Being a vegetarian in Xi’an has its challenges but it can also lead to some interesting cultural exchanges and a rather fascinating restaurant treasure hunt. Historically, the predominance of the philosophical teachings of Buddhism and Taoism has promoted the vegetarian lifestyle in China, together with a tendency to eat cheaper meat free dishes in times of poverty. However, in prospering modern China, meat is eaten with great relish and is sometimes seen as a sign of individual economic success. Therefore being a foreigner and a vegetarian can cause some confusion since it is not uncommon for Chinese people to equate foreigners with wealth and a meat eating Christian culture. Nevertheless, I have noticed that in the last year or so that younger English speaking Chinese students will add ‘Are you a vegetarian?’ on to their list of questions regarding my status here.
Xi’an appears to boast a wide range of restaurant choices for vegetarians but it’s not unusual to find that listed restaurants have closed within a fairly short time of opening.Two of the most widely known vegetarian restaurants in Xi’an are Tianlong Baoyan vegetarian restaurant in the Yanta District, near to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Daxingshan Temple Vegetarian restaurant. Both restaurants are owned by the same man. The latter is suitable for vegans and there’s a strong Buddhist theme in both places. The staff speaks almost no English and so if you have very specific dietary needs, try to ask a Chinese friend or your hotel guide to write down key phrases in Chinese characters.
However, the menu has very clear colour pictures with some very simple English phrases, so that it’s possible to see which dishes are hot, cold or spicy. Expect to pay around 28 RMB per dish. Alot of the dishes are made with tofu, some of which are made to emulate traditional Chinese meat dishes. Some of the mock meat dishes had a strange aftertaste that I couldn’t identify but the mixed vegetable and bean dishes were delicious. They also have some rather tempting dumplings at a value price of 10 RMB. Both restaurants often host Western tour groups and so you may be able to join other foreigners and try a wider selection of dishes. Some Westerners have complained that the Tianlong Baoyan restaurant is difficult to find as its sign is written in Chinese. Just show the address below to a local resident or the taxi driver and that should do the trick.
Tianlong Baoyan Vegetarian 天龙宝严素食馆View In Map
Add:1-C, Ci’en West Rd., Yanta District, Xi’an
Tel: 029 8526 7880
Daxingshan Temple Vegetarian 大兴善寺素香斋View In Map
Add:55, Xingshan Xijie, Xi’an (at Daxingshan Temple)
Tel: 029 8536 1181
There are of course a number of restaurants described as “vegetarian friendly”. My own favourite is the Delhi Darbar, also in the Big Wild Goose Pagoda region. The staff are extremely friendly and have basic English skills. Usually, there is at least one member of staff on duty who can explain the menu very well in English. The menu is written in English and Chinese characters, and is pretty straight forward. This is not a taste of authentic India but it will bring back memories of your favourite take-away in the West. It is owned by a guy from Northern India but the food lacks the spicy edge of traditional Indian food. More than half the menu is suitable for vegetarians. You can expect to see curries, pulses, vegetable biriani and a host of familiar breads and pillau rice. The customers reflect a complete cross-section of foreign tourists, expats, students and Chinese locals. Prices are cheaper than most foreign food restaurants. A generous meal for two will cost around 100 RMB.
Delhi Darbar - View In Map
Add: 3 Yanta Xilu, Datang Tongyifang Dongtou (at /near Big Wild Goose Pagoda), Xi’an
Tel: 029 8525 5157
Of course some vegetarians eat fish although I know that this may not meet everyone’s definition of the word ‘vegetarian’. There’s a multitude of restaurants to choose from. If you prefer to eat your fish Japanese style, try the Huili Japanese Restaurant in the Beilin District of Xi’an. Expect to pay around 100 RMB per person. The Tibetan Fish restaurant on Jianshe West Road also comes very well recommended, but the menu is difficult to understand as it’s written in Chinese. It’s most famous for its grilled Tibetan style of cooking. The staff will help you make some choices and you can easily peek at the dishes being served. They are no strangers to foreigners and will have a rough idea of what you’re looking for.
Huili Japanese Restaurant 惠里日本料理 View In Map
Add: 3F, Gongzhanguan, 1 Chang’an Beilu, Beilin District, Xi' an
Tel: 029 8526 1888
Tibetan Fish 藏式秘汁烤鱼 View In Map
Add: 200 Meters West of #323 Hospital, Jianshe Xilu, Xi’an
地址: 西安市 建设西路323医院向西200米路北
Tel: 029 8503 0543
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Keywords: Vegetarian restaurants Xi’an fish restaurants Xi’an Vegetarian food Xi’an best Vegetarian restaurants Xi’an
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