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Jul 23, 2010 11:41 PM

Vegetarian Dim Sum in SF?

Any suggestions for good places to go for vegetarian (or veggie-friendly / kosher-friendly) dim sum in SF (Chinatown or otherwise)? Thanks!

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  1. Good luck.
    Many times you will be told that a dumpling is vegetarian and find that there are bits of pork fat in the filling, small dried shrimp or the unseen pork fat and lard used in doughs or pastries. I do not think that it is a deliberate misinformation but and cultural definition difference.
    I believe that most "kosher"(none of the Chinese kitchens here, that serve meat, are kosher) and vegetarian folks that eat dim sum are being conveniently blind.

    4 Replies
    1. re: chefj

      Language difficulties play a part. The way to ask for something that is all vegetable is to request Buddhist food. No animal products are used, no lard in the dough, etc. But often no onions or garlic either.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I would imagine that at most dim sum places you would be very limited in the amount of thing that would be offered? or do they routinely cook pure vegetarian food?

        1. re: chefj

          At most places, probably fairly limited. But the top houses will have several items, but not that many dumplings. As sfbing recommends below, Yank Sing has quite a few dumplings that match the Chinese Buddhist diet.

          I offered the advice above to help vegetarians navigate Chinese restaurants in general, not just for dim sum. I have observed many a customer try to get their needs across asking for "vegetables, "no meat", and various other terms that I know are not going to get the real point across. As you point out, a shrimp & pea shoot dumpling made with larded dough, for example, would fit those directives.

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          Most vegetarian restaurants in China are Buddhist, and so you certainly won't find say lard in the the kitchen, and alcohol isn't served or allowed either. Eggs are forbidden (because they're the origin of life) but milk is OK, as well as stuff like bird's nest (aka saliva). Yeah you won't find onion, garlic, chive, etc. because these herbs are found to be too distracting/hedonistic in smell and taste to Buddhists.

      2. That said I think that there are a couple of completely veg Chinese Restaurants but I do not know if they make Dim Sum.

        1. I take the friends with dietary restrictions to Yank Sing. They have several vegetarian options.

          Yank Sing
          49 Stevenson St Ste Stlv, San Francisco, CA 94105

          1. I'm heading to SF on Monday. First visit and very excited.
            I've been researching veg restaurants, and this is the only veg and kosher Chinese place I could find:
            I'm sure I'll be checking the place out!

            1. I have eaten at City View with a vegetarian, and she was quite pleased with the dumplings and taro. Just tell them you're a vegetarian, and they'll bring you those trays.

              Chefj's warning is fair, but applies to all kinds of Asian food. Thai and Vietnamese dishes without meat may still have fish sauce.

              City View Restaurant
              662 Commercial St, San Francisco, CA 94111

              3 Replies
              1. re: Windy

                A good example is the Fried Taro Dumpling( yùtóu jiǎo). There is pork fat in the Taro dough and I doubt that if the kitchen is making the meat version that they make separate dough for the vegetable filling. "it has no meat in it" yeah just animal fat, no problem for me but my Paki friend!

                1. re: chefj

                  While "yùtóu jiǎo" is the literal translation of taro dumpling, I've never heard that in a dim sum restaurant. In fact I've never had fried taro dumplings in China or here in the US that have no meat. Maybe I'm thinking of a different type of taro dumpling? You'd think that a restaurant would not use lard or animal fat in a vegetarian item?

                  Now thinking about it, I was in a high-end Chiuchow restaurant (branch of Cantonese cuisine) in Hong Kong after I got off a flight from SFO. I was about to order a traditional mashed taro dessert, when my parents warned me that they would use lard. I said I couldn't believe it in a high-end restaurant. I asked, and the reply was yes. I was quite shocked.

                  1. re: vincentlo

                    Well "jiao" is commonly equated with dumpling as written....but jiao pronounced a certain way in Mandarin means "point"/"corner" or basically"gok" in Cantonese (e.g. san jiao seeeng = triangle). So yùtóu jiǎo = 芋頭角 by that logic, which we just shorten to 芋角 in Cantonese dim sum lore.