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Chinese vegetarian cooking


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hey, i dont know a lot bout chinese cooking, but learning mandarin made me interest a lot more about the culture, and i would love to learn how to cook like chinese do, i have 1 question then:

- I am a vegetarian, and i know that oriental cultures usually have more vegetarian dishes then western, anyway, is there any dish that you guys could recomend for me, thats easy to make, and that tastes good (enough)...

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#17 -- Probably a good idea to start a new thread with the title "Chinese vegetarian cooking" or something along those lines. Maybe a moderator will move this discussion, so as not to clutter the excellent Cantonese Cooking thread. I'll flag it for a moderator's attention.

I'm not vegetarian, but I cook and eat a lot of vegetables because the nearby wet market has such a large variety, plus they are fresh, cheap and delicious. I buy what is in season and make a point of trying new items. Not all the vegetables are specifically Chinese; many can be found in other parts of the world. A carrot is a carrot.

Similarly, some of the preparation techniques are Chinese and sometimes they aren't. Sometimes you can just make something the same way you would in Portugal and hit it with a dash of oyster sauce near the end, sprinkle on some toasted sesame seeds and Voila! it magically becomes Chinese.

What I'd suggest you do is develop a couple of basic vegetable cooking techniques and get comfortable with them. For example, learn to boil, learn to steam, and learn to stir fry. Then you can employ one or more of these basic techniques in preparing the vegetables that you find easily available. Learn how to judge degree of "done-ness" and cooking time; keep the vegetables "al dente," don't let them get "cafeteria mushy."

Next spend some time reading up on Chinese seasonings, particularly the ones that are readily available in your home town, and learn how to use them to enhance the flavor of the vegetables you like to eat. Buy some and experiment with using them. Don't buy a large package of 25 new ones from a mail-order site. Just buy 4 or 5 and get to know them well. Try them one or two at a time so you can tell the flavors apart.

I just now Googled "Chinese Vegetarian Cooking" and immediately got a whole lot of hits. Browse some recipes there and pay attention to what you see paired with what. Do you often see carrots, corn and peas in the same dish? If you like all three, and can easily get all three fresh, then play around with using them together, employing different cooking techniques and different seasonings.

Think about things to use in place of meat, such as eggs, nuts and tofu. Search recipes that combine them with vegetables you like.

This obviously isn't a comprehensive reply. Just wanted to give you some encouragement, provide a starting point and some hints on how to develop your own skills. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask. I'm far from being a pro, but I do cook a lot here in China, and will help if I can.

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I'm almost embarrassed to say this cause it's so simple - tomatoes and stir-fried eggs? I don't know if this even counts as a proper dish. Anyway, it's from Taiwan I believe.

You prepare a stir-fried egg, and take it down from the fire. Then slice tomatoes and simmer them until they get a bit soft - just a minute or so - and add a big spoon Black Vinegar and a small spoon soy sauce and simmer some more, again just for a minute or two. Then mix the tomatoes under the stir-fried egg, and if you like, sprinkle with some spring onion (you don't have to, of course, or you can take anything else you like), and enjoy!

For the Black Vinegar - 烏醋 wū cù or crowblack vinegar - there are different brands, my favourite is Taiwanese with orange and spices among the ingredients.

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I am a vegetarian, and i know that oriental cultures usually have more vegetarian dishes then western, anyway, is there any dish that you guys could recomend for me, thats easy to make, and that tastes good (enough)...

In China, there's a whole school of cooking devoted to Buddhist dietary precepts.


Snippet from Wikipedia article on "Buddhist cuisine":

Buddhist vegetarian chefs have become extremely creative in imitating meat using prepared wheat gluten, also known as "seitan" or "wheat meat", soy (such as tofu or tempeh), agar, konyaku and other plant products. Some of their recipes are the oldest and most-refined meat analogues in the world. Soy and wheat gluten are very versatile materials, because they can be manufactured into various shapes and textures, and they absorb flavorings (including, but not limited to, meat-like flavorings), while having very little flavor of their own. With the proper seasonings, they can mimic various kinds of meat quite closely.

