plant based in china
Every time I book a new trip, at least one person says "It's going to be hard avoiding meat there." Most of the time, that tidbit comes from someone who hasn't visited the country themselves! I am almost always able to prove them wrong, but it's not always easy. Here are a few tips that show off some of the things I ate in China, but could also be applied in any country:
A simple Google search of 'the best vegetarian restaurants in (enter city)' usually does the trick. The Happy Cow app can also do this for you. It gathers the top vegan and vegetarian restaurants in your area or whatever destination you enter, and even includes restaurants with good veg options that aren't exclusively vegetarian to really give you lots of choices. This proved to be helpful when we were in Kunming, in the Yunnan province of China. The first option that came up was Sujixiang - a vegetarian buffet tucked inside a Chinese Medicine School. This buffet was FOUR DOLLARS!!
2. Respect the language and the culture
I had a screenshot in my phone of the phrase "I am vegetarian" along with "no meat can touch my food" in Chinese. It made communicating my dietary restrictions quite a bit easier than flailing my arms trying to get this across in English. You are visiting a new country - and it's up to you to prepare for situations like this. It was always met with a nod and a smile. And delicious food of course.
3. Just Ask!
When we arrived in Dali, Yunnan, the manager of our hostel spoke very good English. She was also very sweet. These people hold all of the knowledge! Google can only go so far. We all know that locals know the best spots. Dali was a pretty magical place because there was a Buddhist population in the city that follows a plant based diet. So finding a vegetarian restaurant wasn't hard, it was seeking out the best option that was the challenge. Our hostel manager recommended a Buddhist hot pot restaurant. We almost got lost trying to find it, but when we did, it was definitely worth it. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
4. Backup Plan
Okay, so sometimes Google fails you, or you don't have internet, and NO ONE speaks English. This was our situation in Lijiang, Yunnan. We were tired. We didn't feel like sifting through menus and trying to figure things out. Days like this are why I always bring a box of Lara Bars with me when I travel. They are not meal replacements, but they tide you over while you're emergency hungry and looking for something to eat. Stopping at fruit markets for bananas and convenience stores for nuts is also helpful. After eating our snacks to tide us over, we were able to walk around and think clearly. Finally, we came across an 'Iron Plate Tofu' food booth. I like to think that when a place is making one thing all day every day, it's probably pretty good, and it was.
5. Open Mind
Living in the biggest city in Canada, following a vegan diet is very easy. I feel pretty fortunate that I can walk into any neighbourhood and find a plant based place to dine. But if you want to explore another part of the world, you have to keep an open mind. Some places rely on meat, others have it ingrained in their culture. My opinion is that we are in a privileged position to have a choice, and the ability to make a difference. So keep an open mind abroad. Eventually, your empty belly will be full.