Being a Vegetarian in Beijing, by Hannah Armstrong

Clipart border 3

Hey! My name is Hannah, I’ve been working for Aihua since August 2014. I have been a vegetarian for over 10 years and I’ll admit one of my main concerns about moving to China was if I was going to be able to find anything to eat, and it was the questions I was most asked when I announced I was moving to China.

On my first day in China one of the Chinese teachers sent me a message to keep In my phone. It basically said ‘I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat meat, please help me find something to eat.’ For the first few weeks I handed my phone to some very confused waitresses who then laughed and took time to point to every vegetable and piece of tofu in the menu. Most menus in Chinese restaurants are like books, so eventually I always found something!

Aihua offers Chinese lessons, so once settled I tried to learn simple phrases “I don’t eat meat”, “I don’t want meat” and “Does this have meat?” which I probably use every time I eat. Sometimes you will be assured that the dish has no meat, only for it to arrive sprinkled with mince or meat hidden under it. Luckily, food is very cheap and there are always more options to try again. I’ve now learnt some common Chinese dishes and vegetables that I can order if I’m unsure – di san xian, which is a mix of eggplant, peppers and potatoes in sauce and garlic noodles are some of my favourites.

A local, mainly export supermarket sells lentils and grains, and food markets sell fruit and vegetables for less than half of what they would cost at home, so I’ve also continued to cook and bake easily. I live in the west of Beijing, but if I’m missing proper vegetarian food it’s a subway journey away. Vegetiger in Wudakou, The Veggie Table in Yonghegong and Moko Bros in Sanlitun all have amazing options, the first two offering a meat-free menu.

There are so many more restaurants that are completely vegan or vegetarian, as well as vegetarian/vegan options I find out about new ones everyday. I joined a WeChat group which brings together vegetarians and vegans in Beijing. They occasionally arrange dinners but most importantly, they update constantly when anyone finds a new place to eat, and someone will always help if you want to know where to find coconut milk or quinoa!

It can be difficult sometimes, the students will you offer meat floss sweets and chicken feet are eaten normally, but with the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables so low and so many options of different vegetable dishes, tofu, noodles, or western mock meats available you will always find something to eat from typical Chinese food, to familiar Western food to Korean-Mexican fusion!

Posted in Uncategorized.