As I’m studying in China, I’m living in student dormitories, where kitchen facilities are pretty lacking. As it’s cheap and easy, I always eat out, whether it’s in the school canteen, restaurants or get a takeaway delivered (which is the same price, if not cheaper than actually walking to the restaurant myself). This makes eating vegan difficult, as I’m not 100% in control of what I eat. The chefs control the portions, flavours and even if you ask for a vegetable dish like 鱼香茄子 (fish flavoured aubergine, but it doesn’t come with fish), it will still come with shredded bits of pork on it, unless you specifically ask them not to put meat on it.
At first, when I asked them for dishes without meat in, people are shocked – who orders a meat dish and asks for no meat to be put it in it? It sounds silly, but a lot of meals in China will contain meat, whether it says it in the description or not. But after the initial shock, they are usually more than willing to make something a little different for me, they lower the price and will answer my request not to put meat in it.
Let’s look at some more pictures:
These noodles originate from Xi’an and the character for them is the most complicated, it’s not even on a standard keyboard. The noodles are long, thin strips, and there is a vinegary sauce at the bottom. It’s topped with beansprouts, leaves and spices, which you mix together before eating. Really yummy.
The wonton shop served pork and veg or prawn and veg wontons, neither of which I was prepared to eat. But I asked them if they could make me a set that was only vegetables and they agreed. The sauces were a sweet apple sauce and a sweet and sour sauce too. Very tasty indeed.
This is rice in a hot dish (which keeps it fluffy and warm) and all of the menu had different types of meat in – pork, beef etc. But I told the lady I didn’t eat meat and she put this together for me, green beans, leaves, pickled veg and peas. It was really really tasty.
So if you explain nicely to chefs in small and quiet establishments, you can get vegan/veggie friendly options.