Some of these Buddhist vegetarian chefs are in the many monasteries which serve wu hun and mock-meat (also known as 'meat analogues') dishes to the monks and visitors (including non-Buddhists who often stay for a few hours or days, to Buddhists who are not monks, but staying overnight for anywhere up to weeks or months). Many Buddhist restaurants also serve vegetarian, vegan, non-alcoholic, and/or wu hun dishes. Some Buddhists eat vegetarian only once per week or month, or on special occasions such as annual visits to an ancestor's grave. To cater to this type of customer, as well as full-time vegetarians, the menu of a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant usually shows no difference from a typical Chinese or far-Eastern restaurant, except that in recipes originally made to contain meat, a chicken flavored soy or wheat gluten might be served instead.

Recently, I've gotten back into Chinese cooking and have been downloading tons of Chinese cookbooks. A few of them have been devoted to this kind of cooking.


It's kind of like the Tofurkey that some people in America serve for their Thanksgiving dinner instead of an actual turkey. A Tofurkey is a loaf made of soy to be a turkey substitute.

You guys in Portugal probably don't have Thanksgiving, so, wouldn't know what I'm talking about. Don't know if you have turkeys either. :)

Anyway, these Buddhist dishes would simulate the original Chinese meat dishes. The look, smell, taste, texture, etc. The look and feel of the original.

Though some of these dishes use egg.

Don't know how strict a vegetarian you are. Some vegetarians don't use any animal product. No eggs, milk, etc.

Vegan, macro-biotic, vegetarian, etc.


mock kung pao chicken


mock sweet and sour stir-fried chicken slices

It probably wouldn't matter much to you since being a vegetarian you probably never had the original dishes that these mock dishes mock. Or if you weren't born vegetarian you probably never had these Chinese dishes to miss to want to mock them.

Surprisingly, the Dalai Lama eats meat. :)

I remember reading that Paul McCartney tried to convince him to give up meat.

Coincidentally, McCartney, Ringo, & Joe Walsh had a Chinese meal in Beverly Hills Mr. Chow restaurant 3 months back.


If I knew they were in town, I would have stalked them. :)

I wonder what Macca had. Some mock stuff? Ick!


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tomatoes and stir-fried eggs? I don't know if this even counts as a proper dish.

It is called 番茄炒蛋. A very proper dish. When I visited the Muslim areas in China many years ago, those in my group who couldn't eat mutton/lamb at all had 番茄炒蛋 every day, every meal. :D

Personally I much prefer 洋蔥炒蛋 (onion in stir-fried eggs) and 青豆炒蛋 (green beans in stir-fried eggs). There is nothing wrong with 番茄炒蛋, but I like tomatoes uncooked.

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Here's what I just had for supper. At the risk of being tedious, I'll go into enough detail that even if you don't like this particular recipe, you might still find some useful "method" tips to cook something else that you like better.

Bought some fresh young snow peas in the wet market. The name they usually go by here is 荷兰豆 helan dou. They come in two sizes, one more mature than the other. I bought the small ones (cost a little more.) The peas cost 3.5 Yuan and they are enough for two meals. Here's what they look like. I've showed them as newly bought, after the ends were snapped off, and another shot of the "throw away" part.

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You snap of the ends and pull off the "string" that runs along one or both edges. You wash them in a basin with water several times and let them stand for 15 minutes or so. Drain them and set them aside. Before frying, blot dry.

I found some Bermuda onions on "last minute sale" because they weren't fresh any more. Bermuda (purple) onions are easy to find here, and go by 洋葱 yangcong, which means "foreign onion." Vendors put things like that they want to move quickly in a pile, often right down on the sidewalk in front of their stall, usually near the end of the day. The small pile is usually called a 堆 dui. You cannot select which onions you want. You buy by the pile and I paid 1 Yuan for the nice little pile pictured here.


I had a red bell pepper in the fridge, which I cut up and added, mainly for color.

