- wǒ shì sùshí zhě - 我是素食者 - this is "I am vegetarian", but it's not as helpful as you might hope. Often in Beijing, eating vegetarian just means you don't want meat as the main ingredient. So you want to emphasise that no meat thing.
- wǒ bù chī ròu - 我不吃肉 - I don't eat meat. This isn't going to cover you for everything, but it's a start.
- méiyǒu - 没有 - in a pointing at the menu context, méiyǒu means 'without'. So many of my non-Mandarin speaking friends got by in Beijing by pointing at the menu and going 'meiyou X'
- ròu 肉 meat; yú 鱼 fish; dàn 蛋- egg; niúnǎi 牛奶- cow milk
- dòunǎi - 豆奶 - is soy milk, critical for ordering your coffee at Starbucks.
- Things you can order relatively free of meaty secrets: suàn lā tǔdòu sī - 算拉土豆丝 (sour and spicy shredded potato); suàn lā báicài - 算拉白菜 (sour and spicy cabbage); dì sān xiān - 地三鲜 (the three earth treasures, eggplant, potato and capsicum, I love this dish a lot).
- Eggs are considered a savoury ingredient - if you ask if something sweet has egg in it, you will be told no, but it will almost certainly contain an egg wash.
- Emergency breakfast: hot soy milk from the street venders in winter. It's vegan, it's delicious, it's warm.
Bonus: Check out the cold menu. Lots of good vegan stuff on there.