By PATRICIA BIESZK
If you have plenty of time to explore this vast city with its rich heritage and fascinating history, do visit some of the many online recommended vegetarian restaurants. If you only have a few days, improvise and frequent whatever eateries are available near your accommodation and visited sights. Either way, here are a few basic tips to help you stay happy and veggo along the way.
If, like me, your Cantonese is non-existent, get your hotel receptionist, or any Chinese person fluent in English you can find, to write down a few words on a piece of paper for you in Chinese, i.e. “I don’t eat any meat or meat stock, do you have any vegetarian dishes? Thanks.” This may sound simplistic, but during my own travels in China, I found this piece of paper invaluable, as mostly only young people in large cities speak English. In addition, many dishes that do contain tofu, or as they prefer to call it, bean curd, also contain meat or meat-based stock. In other words, if you like to frequent places off the beaten track and eat local non-Western food, this may get a little challenging with limited time on your hands and no way to communicate.
Traditional Local Veggo Snacks
Local food kiosks tend to sell snacks, such as steamed buns with usually one vegetarian option. At markets I also enjoyed tofu fried in vegetable oil and served with soy and chilli sauce. In central city locations you can find food halls and dumpling bars with buffet-style service that will likely have a number of veggie-only dim sum options as well. The Chinese tend to eat the same type of savoury food three times per day, which can get tiresome for those who like their breakfasts sweet, so be gentle with yourself if you “sin” a couple of times at a certain Western coffee-shop chain!
Another great option if you make your way to Beijing is to find out about any Buddhist restaurants near the area you stay in. While vegetarian, they can be on the more expensive side than street-side eateries, though. Some menus will unfortunately not have pictures, and the English translations in many cases are incomprehensible, but make up for it in their humorous aspect! In that case, the best thing to do is to look around at your neighbour’s tables and point, or just risk it by choosing a dish at random. I also bought nuts and snacks at the local grocery shop, where shopping was an adventure in itself. If you’re staying in a central area, your hotel’s staff might be able to point out a few nearby options for you as well. Beijing is an increasingly cosmopolitan metropolis with plenty of vegetarian restaurants – the only challenge is finding them exactly when and where you need them!
For help or travel advice when visiting China speak to one of the travel consultants familiar with the country, such as Flight Centre.
Patricia Bieszk+ is a freelance writer who loves to travel and explore cultures (and foods) around the world.
Image: Mitch Altman