Being a vegetarian in China
So, you are coming to China soon. You’ve been offered a job, you have your visa, you know a little Chinese, or not, and you are very excited!! That’s great! So, then you realize you are coming to a country that known for Beijing Duck, Meat sticks, and having street vendors who serve meat throughout the night. But wait!!
YOU DON’T EAT MEAT!!! OH NO!!!
Nah, it’s ok, and it’s all good. Being a vegetarian in China is pretty easy and allows you to live a cheaper lifestyle than those who eat meat. Unlike many western and other asian countries, vegetables are extremely cheap. I live in Taiyuan now, which is a second tier city. To put things in perspective for you, I buy, and this is twice a week, at least, 10 green bell peppers, 10 large carrots, 8 tomatoes, 2 large stalks of celery, 4 bags of tangerines (20-30 in each bag) and 5 apples. Now, if I buy all of this at one time, it costs me no more than 30 kuai-ish. That is roughly about 5 USD. Tell that that’s not living the good life!! Food of course is cheaper in smaller cities and more expensive in larger cities.
If you want to eat out, you can always just order vegetable, and/or non meat dishes. I know going out with your Chinese friends and co-workers can be a bit hard and annoying at times because they wanna eat meat, you don’t want to and they have to make sure they order something for you. When I say annoying, I mean usually in a funny way, not like you don’t ever wanna eat with anyone.
My favorite choice for restaurants for vegetarians / vegans are Buddhist restaurants. These restaurants are ran by those who practice the Buddhist religion and I love it. The place is peaceful, quiet, and so relaxing. The food is delicious and there are no animal products whatsoever. The mock meat is delicious, they have plenty of steamed vegetables, rice, potatoes, and it’s all just so good. The downside is that it is a bit more expensive than regular restaurants. For me to get 4 dishes, it can run me about 160-200 kuai, roughly about 25-30 USD, and I say expensive because I like go there alone and just relax for a bit. If you go with friends, it’s much more affordable. Another downside is that not all cities have a Buddhist, or all vegan restaurant. I know for a fact that Daqing in Heilongjiang province and here in Taiyuan, the Buddhist restaurants in these cities are great.
When it comes to friends and co-workers with being vegetarian, I haven’t had any problems with it. You may have to keep telling the people you are around that you are a vegetarian when you go out to eat, just because being vegetarian is not common here. I’m still awaiting the day that I can meet someone who is Chinese and vegetarian. That would be cool.
So, it is actually pretty easy to be a vegetarian, and on top of the easiness, with all of the food worries that foreigners have in China, being a vegetarian is much a much safer and healthier lifestyle. I have never been sick in China, or ever, from just eating non-meat food.
It’s cool, and I hoped this helped people who are vegetarian and coming to China.
Tags:General Food Expat Rants & Advice Expat Tales Lifestyle
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I had been a vegetarian but I quit after one month ^^During the time I was a vegetarian,I cook vegetables at home and make sure there is no animal oil in it and I go eat in real vegtarian resturant around me,and there is a good Taiwanese resturant with good condition only suppliying vegetatrian food.They have varieties of vegetarian food to choose.Chinese,Western.And they have cheap and expensive ones.I myself usually go for 30rmb lunch there.If I go with a friend,we will go get a good table on the second or third floor,which costes around 300rmb for two people.
Dec 24, 2014 11:25 Report Abuse
Are you a strict vegetarian? Sometimes I worry when I eat dishes at restaurants maybe its made with meat broth or has some kind of fish sauce in it or something. Do you ask about that or do you just see no meat and not question it? Also, re: faux meat... I had never seen vegetarian mock SEAFOOD until I came to China! It weirds me out too much to try it. Have you had fake fish/shrimp or anything?
Dec 03, 2014 14:44 Report Abuse
Down in GZ we have lots of vegetarian choices, including many 10RMB all you can eat places. I met my vegetarian Chinese wife 3+ years ago while she was traveling South east asia, so don't worry, there are lots of Chinese vegetarians who are not crazy for buddah.
Dec 03, 2014 00:22 Report Abuse
I agree with you on the China being a better country than Korea to be a vegetarian comment. I know its far more better than Japan as well. But about Daqing, I had just graduated college and it was just a wild first choice, but it is a very clean city, just way to far north and way too cold for me. Now in Taiyuan, I get the cold and pollution. Down south seems like a great choice for me.
Dec 01, 2014 22:19 Report Abuse
Hadley, I'm not entirely sure why you think China is better for vegans than Korea or Japan. I've lived in all three countries, and HANDS DOWN, Japan was the most eco-conscious and friendly towards vegans, then Korea second with their numerous veggie banchan, and then China comes in a distant last with their inability to at least "attempt" to follow a patron's eating habits.
Dec 03, 2014 15:57 Report Abuse