Eating Vegan In China? Impossible?
Being vegan in China would send chills down the spine of anyone familiar with Chinese culture and eating habits – think scorpions and cockroaches on sticks! However, as my girlfriend and I found out veg places do exist and it is not only possible to get by but you can THRIVE. The vegan food is incredible and way more abundant than we originally thought!
This is the first of a series of posts on eating vegan in China. I spent 47 amazing days in this humongous country and travelled to 10 different cities across 6 vastly different provinces.
Before my girlfriend and I left to travel the world and knowing we were going to be in China for 47 days some of our friends asked “How are you going to eat vegan in China, there is meat in everything!” and “Won’t you miss out on the local dishes?”, the answers we found out were, ‘Not with too much difficulty’ and ‘No, fortunately not’. We not only were able to eat vegan dishes out, we were able to find local specialities ‘veganised’ which were so delicious.
I aimed to draft up an ‘Ultimate Guide to Eating Vegan in China’ however it would be more of a novel rather than a post! So, I thought it better to create a series based on China’s famous provinces. China is massive and no doubt a first time trip will have you visit at least two provinces, so hopefully this will come in handy.
As always I’d love to hear comments on where you’d like a guide or any specific information relating to areas I’ve been. I’m happy to receive comments on my blog, insta or via email 🙂
Without further ado here is my the first post, Guangdong!
So for our first stay in China I sorta messed up a little and booked us out of the city a bit… like about 20km’s out. At least that is how far Google Maps says it was, with maps (especially Google) in China you can’t really be sure.
We stayed in Chimelong, near the amusement park ‘Chimelong Paradise’ in a serviced apartment for a very cheap rate, roughly $30AUD per night. The hotel/apartment was awesome but there was very little food nearby. Not to mention zero places to eat vegan. So alas, we were forced to travel into the city in order to grab a bite to eat.
Day 1 – Temple & Fo You Yuan
Our first attempt at vegan food in China was feeble at best. We visited a 1700 year old buddhist temple called ‘Guangxiao Temple’ in the hope that they’d be serving up some delicious buddhist vegan fare. Unfortunately when we finally found the dining hall we ‘spoke’ (first day in China, our Chinese was…literally non-existent) to the monk and he politely gestured no food.
Sad, frustrated and hungry, our next option was a place we found on HappyCow, we never made it there though. We stumbled across something amazing near the station which spurred in us an obsession while travelling throughout China – Baozi!
At this little hole in the wall we used Google translate to confirm no egg or animal products and bought our first Bao (bun) for 1.5 yuan… about 30 cents AUD. We were wary considering our minimal Chinese language skills as well as not fully trusting google just yet, we were not sure what we’d end up with. Once we broke it in half and confirmed just vegetables we immediately went back for another 5!
I wish I had been more prudent at the time and detailed the directions to this particular place for future travellers as these were almost certainly the best green filled buns we had across our total 47 days in China. What I do know is that it was close-ish by ‘Lujiang’ station, most likely exit B and walking in a westerly direction less than 5 mins. If anybody figures out directions to this place please do let me know!
Dinner was a more productive event and was worth the trek. With some good directions at hand (thank you HappyCow) we proceeded to Cheng Clan Academy station and to ‘Fo You Yuan Vegetarian’ located HERE. The food at Fo You Yuan was great and very well priced! There are many mock meat dishes but if that isn’t your thing there are plenty of other options such as various clay pot options, fried rice, curry and stir fried vegetables.
The dishes we picked were: stir fry pork and broccoli and pepper steak and cauliflower. We also tried the sesame buns (just bread with sesame on top) in light of the fact they did not have dumplings. The buns are great to soak up the sauce from the other dishes. The food was oily but somehow we didn’t feel greasy after eating it. There was a good ratio of mock meat to veg, my girlfriend Melanie even enjoyed it and she’s usually not as keen as me for the mock meats.
Oh, they also serve free (or very cheap, we didn’t notice it on the ridiculously low bill) Pu-Erh tea! Amazing. Be sure to get it!
Day 2 – Simple Food Day
The next day was relatively uneventful food-wise. We headed up Baiyun Mountain and took the cable car up which was quite cheap and pretty nice. We had a mango smoothie at the top for brunch and then walked back down the mountain. If you visit the mountain you must give the foot massage path a go. It will most certainly hurt when you take your shoes off and stroll across the stones but the reward when you finish, sit down and put your shoes back on!
In light of not eating much exciting food I’ve added a couple of artsy pics I took with my Google Pixel XL. I won’t quite my day job, oh wait, I don’t have a job…
We did manage to find something a bit interesting food-wise on our way back through the city from Baiyun Park. We visited an underground mall and were stopped by a girl out the front of a restaurant that looked like it served a lot of meat but she spoke some english! So we asked if she had vegetarian/vegan options and were pleasantly surprised to find that the side dishes were vegan and instead of a bowl of rice with meat toppings we could just get a big bowl of rice. Also hot soy milk yay!
In China many of the side dishes are automatically vegan. You DO need to confirm they contain no fish or meats in the sauces but many are just garlic and soy, or chilli as in the pic above. If you are in a tough spot finding food you can visit many shops that serve side dishes – they are very common in China – and just order the sides with rice. Not the most thrilling meal but nonetheless filling and healthy.
The odd-looking white/chilli things on the right are lotus root. We came to love lotus root after travelling around Asia having never had it previously in Australia.
We concluded day two by purchasing some oatmeal and banana for breakfast as well as a block of vegan chocolate we found in a supermarket.
Day 3 – Shamian Island
We ate oatmeal with banana for breakfast so we could get going earlier.
Up first was a visit to Shamian ‘Island’ Residential District a popular and history rich island very near Guangzhou city centre. The short of it’s more modern history is that Britain and France were handed halves of the island in 1859. The buildings are quite obviously not Chinese in design making it quite a unique and fascinating place just a stones throw from the heart of one of China’s largest cities. You can read about it’s cultural significance HERE.
We actually managed to stumble across a buddhist vegan restaurant while walking around the island! Monk’s sitting inside are always a good sign and although we weren’t very hungry we couldn’t resist the opportunity to try at least one dish.
Our slogan since we started travelling has been ‘When you can eat, eat’, it is probably making us fat because we’ve come across so many delicious places in our travels! The name of the place is ‘Carefree Vegetarian’ on Shamian Island.
We opted for a simple wonton soup which was really nice, it took a while to be prepared but since we only visited once we cannot be sure this is the norm. They have plenty of other options including dumplings, spicy soup and pork chops.
Note: Vegans will have to confirm no egg or milk in the dish they choose as they are Tibetan owners and likely use these products.
At night we returned to Fo You Yuan, the food is just such good value for money and delicious. This time we had just one meal between us (the servings are large) as we’d snacked during the day. We had ‘vegetarian steak with tomatoes, vegetables and herbs’. It had a distinct rosemary flavour and although not very oriental it was delicious.
We both agreed it was just as good as the first night. Of course we had multiple pots of tea again – when in China!
Guangzhou is famous for its food. Although we enjoyed what we ate while we were there I think we didn’t get to experience it in its entirety due to accustoming to China as well as the limited number of vegan options in Guangzhou in general.
Along our travels in China we had much more interesting vegan food including dishes that really showcased the seasonal produce as well as local dishes turned vegan. Keep an eye out for future posts presenting some great vegan options while travelling in China.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I really hope it provided some value for you, if it did please let me know via comment and please share it around ?
If you’re headed to Hong Kong or even just interested in what vegan options are available in HK head on over to my post about it HERE.