Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > China & Southeast Asia >
Jul 20, 2009 06:26 PM

Recommendations for a Vegetarian

I am traveling to Shanghai, Chengdu, Guilin, and Beijing (and the areas around these cities) and looking for good vegetarian recommendations. Restaurants, dishes, food stalls......I am a foodie and food lover and have done some research but would appreciate some more specifics. And places off the beaten path and out of the guidebook.


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. One general guideline is to look for Buddhist restaurants, which do a wide variety of vegetarian food.

    If you aren't used to travelling in Asia, one caveat is not to assume that because something is made of tofu, it's going to be vegetarian. I find that in the west, tofu is regarded as something vegetarians eat, while in Asia, it's just food.

    1. If you are a strict vegetarian, you will have a fairly hard time in China, know how to say that you are a vegetarian and you don't want to eat any meat. Menus will always have lots of vegetable options, but they will almost always include meat with them.

      Pure Lotus (净心莲) and Still Thoughts (静思素食坊) are very popular in Beijing and has a few different locations. They even have a following among non-vegetarians due to some interesting "meat" dishes, including Still Thoughts' version of lamb kebabs, a popular Beijing snack.

      Jendow Vegetarian in Shanghai does an interesting vegetarian buffet with all different kinds of options. Not sure about the other cities you'll travel to.

      1. Chengdu: Most temples have a vegetarian restaurant (zhaojuesi temple, wuhou temple, daci temple, qingyang temple, etc.) The most accessible are the two vegetarian restaurants at Wenshu Monastery. My favourite vegetarian place is Tian Yuan (田园) near Yiguanmiao (clean, good cooking, good service). There is also a chain called Vegetarian Lifestyle (I know Shanghai has at least one), and the Chengdu branch is supposed to be very good. It's kind of upscale. There is a new, high end vegetarian teahouse in the south called Shan Shui Ge (善水阁素食茶馆, address 武侯区紫荆南路56号). Haven't been so no idea how much Chinese you need to order etc.

        1. My first recommendation is to learn to say 不能吃肉 (pronounced boo nung chih row), or, I can't eat meat.
          My second piece of advice is that even if something is a tofu dish, it still may contain some meat. A good example of this is 家常豆腐 (pronounced jyah-chahng tow-foo), or homestyle tofu. IT CONTAINS FATTY PORK.
          As for dish recommendations, I would recommend 干煸四季豆 ( ), 鱼香茄子 ( ), 青椒土豆丝 ( ), 地三鲜 ( ). Pronunciations for ordering and descriptions are all enclosed in attached links, but I'd recommend printing out the characters and keeping them on you as a failsafe if you are a hardcore vegetarian visiting China. A lot of Chinese restaurants (and most outside of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong) don't offer picture menus so having a short list of reliable veggie-friendly foods could save you from eating plain 白米 everyday.

          5 Replies
          1. re: dannyrogue

            While its good to know a few dishes, it would also make for a very boring trip if you keep eating the same things. I'd also note of the above dishes, ganbian sijidou almost always comes with meat and yuxiang qiezi ocassionally comes with meat. I don't know if its a regional thing, but I can't remember the last time I've seen tudousi referred to as "qingjiao", in Beijing you're far more likely to see 酸辣,清炒,or 香辣 versions (香辣 is very interesting, sort of like Chinese french fries).

            You really have to be very, very specific with restaurants, especially if you're a strict vegetarian. A lot of spots won't understand that you don't eat meat period and will still include the meat they usually do with vegetarian dishes.

            1. re: modernleifeng

              I found this site quite easily on the google search: ; seems pretty comprehensive.

              On the 青椒 topic, maybe it is regional. In Shanghai it's quite common. Also, I've never had yuxiang qiezi or ganbian sijidou with meat, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me, so I don't doubt your claim.

              Thanks for the tip on the 香辣. I'm gonna try that out soon. Do you have any other vegetarian recommendations?

              1. re: dannyrogue

                Yeah, a lot comes down to region and restaurants, though kind of surprised you've never had ganbian sijidou with meat, as that's the traditional way of serving it.

                I'm far from a vegetarian and typically the veggies are a side thing and limited to dishes like 老虎菜 or 拍whatever, most commonly cucumber or bitter melon (苦瓜). Also, when done right, I'm a huge fan of the Yunnan style fried potato pancake thing (where he tudousi are made into a bing), though keep in mind in Southwest China, 土豆 is often referred to as 洋芋.

            2. re: dannyrogue

              re: 不能吃肉 (pronounced boo nung chih row) - "I can't eat meat" - simply print it out and show your server. However, do note that the word 肉 (meat) sometimes (to some people) doesn't include fish - ie. they might think you eat fish/seafood, so I would suggest you print out/learn 我只能吃素 (wo zhi neng chi su) - "I can only eat vegetarian (food)" instead.

              1. re: e_ting

                point taken. I'm not actually a vegetarian, so I don't have that problem.

                But, there are so many different kinds of vegetarians these days, I guess I should ask yumbrooklyn if he/she eats eggs, fish, shell fish or is a full on vegetarian?