Are there purely vegetarian restaurants in Shanghai?

How do you survive as a vegetarian and vegan in China ?!

Anyone who has ever been to the Chinese around the corner knows that there lots of meat and fish comes on the table. And who knows which products also contain eggs and milk ?!

It is therefore not surprising that it is not easy as a vegetarian or vegan in China. This is because there are very few vegetarians in China, and most Chinese have never heard of a vegan lifestyle. Many Buddhist monks do not eat animal products, but since these are not often outside the temples, restaurants do not have many vegan or vegetarian options in their menu.

Meat is eaten in China

So far there are only a few vegetarians and vegans in China, as eating meat is still considered Status symbol applies. This is because meat was very scarce in the past and therefore very expensive (similar to Europe in the first half of the 20th century). Therefore, meat is an essential part of the meal for most Chinese today. Because symbolically, if you can afford to eat meat, you have money.

The best dish for vegetarians and vegans in China

In addition, meat is often simply part of a dish and many Chinese chefs pay little attention to the ingredients they use when preparing it. Even if a dish is 95% vegetable, small pieces of meat often cause a nasty surprise ...

What you should pay attention to when ordering in a restaurant: Do not trust the menu too much (not even the photos on the menu ...) and ask several times whether there is really no meat, fish, eggs, milk, etc. in the dish . Often the waiter does not understand what you mean directly and this can lead to misunderstandings.

Of course, you can survive as a vegetarian or vegan in China, even if it didn't sound like that at first. In general, the Chinese eat a lot of vegetables and various types of tofu, which non-vegans in Europe usually avoid. Many popular Chinese cuisine dishes are 100% plant-based, and these are not to be missed!

Here are ours Top 5 disheswho vegetarians and vegans can eat in China.


1. 地 三鲜 (dì sān xiān) - Eggplant, chilli and potatoes seared briefly in the wok and then braised in soy sauce2. 麻辣 豆腐 (málà dòufu) - Tofu with hot spices
3. 鱼香 茄子 (yú xiāng qiézi) - Despite the Chinese name (“eggplant smelling of fish”), this dish consists of crispy eggplant with a sweet and sour sauce with a slight spiciness
4. 香菇 青菜 (xiāng gū qīng cài) - Green vegetables and mushrooms
5. 青椒 土豆 丝 (qīngjiāo tǔdòu sī) - A dish from northern China. Lightly salted, finely chopped green peppers and potatoes that are fried in oil


How do I say vegan and vegetarian in Chinese?

In addition, it is of course also quite useful if you can explain in Chinese what you are eating or, rather, not eating! In Chinese, a vegetarian is called a素食者 (sù shí zhě) denotes, which means something like “someone who eats vegetables”. For the vegan there is also the addition 纯 “chún” (pure), i.e. someone who is only a vegetable, or purely plant-based, so: 纯 素食者 (chún sù shí zhě).

Vegan in China - useful phrases

I am vegan - 我 是 纯 素食者 (wǒ shì chún sùshí zhě)
I only eat herbal products - 我 只吃 植物性 食品 (wǒ zhǐ chī zhíwù xìng shípǐn)
I don't eat meat - 我 不 吃肉 (wǒ bù chī ròu)
I do not eat fish - 我 不 吃魚 (wǒ bù chī yú)
I don't eat dairy products - 我 不吃 乳制品 (wǒ bù chī rǔ zhìpǐn) I don't eat eggs (chicken eggs)- 我 不吃 鸡蛋 (wǒ bù chī jīdàn)

Vegetarian in China - useful phrases

I'm vegetarian - 我 是 素食者 (wǒ shì sùshí zhě)
I eat vegetables - 我 吃素 (wǒ chī sù)
I do not eat meat - 我 不 吃肉 (wǒ bù chī ròu)
I do not eat fish - 我 不 吃魚 (wǒ bù chī yú)

Personal experiences as a vegetarian or vegan in China?

Noah's story: Vegan in China

Noah and his host mother in China

When I was preparing for my stay in China, I had my concerns, as it is well known that a lot of meat is eaten in Chinese cuisine.

In the beginning it was not easy to find vegan dishes and products, as I could only read a few Chinese characters on the menus and in the supermarket.

Two things that helped me:

I lived with a Chinese host family who prepared delicious vegan dishes for me every day. So at breakfast and dinner I didn't have to worry about whether the food was really vegan.

Besides, I have asked my Chinese friends which restaurants near my Chinese home have vegetables based on them.

So I knew what I could and couldn't eat. After getting to know the real Chinese cuisine, I noticed that they eat a lot of vegetables and tofu here! There are even vegan restaurants that offer “fake meat”, such as duck, fish and crab, made from plant-based products. I can highly recommend this!

MY ADVICE: If you order in the restaurant you should it is better to ask twice whether the dish does not contain any meat, fish, eggs, milk, etc.. Simply saying that you are a vegetarian or a vegan is often not enough, as this concept is fairly unknown in China.

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Written by

Noah Nugel

Noah came to LTL in 2018 to Intern in Marketing. He soon fell in love with Beijing and already plans to return as soon as possible. In his free time he enjoys traveling the world, eating vegan food and learning new languages.