It seems that more and more people are adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Lots of others have also thought about making the change, but ultimately decide against it, because they feel that it will eliminate some of their favourite cuisines or make dining out difficult.
The truth is that you can find tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes in almost every type of cuisine. Chinese food is a perfect example. While poultry, seafood, beef, and meat based sauces seem to dominate Chinese cuisine, there are plenty of vegetarian friendly dishes, that still have all of the trademark flavours associated with the various regional dishes, meaning that the UK’s favourite food is still on the menu.
For example spring rolls, dumplings, pickled cabbage and cucumber, scallion pancakes, and cold noodles are all vegetarian appetiser options, as are many soups. Vegetarian friendly main courses include Lo Mein, Steamed and Fried Rice, General Tso’s Tofu, Moo Shu Vegetables, and tradition meat dishes such as Sweet and Sour, Kung Pao, and Orange prepared with tofu.
Here are some of our favourite vegetarian Chinese dishes for home cooking
Peanuts and Spinach – This dish is found all over China and simple sautéed spinach, peanuts and garlic. You can also make it spicy by adding wasabi root.
Mapo Tofu – This Sichuan dish is made with tofu, peppers, ginger, soy sauce, scallions and garlic.
Buddha’s Delight – This is one of those dishes that varies by the tastes of the chef. Basically Buddha’s Delight is a mixture of the chef’s favourite vegetables (and lots of them) stir fried with garlic, salt, mushrooms, and tofu.
Green Vegetables with Mushroom – This combination of Bok Choy and mushrooms, combined with garlic, soy sauce, and salt makes this a really tasty combination as the tastes and textures of the two ingredients compliment and off-set each other at the same time.
Chinese aubergine with spicy garlic sauce – This dish is a must even if you do not typically like aubergine. The flavours are excellent and it only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish. The simple ingredient list of aubergine, cooking oil, garlic, chilli pepper, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar delivers a surprisingly complex taste.
Another dilemma for some, especially recent converts and potential vegetarians, is dining out. At one point many dishes that “look” vegetarian are not due to the tendency of Chinese recipes to call for meat and fish sauces, along with eggs and other non-vegetarian friendly ingredients.
Fortunately the growing vegetarian movement has resulted in more and more Chinese restaurants labelling their menus to reflect those which are truly vegetarian. Chinese restaurants that serve only vegetarian and vegan dishes are another growing trend.
Questions to Ask when Ordering
If you are unsure of the ingredients or simply want clarification, you can ask some simple questions to make sure the dish is vegetarian friendly.
- Ask what is in the soup stock as well as in the regular sauces.
- Ask if the noodles, wrappers, or other dishes have egg or egg yolk.
- Ask what type of oil is used for fried dishes. You want to make sure that tofu is not cooked in the same oil as meat and fish.
Many restaurants will gladly prepare special dishes for you if you let your server know what types of food you like and which foods you don’t eat.
Takeaway meals can be a bit more difficult mainly because you often do not have the same amount of time to inspect the menu and those that take phone orders may not have the same knowledge of the dishes as the servers.
That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the convenience of a takeaway in order to stick to your vegetarian regimen. Thanks to the digital age, there is an app or site that is perfect for almost everything, including very specific restaurant searches. Sites like Hungry House allow to you find Chinese takeaway restaurants near you which you can filter for vegetarian and vegan only restaurants as well as those with a wide selection of vegetarian dishes. Most of the sites allow you to see full menus and descriptions as well, and place your order from your laptop or mobile device.
So keeping with your vegetarian lifestyle or making the decision to move to a vegetarian diet does not mean that you can’t enjoy your favourite Chinese dishes. In fact, if you are like many vegetarians, you are likely to develop some new favourites that you may have never tried prior to your move to a vegetarian diet.