China is such an immense country. Which is why it is pretty much impossible to make only one food post on Vegan Chinese recipes. Throughout the country dishes vary, customs vary, and therefore taste buds vary. But one thing that we can say about the whole of China; It is all about food!
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
This post is part of my 'Travels of taste' series.
💭 Have you eaten?
It's all about food
Before I went to China to work and live there for a short time. I decided to study a bit of Mandarin. And one of the main phrases I learned very early on describes Chinese food culture to perfection. This is;
你吃了吗 - Nǐ chī le ma ?
Nǐ chī le ma? means; Have you eaten?
When I actually went to China, I noticed that this phrase is used at any moment of the day. Instead of saying, Hi, How are you doing? In China we greet one another by saying Have you eaten?
Now before we start mentioning all our meals & dishes we must realise that most often the speaker may not really care whether or not you have had your lunch or dinner. Instead, the phrase will just be used to greet or to start a conversation.
But I just love the fact how strong the Chinese food culture represents itself in daily chit chat.
Food, food culture, food tradition, food history is all of enormous importance in China. I believe that Chinese cuisine is one of the world best cuisines. It is so rich. And you can pretty much take every dish back to its origin, its historical meaning and values.
Too much to talk about in one post, maybe one day when I have the time I will devote a complete website to this subject, which is what it really deserves. But for now we will stick to Vegan Chinese recipes, so you can start exploring Chinese food culture with your taste buds.
🍜 Vegan food in China
Okay, so not veganism nor vegetarianism is very common in China. It is mainly only known by fasting for religious reasons. But having said that, there is an amazing amount of creative and delicious vegetable dishes to choose from.
Rural or urban China
First of all there is a big difference in the availability of dishes in rural areas compared to urban areas. In the big cities vegetarian restaurants are slowly increasing and gaining popularity. In rural areas it can still be difficult to explain you don't eat meat, nor dairy. The waiter will most likely reassure you and follow your wishes. But serve you a beautiful vegetable dish, with a few pieces of dried meat on top, or half an egg.
The concept of veganism can differ in some rural areas. So I don't say it is easy, but it is definitely very possible to eat delicious food in China as a vegan or vegetarian. Just be precise and clear to the waiter about what you don't eat, and they will be more than willing to serve you your preferred dishes.
My vegan Chinese recipes linked to this post are surely all 100% plant based. A great way to start your Chinese food experience from the comfort of your own home. Travel with your imagination and your taste buds.
⏲️ What to eat when?
Chinese breakfast's have an enormous variety. They can range from;
- Congee with fried dough sticks (youtiao)
- Steamed buns, plain (mantou), or stuffed (Baozi) savoury or sweet with custard or mung bean paste
- Steamed Dumpling (Jiaozi)
- Noodles, Hot & dry, or Mala
- Wonton soup
- Spring onion (scallion) pancakes
Definitely more exciting than jam on toast in my opinion 😉
Noon - 2pm
For lunch Chinese would commonly eat a variation of dishes. Various vegetables, meat or fish and always accompanied with a staple food like noodles or rice. Lunch is most often taken quick.
For dinner most people take a bit more time. This is really the time in which you enjoy food together with your family or friends. Every person would have their own bowl of rice or noodles (North-China, noodles / South China, rice). And share a variation of different dishes set in the middle of the table. Always multiple (at least three) colourful vegetable dishes, with one or two meat / fish dishes. Followed by a soup or congee which is served separately.
In the Chinese food culture you can find many sweets. But the Chinese don't tend to eat a sweet dessert. Sweets are most often enjoyed in between meal times, as a snack.
📋 Chinese recipes - veganised;
All these vegan Chinese recipes are made with local ingredients. Where I live there are not many Chinese products available. I also prefer to use as much as possible local produce, as I try to keep me carbon footprint low.
I used to love lotus root when I lived in China, but I would not want a lotus root to travel all the way to Europe just to please my tummy. Of course this is just a personal choice. This way I like to show that you can enjoy Chinese style food, even without all its authentic ingredients. We just adjust 😉
Check out this recipe for a basic Congee (chinese rice porridge), but as well for a well filled congee to be enjoyed as a meal.
My favourite. Often enjoyed with breakfast. But in my opinion these delicious pancakes can be enjoyed throughout the day.
Baozi can be eaten throughout the whole day. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. They can be filled (like these) or served plain (mantou). Very easy to make, and so delicous!
in all shapes and forms. Dry noodles, hot noodles, wet noodles. Noodles are to be found everywhere, at any time a day. This is not one recipe, but more a noodle guide with ingredient idea's.
No Chinese food post is complete if a fried rice dish would not be included. Try this fried rice, with vegan scrambled 'eggs'.
jiaozi or potstickers. These are easy to prepare, and easy to prepare ahead of time, as they freeze well. Create your own filling with your own preferred flavours.
This salad is very easy and quick to make. It is a great accompaniment to your Chinese themed dinner party. Or lunch with some plain white rice.
These carrots are fabulous as a side dish. They are sweet, bitter and pungent because of the use of the Chinese 5-spice mix. Great to pair with spicy dishes.
Yummy, super easy and quick Sichuan green beans. In particular great as a side dish, but also as a quick lunch served with some plain white rice.
a Japanese inspired soup. It is an easy, well seasoned comfort soup. For all days of the week. In Asia these types of soups are like a ‘fast food’ meal. You can get them anywhere at any time a day.
This comforting soup is easy and quick to make. And super light if you want to watch your calories.
It does take a bit of preparation but it is really not difficult to make, and so rewarding! You don’t have to wait any more to go to your favourite Chinese restaurant, just make those delicious won-tons yourself.
🍺 What to drink with Chinese food?
A very short answer to this would be,... Beer. In my opinion Beer is the best drink pairing for those fully flavoured Chinese dishes. Think of a dry beer with some lemony notes, or even a 'weisse' beer which is creamier with mild acidity to cool down the heat.
For non beer lovers & wine drinkers;
Think German. The German Riesling pairs well with many Asian style dishes. If the dish is very sweet, you just go for the sweeter Rieslings. Also a German Pinot gris or pinot blanc can be a good choice.
If you are enjoying very rich flavoured dishes, like a fried rice an off-dry Gewürztraminer would pair nicely.
For the Reds you might want to look at a Chilean or Argentinian Malbec. Full of fruity notes, and with a moderate acidity. Serve it slightly chilled to go with Asian dishes.
I truly hope that with the help of these recipes you are able to create the Chinese atmosphere in your own home. Not only with the use of our senses but also with our imagination we should be able to travel the world without moving. In the hope that our skies stay clearer from pollution. But our connection remains by indulging in each others food cultures. What better way to share pleasure!