Many vegetarian travelers may be concerned about whether they can find a place to eat while visiting China. This is quite natural, especially going to a country with language barrier and different cultural background. If you are traveling to the cities, there are various popular vegetarian foods and always some vegetarian restaurants in China catering to the needs of Buddhists and vegetarians. After all, Chinese consume 40% of the world’s vegetables and fruits annually. Traditionally Chinese people have many vegetables dishes cooked with meat garnish. We can simply ask the restaurant to take the meat out before cooking. It is also a good solution for the travelers if the veg food is not available.
In many cities of China, there are some vegetarian restaurants sponsored by the Buddhist followers to promote Buddhism and vegetarianism. They offer vegetarian buffets at the cost of around CNY30-60pp (US$4.3-8.6). Some high-profile vegan restaurants were set up to accommodate the needs of wealthy people in big cities (Cost: CNY200-1000pp). Of course the dishes usually look more finely-worked.
Here below are some helpful tips for international travelers who are doing a vegetarian tour in China:
1. If you book a tour with a travel agent, please inform him/her of your food preference and ask for some suggestions. If you travel independently in China, then search online to look for any useful information of your destinations, such as Google, Youtube, Reddit or travel forums.
2. Learn to speak “I am a vegetarian” in China. In Chinese, it is better to say wǒ chī sù (我吃素，I eat vegetarian food), which is simpler to foreigners. If you are a vegan, then you are supposed to say wǒ chī quán sù (我吃全素，I eat only veg food). Here below are some other helpful phrases:
- I don’t eat meat – 我不吃肉 (wǒ bù chī ròu)
- I don’t eat eggs – 我不吃蛋 (wǒ bù chī dàn )
- I don’t eat fish or seafood – 我不吃鱼或海鲜 (wǒ bù chī yú huò hǎi xiān)
- I don’t eat dairy products – 我不吃乳制品 (wǒ bù chī rǔ zhì pǐn)
There are some videos online teaching people how to say these phrases:
3. If you are not sure whether you can recall how to say on the spot, then please copy the above phrases into your mobile phone and show them to the restaurant. Or you can simply write down or print out, keep it with you while traveling in China.
4. You can visit the website of Happy Cow to locate vegetarian restaurants in China. At your convenience, it is also recommended to download the HappyCow App into your smart phone, so you can read the info at any time.
5. In case, you can’t find a vegetarian restaurant near where you stay, and have to order dishes at a regular local restaurant. You can possibly install a translation app in your smart phone like Waygo, which is an award-winning app that translates food menus and signage. Other ones like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator, Baidu Translate (China) can also help.
6. Snacks are helpful. If you’re not sure whether you can find a proper restaurant to eat and what to eat, perhaps prepare yourself some snacks, such as sweets, chocolate, biscuits, nuts, etc, to replenish energy. And you can always find the snacks you need at the supermarket local market in China.
7. Cook yourself. If you’re interested in cooking and Chinese cuisine, you’re encouraged to take a cookery lesson in China. Learn from local family or professional chef the way to prepare Chinese vegetarian dishes. Remember the recipe and take it home.