Vegetarian recs for Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, HK...
I'm travelling to China next month -- with a friend to Beijing, Xian and HK, and with a tour group in Shanghai, Shaolin, Chengdu and Lhasa. I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian and am in fear of not finding any vegetarian food in China. Can anyone help? Any restaurant and dish names would be appreciated. I don't want to be a total cultural jerk, so I'm sure I'll end up eating around the fish and meat in dishes, but I would love to get some recommendations. Cheap street food would be wonderful -- tofu, noodles, fried bread? Thanks!
One of my best dining experiences in Beijing was at a place that specializes in mushroom hotpot. It is called Taipo Tianfu Shanzhen, and though it was a total dive, it was amazing. They said the broth was vegetarian, and the variety of mushrooms was astonishing. Don't be put off by the black chicken hotpot they also serve there.
Beware - the concept of vegetarianism is not really understood in China, so even if you say you don't eat meat, they will often still cook with meat stock, or even throw in a little bit of meat. The only truly safe places are Buddhist vegetarian restaurants. In Beijing, my favorite is Still Thoughts. It's cozy and cute, a real neighborhood joint, owned by friendly Buddhists, with delicious food - a different experience from the lavish Pure Lotus (which charges RMB 400 for a pot of tea!).
18A Dafosi Donguie, one block north of Qianling hutong, north of Sanlian Shudian on Meishuguan Dongjie, Dongcheng district 6400 8941
There is a pair of restaurants in Beijing called Pure Lotus, run by Buddhist monks, with one location at the Lido Holiday Inn hotel and the other near Gongti Beilu. Not cheap, but quite an experience. Bear in mind that some Chinese will tell you that a dish is vegetarian, only then to serve it to you with slices of ham on top. And soups are usually based on meat broth.
There was a branch of Gongdelin in Beijing as far back as the early 80's. I'm sure it's still there.
Maybe I don't know what HLing is referring to, but there are several buddhist influenced vegetarian restaurants, chinese, in the Los Angeles area - no alcohol, no onions or garlic. Even the Hsi-Lai temple runs a vegetarian canteen, and the restaurants provide both rare mushroom dishes as well as kaofu mianjin kind of stuff, and mock meats.
While in Hong Kong, try to get to places that serves vegetarian items, as that is very hard to come by. (NYC has one..but even LA doesn't have one)
I think on the list that Gary Soup supplied, the Light Vegetarian restaurant,
13 Jordan Road (Kowloon) 2384-2833 might be the one that offers all you can eat lunch buffet that includes a lot of dim sum items. It's very close to the MTA. You might have to share a table with other people.
My favorite corner for vegetarian restaurant is in Wanchai. On Wanchai road and Burrow street. If you're standing on Wanchai at Burrow street and facing the theatre, to your right hand side and down a couple of doors is FO YOU YUAN (note that's the pronounciation of the Chinese name, not the English name) I'm guessing the English name is Happy Buddha, or something of that sort. If you go and see a thick clear plastic curtain, you've arrived at the "door" of this hole in the wall that serves very home made, not too good looking, but delicious food. One of their fried rice is a special favorite if I could take the spkce level better...I think it's Fouzhou fried rice, but you can probably spot it on the wall's collection of pictures: looks like crushed rice with black specks..probably mock ground meat, and black pepper...I don't know exactly what is packing that heat, but it's addictive.
Back out on Wanchai Rd, if you go left instead of right you come to a Stinky Tofu stand that also serves really good curried squid/conch. If the man is frying up the stinky tofu it's usually quite good. Eat them hot, with some red hot sauce, and don't get too close to others..common courtesy.
If you're still at that spot, on the left side of Wanchai road, back track a few steps and you're see signs for Veggie Express that's upstairs. This is probably one of the few places in HK that serves brown rice. THe food is more new age-ish with some microbiotic selections. (wow, haven't used that word for a while).
I like the food at the hole in the wall better, though.
It will be more difficult in China for vegetarians. Breakfast is usually easy with the soymilk, soybean curds and various fried dough, but otherwise, good luck. Prepare a few energy bars just in case.
"and with a tour group in Shanghai, Shaolin, Chengdu and Lhasa...."
Just curious, are you going to Shaolin Temple in Deng Feng in this tour?
Hope you have a great trip!
Yes I've been to Shaolin Temple quite a few times in the last couple of years. If you guys get to participate in the lunch at the Temple (an unique experience) the food will be vegetarian. Things are changing quickly over there, so i don't know if it will be easier or harder now for outsiders to have lunch there, but as of this last year we joined the monks at lunch, listened and watched the mini ceremony before lunch. We were told not to take more than we can eat, although there can be seconds if you're still hungry. Then we were lead in a line to wash our own dishes at a water faucet outside....
Fear not. China has many Buddhist vegetarians (and nowadays "ad hoc" vegetarians), many vegetarian restaurants, and many vegetarian dishes at restaurants for omnivores. What they can do with doufu is astounding, and could convert even a confirmed carnivore like me. Once you know the ropes, it's probably easier and more fulfilling to be a vegetarian in China than in the US.
Here you go, for starters:
Don't miss Gongdelin in Shanghai. It's the Buddhist vegetarian place that put kaofu and mock goose appetizers into the mainstream of Shanghai cuisine. Even carnivores like myself would find a big meal amiss without those two.
Street food in Shanghai: jian bing, "stinky" tofu, doufu hua, su cai baozi, tea eggs, and many other fruity-veggie snacks.