Ready to cook. Soy sauce in the bottle. The thing you use with the wok to stir things is called a 锅铲 guo chan. I was adding meat to my dish, and that's upper left. Will add a separate note about the meat for non-vegetarians (such as myself.)

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Stir fried the veggies using a couple tablespoons of corn oil. Start with the onions and red pepper, then add the snow peas. Seasoned with salt and a tiny dash of MSG (optional.) Could have put in other flavors, such as ginger, but didn't want to compete with the onion.

After frying on medium high heat five minutes or so, I added some stock that I had left over in the fridge that was made from the bones of a roast duck I had a couple days ago. That's bottom left, below the meat. Could have used plain water. Added a lid, turned down the heat, and cooked about five minutes more.

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Served with steamed rice 米饭 mifan. Start the rice when you begin prepping the other ingredients.

It's a one dish meal and clean up is easy. Can add meat if desired, and I'll talk about that another time.

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My mom used to make this dish - steamed eggplant strips covered in a sauce made of spicy fermented bean curds. It should be very easy to make.

Another very easy to make dish is made of steamed sliced carrot,turnip and celery mixed with sesame oil/paste and sesame seed. It can be served hot or cold (as a salad).

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My mom used to make this dish - steamed eggplant strips covered in a sauce made of spicy fermented bean curds. It should be very easy to make.

Yes, that's good. My nearest wet market has two or three vendors who sell delicious spicy fermented tofu. They call it "lufu" (pronounced "loo-foo") but I don't know the Hanzi. I just steam the eggplant then toss it with some lufu. Serve with steamed rice. An easy meal. (I love easy meals.)


Edit: Guessing that it's 卤腐。The lufu of Shilin 石林, east of Kunming, is regionally famous. Last year a friend gave me a whole stinky crock of it. It's good just smeared on 馒头 or a 花卷。

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thx a lot this is really helping me, i think ill try and get some chinese vegetables to see the ones i like, then the ones i like ill get the seeds so i dont have to worry bout that anymore...

@Kobo-Daishi, no we do not have thanksgiving in Portugal, but everyone knows what it is. Everyone in Europe is comppletely drownedin American culture, i mean, if i think a lot, i think i can say the name of all of your states.... yea...

You guys are helping me a lot, if i find something in my own expermients worth eating, i will ppost it here. I expect no less of you :)

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洋蔥炒蛋 (onion in stir-fried eggs) and 青豆炒蛋 (green beans in stir-fried eggs)

I love green beans, will try that, and the onion dish too! :D I work full time and don't have much time to cook, but at the same time, I am spoiled and want to eat nice fresh food. So I love simple + fast dishes!

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For the egg dishes, you will have to cook the onion or the beans first. Fry the veggie till it is cooked (soft and, in the case of onion, sweet smelling), then pour in the eggs and stir the whole thing really quickly. I like the egg soft and creamy so I would fry it for a short time only.

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#12 -- I took @Skylee's suggestion of egg and onion. Used another onion from the "sidewalk pile" or 堆 that I bought yesterday as mentioned above in post # 7 (Bermuda onions/yangcong/洋葱.)


Decided to turn it into a fried rice/chaofan/炒饭 and added some of yesterday's rice. Turned out real good. So far that makes two meals using that 1 Yuan worth of onions, and still counting.

The eggs I buy are tu dan 土蛋 and cost 1 Yuan each. They are laid by hens running around free in a large barnyard. They have mud on them and don't look nice, but have more flavor than "factory eggs", which are laid in a small wire cage and are cheaper.

You can use a similar method for turning fried tomatoes and eggs 番茄炒鸡蛋, mentioned upthread by @Ruben, into a quick 炒饭 lunch.

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Addition to the above post: Here are the eggs.


The yolks are a deep yellow color, more striking than those of “factory eggs.” You can buy them a little cheaper if you shop around or purchase a larger quantity. I usually just get 8 or 10 at a time because my refrigerator is small.

I also always go back to the same vendor because he treats me well and I trust him. The wet market can be a difficult place or not depending at least in part on the relationships you cultivate. (Digression Alert.)

