty much decided, for mainly financial reasons, that I'll be spending a year in Xiamen. The university doesn't offer vegetarian food, and I've been told that there aren't facilities for students to cook their own meals, but Nanputuo Temple is close to the university and I can buy meals from their restaurant. Has anyone been here, and if so, what are the prices like?

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