I was incredibly fortunate that my new employer sent me to a conference in China recently. I can't discuss what I did out there - but I can report on all the delicious food I ate! (NB - I paid for all meals myself!)
Being veggie in Beijing was relatively easy. I had a stock phrase "我吃素" (Wo Chi Su - I eat vegetables), and a smattering of tourist level Mandarin. I had recommendations from friends and - most importantly - I had the HappyCow app. An indispensable guide to veggie eating around the world.
Here we go!
VegeTiger - 素虎素餐
I was jetlagged and delirious with hunger on my first evening. I'd used the Beijing subway for the first time (so clean and efficient) and found myself wandering through the suburbs of the city. The directions just said "Find the KFC, then walk into the car park." Sure, how bad can this go?
Well, here's the KFC!
Here's the car park - with electric car charging points!
And here's SUHU VegeTiger!
Delightful pickles set out to start with - then a range of mock meat dishes
Staff were very friendly and were generous with my limited use of their language. Food was served quickly and with generous portions.
Dessert looked amazing, but I was too full.
Xin Shuang QuanSheng Tai LvYuan Restaurant
Not a strict vegetarian restaurant. It's where all the tour guides take their charges before heading up the Great Wall. As with most restaurants, the menus had large pictures.
My guide helpfully clarified which dishes were veggie friendly and which only had 有一点儿 (a little bit) of meat!
The salted duck eggs looked amazing in their blue shells. They were too salty for my tastes though. Great to try, but hard to stomach.
The garlic aubergine was drowned in garlic - just the way I like it!
The monk's vegetables were refreshing and had these strange yellow things which sort of tasted like potato?
It wasn't sweetcorn - I know that!
Bowei Tang - 博味堂
OMG! We had a 20 minute wait for a table here. Almost unbearable given the smells coming out of the kitchen!
Bowei Tang served us up an incredible platter of veggie sashimi. All with fake fish.
Including this delight!
We also had some rather good "kung po" style fake chicken, and an assortment of veggie filled dumplings.
My good friend Sylvia recommended King's Joy and I am forever in her debt. A haute cuisine restaurant which serenaded us with a harpist and cellist. We had the cheapest tasting menu which worked out at around £70 each including drinks. That's pricey for Beijing, but such a treat!
The room was too "artfully" lit to get many photos - but here's a sample.
Dessert was so incredible - I had to take a video.
Wow! Dry ice (I think) to make the steam, a fruit dessert and two small cakes.
Wait staff were incredible, patiently explaining each dish and talking us through the history of the restaurant. Expensive, yes. But exquisite!
Fu Hui Ci Yuan Vegetarian Cultural Restaurant
This restaurant is down a back-alley off the highly commercial Wangfujing Street. It's part of a Buddhist museum and gift shop.
The tofu and mushroom sizzling bowl was fantastic - nourishing after a long day.
I found the rice to be too oily for my tastes - but it was redeemed by the steamed papaya and vegetables.
The wait staff were almost comically absent - but as I was the only one in after their lunch rush, I guess I can forgive them.
Ye Bo Zhai - 叶钵斋
The final restaurant of my tour. I found myself utterly exhausted and with only ¥70 left in my pocket. They were adamant that they wouldn't accept credit card. I chose their "Special Noodles with famous mushroom gravy" for ¥55.
It was... pretty good. Not amazing, but I was exhausted and broke. It filled me up enough to get back to my hotel. The decor was beautiful though.
It's all good!
I was too nervous (and rushed for time) to go for any street food - although I treated myself to a fair few ice-creams! The hotel I was staying at did a range of veggie dishes for breakfast, and the conference also catered to us meat-dodgers.
Beijing is a modern, cosmopolitan city. Staff in restaurants seemed more than happy to tolerate my poor grasp of their language.
I only scratched the surface of veggie friendly cuisine in Beijing. With a little planning, and bit of Google translate, it's easy to be vegetarian in Beiing. Pretty sure I need to go back to sample some more restaurants soon!