Saturday, February 25, 2012

Being Vegan in China - Shanghai Vegetarian Article

When we formulated our plans to travel to China for the World Fair in 2010 I thought I would have a tough time finding vegan food. I was not sure if there was vegan food in China, and if there was, I wasn't sure if I could translate my dietary needs. There are very few English reviews of vegan food in China, but there were a couple promising options I was excited to try. Through Happycow.com I found Loving Hut, JuJuBe Tree, New Age Veggie, and Annamaya and we were able to try every restaurant before we left Shanghai.

First, we traveled to Loving Hut. I was very excited to see Loving Hut in China since we eat at Loving Hut in California and it made us feel at home. The food was completely different than the menu they serve at our local Loving Hut, but I absolutely loved the home-made dumplings. The prices were incredible for the quality of food and we discovered every worker was a volunteer which made the food cheaper. We spoke with the owner, Xu, who explained how the Chinese define vegan which they call "pure vegetarian". He explained that many Buddhists who eat vegan, still consume milk because it is not a life like an animal or an egg. That meant that some "pure vegetarian" restaurants may still have milk options, so we had to clearly state that we did not want milk with our dishes.

At Annamaya, we met Kazu, the owner, and were able to eat the freshest food in Shanghai. Her recipes were fresh, unique, and more akin to our tastes. The mustard pumpkin salad was extremely good and it was refreshing to have fresh vegetables since all the other meals we had were cooked or fried.

JuJuBe Tree (Vegetarian Lifestyle) was our absolute favorite restaurants in China, and still one of the best vegan restaurants I've ever tried. This restaurant serves gourmet meals, is very clean, has a great atmosphere, fancy food presentation, and fresh food and juices. We had amazing dumplings, puffed "chicken" balls, "crab" soup with glass noodles, "short ribs", and eggplant. We loved it so much we ate hear three times in three days!

Overall, my experience as a traveling vegan in Shanghai was a great one. With a few Chinese phrases we were able to find some amazing meals, meet great people, and explore Chinese cuisine without eating animals. Vegetarian dishes are more common in basic Chinese restaurants with the variety of mushrooms, tofu, and vegetable dishes. Vegan restaurants were not too hard to come by and we even found one in the World Expo (Godly). Having vegan Buddhists and more vegetable main dishes made it sometimes easier to eat vegan than in America.