Being a Vegetarian in China Posted by sasha on May 11, 2017 in Culture, food, Vocabulary
China loves meat. There’s no doubt about it. In such a carnivorous place, one might think it would be difficult to be a vegetarian. While it’s true that there’s a whole lot of meat in the Chinese diet, it’s not only possible but actually quite easy to be a vegetarian in China. In this post we’ll learn how to tell people you’re a vegetarian along with some common dishes.
Telling People You’re Vegetarian
First of all, you’ll need to equip yourself with some words or phrases to let people know what you’re a vegetarian (素食主义者 – sù shí zhǔ yì zhě). That’s a good word to know, but it’s too long and rarely actually used. You’re better off saying one of these:
I eat vegetables/I’m a vegetarian. (我吃素 – wǒ chī sù)
I don’t eat meat. (我不吃肉 – wǒ bù chī ròu)
Most places will understand either phrase to mean to you don’t want any meat. However, many dishes on Chinese menus that may look vegetarian actually have a bit of ground meat in them. It’s not a bad idea to ask to clarify:
Does this have meat? (这个有肉吗? – zhè ge yǒu ròu ma)
Hopefully this clearly expresses the point that you really don’t want to eat any meat. Often times, people in China will be confused by this. Vegetarianism isn’t huge in the Middle Kingdom yet, so it’s hard for some to fathom why you wouldn’t want to eat meat. Nevertheless, using the above phrases should ensure you get a meal free of meat.
10 Common Vegetarian Dishes
There are quite a few common vegetarian dishes in China, so it’s never too hard to find something to eat without meat. Here are 10 of the best Chinese vegetarian dishes:
西红柿炒鸡蛋 – xī hóng shì chǎo jī dàn
scrambled eggs and tomatoes
地三鲜 – dì sān xiān
potatoes, eggplant, and peppers
拍黄瓜 – pāi huáng guā
smashed cucumber with garlic
干煸四季豆 – gān biān sì jì dòu
stir-fried green beans
土豆丝 – tǔ dòu sī
鱼香茄子 – yú xiāng qié zi
麻婆豆腐 – má pó dòu fu
香菇油菜 – xiāng gū yóu cài
sauteed cabbage with mushrooms
清炒西兰花 – qīng chǎo xī lán huā
蒜泥菠菜 – suàn ní bō cài
spinach with garlic
It should be noted that two of the dishes above often come with ground pork – Mapo tofu and the stir-fried green beans. As I mentioned earlier, China likes slipping a little meat into dishes that would otherwise appear to be vegetarian. Just be sure you make it very clear that you don’t want any meat when ordering.
In addition to the dishes mentioned above, it’s always possible to get your staples like rice, noodles and dumplings in a vegetarian style. Order up some egg-fried rice (蛋炒饭 – dàn chǎo fàn) or some cold noodles (冷面 – lěng miàn) and neither will have meat.