I’ve never been much of a meat eater, although I do occasionally eat it and can’t really call myself a vegetarian; my youngest daughter is the same. However, I have yet to really explore all of the delicious and relatively easy ways to make going vegetarian a regular part of my family’s lifestyle. A good friend of mind did just that a little over a year ago, and she offered some insights into going vegetarian in Beijing.
Why did you decide to try a vegetarian diet?
I was frustrated by the lack of good meat choices in Beijing, and we wound up being stuck in a boring rut of only eating chicken or ground beef. A friend recommended a book called In Defense of Food (An Eater’s Manifesto) by Michael Pollan, and it really got me to thinking about food in a different way.
Is your family all vegetarian or do you prepare meat options for them?
All of them (husband and four children) have tried going vegetarian for short periods of time. Most of our meals are meatless, but I do serve it – mostly as a side dish more than the main entrée. I have definitely increased the number of fruits and vegetables I serve at any given meal.
What differences have you noticed?
Hair, skin and nails seem to improve with a vegetarian lifestyle. There was also some initial weight loss, and there’s more regularity. With all of the questions about where the meats come from and what’s really in them, it’s nice not to worry about those concerns. Our family tends to have more energy after meals now.
Is it difficult being vegetarian in Beijing?
No, there are so many fruits and vegetables available, and tofu is easy to find. I haven’t explored too many new (to me) Chinese vegetables – I’m more likely to try them in a restaurant so I can taste them first and see how they are prepared. There are many new grains to try as well, easily found at wet markets.
What vegetarian foods do you prepare?
Some of our favorite meals are vegetarian chili, curry dishes with potatoes instead of chicken, tacos/burritos, veggie pot pie, soups, veggie pitas, mushroom stroganoff, and lots of salads and fruits. I visit www.allrecipes.com for online recipes, and I have some cookbooks I’ve bought. Read the ingredients list carefully before you plan to shop/cook as some items are hard to find in Beijing.
Where do you eat out here?
I like Elaine’s Vegetarian (Roma Lake) and Amazing (Pinnacle Avenue). I also enjoy the vegetarian dishes at The Taj Pavilion and local Chinese restaurants. Fatburger offers a great veggie burger. Eating out is not a problem because most restaurants have vegetarian options.
Do you think you’ll continue your vegetarian lifestyle, even after you repatriate?
Yes, I aim to continue eating a vegetarian diet. It has not been as difficult as I imagined. There are plenty of grocery stores in the states that cater to the more vegan/vegetarian lifestyle which will provide plenty of options for me. One difficulty in maintaining this diet is when you are a guest in someone else’s home – it can be awkward to turn down food that someone else has prepared. Also, (American) Thanksgiving was a bit difficult as I felt it can’t truly be a Thanksgiving meal without the traditional turkey! Our family did have a turkey, I just did not eat any. I enjoyed all the side dishes, though!
Photo by comprock of flickr.