Web Exclusive

China paradise for vegetarian

By Satyendra Upadhyay (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2011-06-30 09:17
Large Medium Small

Food is always most talkative subject for a foreigner in another country. It's said that once you start enjoying food, start enjoying culture, business and life as well, then definitely you are not going to miss your home in China.

China paradise for vegetarian
Satyendra Upadhyay [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn] 
Undoubtedly China is paradise for all non-vegetarian people but as most of vegetarian people think China would be very odd country as for food is concerned specially if they are on business tour or studying in China. But I would like to share my experience here how I spent more than six years being pure vegetarian in China.

I was a Ph.D. Research scholar to China as part of India-China Cultural Exchange program. The day I landed in Xiamen University, I couldn't find anything to eat for a vegetarian. At that moment I realized how I would spent my life.

Once I went to an western restaurant in our overseas student building and tried to order vegetable but couldn't get success to get good dishes, and I was very angry when I saw more vegetable were given to those who have ordered non-vegetarian dishes. For few months my friends were helping me to order my randomly selected/modified Chinese version of vegetarian dishes. Thanks to foreign friends and few Chinese friends who introduced me very delicious Chinese vegetables "qing cai" (I had very limited Chinese friends as I was absolute zero in Chinese language, that may be one reason I didn't find suitable food to eat).

Then I realized this won't be right way to survive in China, and day by day knowledge of Chinese language start helping my food on track, meaning I started to get variety of Chinese vegetable (probably Chinese also don't know how much variety of delicious vegetarian dishes they have). One of my Chinese friend Yuan Ji, many times she took me to Chinese restaurants and showed me how to order customized (Chinese they really are great in customized service) vegetarian dishes. My confidence increased many fold when my Professor (Su Yong Quan) invited me and my wife (she is more strict vegetarian than me) for dinner, when he came to know our selective choice of food then all people on table like to have vegetarian food only and most surprising my Prof. has ordered 23 all vegetarian dishes, can't believe it, isn't?

No doubt knowing local language is still very significant in life and power play role in China. With the language power now I can go anywhere in China (north-east-west-south) and can place vegetarian dishes, more interestingly you even no need to refer any menu, just ask them whether they have the dishes you want to eat (like potato(tu dou), green vegetables(shu cai), cauliflower (cai hua), curry (ka li), corn soup (yumi tang)/vegetable soup (shucai tang), fried rice (chao mifan), plain rice (bai mifan), shredded potato (tudou si)) etc.) and many more you can get all around China.

Another great alternative in China, they have all variety of fruits (even you can get in Bar also) so instead of saying strange for vegetarian, won't be wrong to say paradise for Vegetarian just learn some basic conversational Chinese and handy vocabulary of vegetable and food, you will get at least 90% of dishes which you used to eat in your own country. Now, when my wife go to any restaurants in China she directly go to kitchen and see what vegetables available, accordingly suggest to chief (in her broken Chinese language) to take some precaution to cook vegetarian and soon she manage to get many wonderful dishes on plate. Now she tells every vegetarian in India with pride that there are more fresh and healthy vegetables choice available in China than in India and more important today, really healthy.

So, I feel in China you can maintain your business as well as healthy life also just with your confidence and power of language. I am sure with this you will be saying "I am Loving It".

The author is a Ph.D. Research scholar to China as part of India-China Cultural Exchange program in Xiamen University, East China's Fujian province.

[Please click here to read more My China stories. You are welcome to share your China stories with China Daily website readers. The authors will be paid 200 yuan ($30). Please send your story to mychinastory@chinadaily.com.cn.]