Thursday, 7 March 2013

vegan about china: eight tips to getting by as a vegan in beijing

Some words and things to help you navigate your way, especially if you don't speak (much) Mandarin. It helps to bring a buddy along who speaks it, though.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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'
  4. ròu 肉 meat; yú 鱼 fish; dàn 蛋- egg; niúnǎi 牛奶- cow milk
  5. dòunǎi - 豆奶 - is soy milk, critical for ordering your coffee at Starbucks.
  6. 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). 
  7. 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. 
  8. Emergency breakfast: hot soy milk from the street venders in winter. It's vegan, it's delicious, it's warm. 
Good luck, vegans! Get out there and eat China. It's delicious, even for vegans.

delicious delicious luck

Bonus: Check out the cold menu. Lots of good vegan stuff on there.


Jemma said...

Our experience is that dòunǎi is often a mixture of soy milk and cow's milk together. At several Starbucks we've been told that it's impossible to get soy milk on it's own (Dòujiāng). Something worth checking.

steph said...

Jemma - interesting! I know that getting soy milk in my coffee is okay, because I have seen the packaging of the soy milk (at least my regular starbucks) used, and I requested it as dòunǎi. But definitely interesting!

Polka Dot Rabbit said...

We've been to China a couple of time (Beijing and Shanghai) and when we asked for no meat in one restaurant, got a whole boiled chicken (including the head)

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