Last week I wanted to buy some purple flesh dragonfruit 红肉火龙果 from one of my usual fruit vendors. I selected several of them but she took one out of my hand. In a loud whisper she said, “This one looks good, but it won’t taste good. Here, check the small hollow dimple where the stem was and notice how it…”

The day before that I wanted to buy some good looking mangoes 芒果 from a large batch of them on display. That vendor, another of my regulars, told me not to. She quietly said, “Mango season is really over. You won’t be happy with these once you get home. Buy something else instead.”

Recently, don’t remember the exact day; I wanted to buy eggplant 茄子. That vegetable lady, also one of my regulars, had three kinds. She asked what I was planning to do with them, what dish I was planning to cook. I told her I wanted to make 鱼香茄子, and she advised, “Then buy these. They work best for that purpose.” I asked how her son was doing in school, and we chatted a minute about that and the weather.

Last weekend the Uighur melon/hamigua/ 哈密瓜 seller wanted to talk about what varieties of grapes were available in America. His Putonghua isn't much better than mine and we always joke about that. His younger sister was working the booth with him and he told me I should buy her instead of just buying melon. "Take her back to America and get her a green card. Then she can bring the rest of us over." She blushed and playfully punched him on the shoulder and we all three cracked up.

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Whenever I think of 堆, I usually think of 煎堆.



Apparently, it plays a big part in the Chinese new years celebration for the Cantonese.

Frankly, I don't see the attraction. It's not exactly the tastiest of dim sum.

Or else I think of 馬王堆.


King Ma's Mound.


I remember my professor lecturing about its significance back at university when I was studying Chinese history, but, frankly, for the life of me, I can't remember a thing.

Snippet from the Wikipedia entry:

Tomb 3 contained a wealth of classical texts. The tomb contained texts on astronomy, which accurately depicted the planetary orbits for Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn and described various comets. The Mawangdui texts of the Yijing are hundreds of years earlier than those known before, and are now translated by Edward Shaughnessy [4] The tomb also contained a rich collection of Huang-Lao Taoist texts, as well a copy of the Zhan Guo Ce. The tomb also contained various medical texts, including depictions of qigong (dao yin) exercises, as well as a historical text, the Chunqiu shiyu.

That's probably it or else because the site was excavated around the time I was at university, so, it was the "big thing" in Chinese archaeology back then.

This was in the dark ages before the personal computer and nobody was on the Internet. Back before Jobs and Gates even. And now Gates is an old man and Jobs is dead.

My how time flies.


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Whenever I think of 堆, I usually think of 煎堆.

It's possible I've got the wrong character; after all I've done that plenty of times before. On things like this, I'm working mostly from how things sound. I'm only able to do "street level" reporting; not give a scholarly account.

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Regarding that sauce made of spicy fermented bean curds, last night I asked my mom how to make it. She said, crush the bean curds (this is common sense, isn't it), add sugar (because the bean curds are too salty) and cooking wine (wine? now that explains the flavour), and mix them all together. Then heat some oil and pour it in the mixture, stir a bit, et voila.

It seems my mom really likes this hot oil technique. She uses hot oil like Jamie Oliver uses extra virgin olive oil. :P

PS - obviously this sauce is also good for dressing boiled lettuce or other leafy veggies.

PPS - it might also be good to sprinkle some chopped red hot pepper on top.... yummy.

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I got some fermented bean curd today, as I have an egg plant already, and remembered what Skylee wrote. The Chinese bean curd was sold out though, so I bought Korean instead. The Chinese bean curd would have been in the cold room with the fresh vegetables and tofus, but the Korean was in the regular shelf in the "pickled tofu" section. I hope it's not something completely different :wink:

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not many budhist temples in lisbon, might as well budhist restaurants :/

I do know of a tibetan restaurant here in lisbon that serves only vegetarian dishes, but like tibet is separated from china by mountains, the both cultures have grow quite diferently... so i was not surprised when i saw that tibetan food didnt looked a bit like chinese, i know how to cook western veggie, i was just looking for chinese veggie cause i believe it (vegetarianism) is more enraised in their culture then in the west...

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