Sunday, November 23, 2014

5 Facts+5 tips for Vegetarian food in Beijing

I  am back from 2 week’s travel visiting 3 countries. Ever since I came, I am hogging the food as if I hadn’t had for months. Thanks to Beijing travel. I starved for few days mainly due to my poor planning.
When I visited Beijing for the first time a few years back, being a vegetarian  I was clueless and anxious how Beijing would treat me. Initial couple of days I managed to ask for only vegetables in the restaurants. After couple of meals, what landed on my table forced me to turn into a fruitarian and few muffins helped me to survive. In my next visits, I ensured to carry MTR ready to eat packets. 

Now, after 4 years when I had to travel last week, I didn’t want to carry food from home. Wanted to explore vegetarian food in China.I was successful only to some extent. Next time when I go there, exploring vegetarian food will be the first thing in my list.

How did you survive in China being a vegetarian is a frequently asked question from my friends. Here I am presenting 5 facts about vegetarian food and 5 tips for veggies traveling to  Beijing
1. Vegetarian concept in Beijing
In China, they don’t have the concept of only vegetarian food.They have wide variety of vegetables which I will not even find in my own land where vegetarian food is a staple food. But it is just that they mix veg and non veg while cooking. It is not like India where we find separate menu for vegetarian and Non vegetarian.  If you are thinking of finding some restaurants where vegetarian food is cooked separately, don’t even think so. If you ever tell  someone to use separate vessels and spoons to prepare food, you will be looked as an insane person in China
You can see majority of the food is vegetables except central meat.But even vegetables were not tasting made of vegetable oil
       2. Ordering vegetarian food
As language is a big barrier in China, it is very difficult to communicate in many of the restaurants unless it is upmarket restaurant. I was explaining to one of my colleagues in Beijing that I need ‘veggie food no meat, no fish and no egg’. She asked me ‘how about pork ?’  Now this made me speechless.  I was told that they use Pork oil for many of the dishes especially raw salads. I found lot of improvements in the menu from my last visit. This time I found veggie section as well in the menu. Most of the menus come with pictures. So you can visualize before ordering.
These vegetables were one of my meals

3. What you order may not be served
It happened  once during my first visit.My colleagues took me to a Japanese restaurant and they ordered vegetarian food for me. When got it, I suspected something not vegetarian which was used   for garnishing the dish even by looking at it. When we called the waitress she said ‘it is vegetarian’. I was doubtful. So we called the chef. He confirmed that it is vegetarian dish. But as a value add he has put meat flakes into it.

Vegetables along with some or the other non veg pieces
4. Typical Vegetarian Plate
A typical vegetarian dish will have bowl of rice and either hot pot or boiled vegetables in some    sauce having beans, mushrooms, wood ear mushrooms, sea weed in coastal, carrot and lot of green vegetables.
This hot pot in one of the restaurants was spicy. They used some spice which made tongue numb

5. Buddhists and Vegetarian trend 
As per one of my Chinese friends, Chinese during their hard time started eating everything that crawls. Buying vegetables and meat was expensive. Now things are changing. Rich people are turning out to be vegetarians twice or thrice in a week in the name of Buddhism. There are an increasing number of restaurants across the city for Buddhists. We can even find Vegan restaurants. Go vegetarian is a budding trend

These mushrooms were there in every vegetarian dish.

5 tips to survive in Beijing as a veggie 

1. A card mentioning ‘ I am vegetarian ‘ in Chinese is a must to carry
Get it in writing from your hotel concierge desk in Chinese that you need only vegetarian food. If possible mention all possible meats to be on a safer side for NO:  no egg, no fish, no sea food, no pork, no beef and very importantly no non vegetarian oil. 

2. Store some fruits and vegetables
Go to nearby super market and  buy vegetables, fruits  and juices as an alternative if you don’t find anything outside. You can prepare salads by yourself at hotel. I do this often. Some good supermarkets have some imported breads as well. I am a chocoholic. I can survive on chocolates for couple of weeks.  
Fruit shop

3. Rice bowl 
Order for a rice bowl which is available in all the restaurants. Which will be for sure meatless. I have heard people saying it has meat stock. However, have checked with many restaurants that it is boiled only with water.   

4.  International Chain of coffee shops
Don’t expect Starbucks, Costa coffee to have vegetarian sandwiches. But you will find some muffins and desserts ( Of course not egg less)

5. Organic Vegetarian restaurants
There are a few organic vegetarian, Vegan restaurants across the city. They serve only vegetarian food. Some restaurants have mock meat made of tofu and are delicious. Though some of them are priced high. .  A meal would cost you close to 100 Yuan whereas in any other restaurants it will cost about 20-25Yuan. But they are tasty and pure vegetarian.
Veggie table - Picture from internet. I lost my pics as i lost my phone
Good planning is required before you travel in finding them in the locality where you stay. I tried  ‘ The veggie table’  restaurant near Lama temple. I must food was delicious and place is clean. While searching for veggie restaurant found this link useful  .

 If you are a little flexible and plan well, you can explore China even being a  vegetarian.

Related post 
Have you travelled to China and you have any more tips to add. Pls share .
Or have you faced similar experience in any other country ? Pls share. I am all ears and eyes 
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  1. Thanks aunt Giri for helpful tips. Pranav

    1. Thanks Pranav. I am very impressed that you have started reading at this age. Keep dreaming my boy ! :-)

  2. The blog is very interesting with mouthwatering pictures.This is a valuable information for travelers who are vegetarians. I have heard that some Buddhist temples in China have veg restaurants attached to the temples. I feel the term "Buddhist vegetarian" will help vegetarian travelers to survive in China.

    1. Thanks Rekha. Thanks for providing the info about restaurants attached to Buddhist temples. Will try to find out more next time I go there :-)

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