Are there vegetarians in China

March 8, 2018

In many places the myth prevails that in China only meat and fish are eaten and that there are no vegetarian dishes. I also gave some thought to this topic before my departure, as I definitely do not want to change my vegetarian diet. I haven't been to China very long, but I can already say with certainty that it is definitely not easy as a vegetarian in China.

In contrast to Germany, only a very small part of the Chinese population has a vegetarian diet. Vegetables, noodles and rice make up a large part of Chinese cuisine, but there are many menus on which not a single purely vegetarian dish can be found. Even if a dish appears vegetarian at first glance, in my experience it often contains meat or fish. Even the pictures of the dishes that are printed on many menus do not necessarily allow clear conclusions to be drawn. Simple rice or pasta dishes are often "seasoned" with small pieces of meat. Since the staff in many traditional Chinese restaurants rarely speak English, communication without knowledge of Chinese is rather difficult. It's easier to find in international restaurants. The staff here often speaks good English and the dishes such as pizza, pasta, burgers and the like are mostly familiar.

Street food in Shanghai

It gets a lot more difficult with street food! In addition to fish, this consists mainly of meat, meat and even more meat. Pretty much everything that has two or more legs or swims is skewered and fried here. The choice is huge: chicken, duck, pork, beef, seafood or insects. It is not always clear what it is about at first glance.

The alternative: vegetarian restaurants

If you still don't want to miss out on Chinese cuisine, but want to make sure that the dish you order is really vegetarian, you should go to one of the many vegetarian restaurants. Restaurants like the Vegetarian Life Style in Shanghai can be found in all major Chinese cities. In addition to classic meatless dishes, such as rice with vegetables, potatoes in all variations or soups, there are also many dishes with tofu and seitan at a fair price.

My very positive conclusion: with a little patience, flexibility and a few Chinese sentences, you can also eat excellent vegetarian food in China!