If you are vegetarian or vegan and you are planning to travel to China, I have some good and bad news for you. The good news is that you can find here a great variety of exotic fruits such as rambutan, jackfruit, lychee or starfruit – served always fresh and tasty. Moreover, China is a great place to try new veggies and sea plants – boiled, grilled or fried. The bad news is that Chinese will never understand the concept of vegetarianism. This is the nation of pure fat meat. Chinese simply heart beef, chicken and pork meat and they cannot imagine their meals without it.
However, impossible is nothing and every vegetarian can still enjoy their food even in China. I have written what people eat for breakfast in China before, but this time I will present you with a list of 5 Chinese vegetarian breakfast dishes you can order no matter what province you are in.
1. Vegetarian Baozi or Jiaozi
Baozi and jiaozi are the names for Chinese dumplings, one of the most famous Chinese delicacies. They both go with various fillings, but if you are vegetarian you might want to try vegetarian ones filled with carrot, radish, parsley, onion and pumpkin. You can have them served with soy sauce, chili, vinegar and sesame oil. All you need to do is ask the waiter or vendor what’s inside, while in some places you can have them custom-made for you.
Baozi are much bigger than jiaozi and they are normally steamed so they seem to be much healthier. Jiaozi are crescent-shaped, often deep-fried, but can also be served like baozi or in a soup. Just make sure they are hot when served – cold they aren’t as tasty.
The cost of baozi is around RMB0,5 – RMB1 ($0.8 – $0.16) each one whereas a plate of Jiaozi (6-8) shouldn’t cost more than RMB5 (<$1).
2. Noodle soup
There is a great variety of Chinese noodle soups. Locals usually order spicy beef noodle soup or mild chicken noodle soup, but if you are vegetarian, you might enjoy a simple noodle soup with carrots, parsley, chives and onion. The noodles eaten in the morning are thick and long so you can feel fuller for longer. Add some herbs and spices and you are sorted for half of your day!
3. You Tiao
Are you a fan of donuts and cronuts? If so, you tiao will quickly become your favourite breakfast option in China.
They are deep fried bread sticks made of dough and served as an accompaniment for rice congee or soy milk. You can have one or two on the go wherever you are. They are very rarely served later on in the day.
Although they are extremely oily, you can’t resist their soft texture and amazing smell of donuts. 1 you tiao usually costs RMB1 ($0.16).
4. Pancakes (Jian bing)
Chinese are still learning how to make good pancakes. Maybe jian bing are not like the Western style pancakes we got used to in our countries for breakfast (thick, filled with sugar, served with fruits and nutella, sprinkled with powder sugar), but they are also yummy.
As Chinese don’t like having sweet breakfasts, jian bing are usually served with chives and some of them might be extra spiced. They are light and very filling, mostly egg based. If you are not a big fan of egg pancakes you can swap it for a fried croquette filled with veggies (make sure it’s well done both sides).
5. Rice and tofu dishes
Yes, even rice and tofu are served for a breakfast in China. No matter what time it is in the morning, you can still get a plate of rice with fried tomatoes and eggs, fried rice with veggies and soy sauce or a bowl of spicy tofu – very soft and light topped with sweet chili or spicy sauce.
When you come to China for the first time, the vegetarian food can be very stodgy, but you will quickly adapt to the new environment and eating habits. No matter what part of China you are staying in or going to, there will be street vendors. China is filled with budget restaurants and the food vendors are open 24/7. You can easily survive with a food budget less than $10 per day!
Have you ever been to China? If so, what was your favourite Chinese vegetarian breakfast meal?
Agness is a Polish vagabond who, after graduation, left her comfort zone and set off for a journey of her lifetime to China in 2011. She has been constantly travelling the world since then (slowly, but surely as she says), living like a local for less than $25 a day. She became passionate about photography and adventure blogging, sharing her enthusiasm and travel experience with everyone around. Check out her blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter. She is also one of the authors of “Add Your Brick to the Great Wall” – an eBook summing up her two-year experience of teaching, living and travelling in, one of the most magnificent and challenging countries, China.