China is considered by many to be one of the most difficult countries to travel in as a vegan. And I don’t understand why.
The supermarkets are filled with options and you can make pretty decent meals for less than 2 Euro. Just the way I like it. I highly recommend looking up restaurants on HappyCow or making Chinese friends if you want to go out to eat though.
I arrived in Datong unprepared, without any pre-made food in my containers. I was lucky to find a restaurant on the main road (not so far from the bus station) with a buffet. The buffet contained a salad bar with delicious salads and tofu. Always trust your eyes and enjoy your meal at a buffet! I had a fantastic seaweed salad, cucumber with tofu and noodles for less than 4 Euro.
Beijing is changing very quickly. More and more expats are finding their way to the Chinese capital, so there are loads of brand new and hip restaurants popping up in the Hutongs. It’s kind of an unreal sight with trendy Berlin-style bars squeezed in between the traditional houses.
There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, but if you want to save money, the traditional places are the best choice. Sometimes going out to dinner was challenging for me, and even though I had local friends who could help me communicate, I still ended up having some problems with my food. It’s not uncommon to find ingredients in your dish that are not even listed on the menu, so always make someone explain which meal you want and stress the fact you don’t want any meat, egg or dairy. Don’t be afraid of the oil! I talked several times with locals and restaurants and they do not use animal oil, because peanut oil is cheaper 😉
While in China, you must try a hot pot for sure! You will not believe how vegan-friendly they are. In a restaurant, you are seated next to each other at long tables with a cooking fire in front of you. You will get an incredibly big plate with raw vegetables and noodles (according to your order). It’s up to you to cook everything the way you want, and then you can dig in! I still remember the joyful feeling when I saw the mountain of vegetables coming my way. Green heaven!
After a while, I gave up going out for (local) food without Chinese friends around. It was cheaper and safer to cook for myself at home. Also, even with my vegan passport and pictures of vegetables, the staff never really fully understood what I meant.
Close to the place where I lived (Andingmei station) there was a small place called “Chez Gérard” (a.k.a. the French shop). It had, in addition to a great selection of wines and strong alcohol, a fairly big variety of Western products. Here I stocked up on chickpeas, black olives and Italian pasta. My god, I missed pasta.
I took a train from Beijing to Chengdu. 36 hours of fun on the rails! I was well prepared this time with three food containers filled with noodles, pasta and salad. I also took some fruit and peanut butter to dip my bananas in. Yum!
I didn’t see a restaurant wagon attached to the train, but as mentioned above, it would have been impossible to explain what I wanted anyway. Make sure you have your goodie bag with you before starting your journey, because no one wants to be bored and hungry on a train. I enjoyed eating my delicious dishes out of boredom instead ?
I safely arrived at my workaway in Chengdu, which was heaven in terms of food. The farm only used their own organic vegetables and the cook spoiled me with her spicy creations. However, after one month, the food became monotonous, since tradition changes the meat in a dish rather than the vegetables (they eat always the same vegetables with different types of meat). One thing’s for sure: you will not miss your greens!
I will say this: I’m so very happy that I absolutely adore rice noodles, because I could eat them from the early morning until late at night. And as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I did.