News and Travel editor
Is it possible to be a Vegan in China? You may be travelling to China for the first time and worried about your options, or could just be curious to know if it’s possible. It’s true that it can be a challenge to maintain a Vegan diet on your trip to China, but it is definitely possible and we’ve got a lot of tips to help.
How to tell people you are a vegan
The first thing you need to know is how to tell other people that you are a Vegan. There is no direct translation, which can be a bit frightening! However, don’t panic. What is often recommended instead is the phrase ‘Wǒ chī sù’, meaning ‘I eat vegetables’. Check out the pronunciation here.
What to watch out for
In China, most cooking stocks are made from meat, and meat is added to just about everything.
When you’re eating out, be aware that the further away you venture from tourist hotspots, the less likely you are to find English translations on the menu. In a similar vein, being in a big city means that vegetarian restaurants and cafes are more frequently available, such as this fine-dining restaurant in Beijing.
Don’t assume that most Buddhists in China are Vegan or Vegetarian. Some temples DO have Vegetarian restaurants attached but certainly not all.
Make sure to bring snacks on Chinese Airlines, as you’re unlikely to be offered a Vegan option on the plane.
Keep an eye out for…
Fruits and Vegetables
We could be here all day, so I’ll just mention a few of my favourites. Star fruit, lychees, rambutan, jackfruit and baked sweet corn are all delicious and easily available from markets and street food vendors.
Tofu needs a whole blog to itself, as it’s so versatile and a staple in the diet of Chinese vegans and non-vegans alike.The Chinese have been cooking with Tofu since the Han dynasty, 2,000 years ago. Enjoy it crispy and fried, spicy Szechuan-Style, or Kung-Pao style with rice and vegetables.
You Tiao/Dough Sticks
Delicious long golden-brown deep-fried strips of dough served with Soy milk. Just be sure to check what the strips are fried in before tucking in!
The varieties here are infinite. Of course, many varieties of hot pot do contain meat and meat stocks – but there are so many veggie-filled vegan examples to satisfy even the pickiest taste-buds. Get it hot and spicy or keep things mild – it’s up to you! At a hot pot restaurant, you order the ingredients and cook it all yourself in a boiling broth at the table. Make sure to specify that you need vegetable stock, and it becomes a great way to guarantee that no animal-based ingredients managed to sneak in.
A silky rice porridge that is a breakfast staple in Chinese homes. Have it plain with some side dishes, or add vegetables like mushrooms, edamame, and pak choi. In restaurants, sweet versions are often the safest bet for a Vegan dish.
Noodles are a great option, as you can point at what vegetables you would like with them. However, be aware that often the soup they will be served in is Chicken or Beef. If you want to make noodles for yourself, check out this video.
A personal favourite of mine, I couldn’t bare to leave them off the list. Crispy, packed with vegetables and dipped into a sweet-chilli sauce is how I like them.
Green Pea Pudding
The only dessert on the list, this traditional sweet pudding is eaten like candy with toothpicks or served with afternoon tea. Also known as Pea Cubes or Pea Jelly Squares.
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Do you have any more recommendations that I left off this list? Let me know in the comments below!