VU in Beijing, China

VU in Beijing China

 As is often the case, you can find scrumptious vegan meals in every corner of the world, and China is no exception. Granted, I was nervous about going to Beijing knowing that the international dish of China was duck drenched in lard, and not speaking a lick of Chinese beyond ‘hello’, ‘thank-you’ and ‘beer please’, I had my work cut out for me.

I stayed in the Hutongs of old Beijing in a quant cosy backpackers aptly called On the City Walls. The snow had suppressed the worst of the pollution and the closure of factories over Lunar New Year meant smog was at an all time low. Even so, the streets echoed of celebratory fireworks day and night and the smoke of incense could be seen beyond the temple walls.

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Hutongs OverviewMy favourite vegan restaurant in Beijing was Xu Xiang Zhai which offered mouth-water dishes in its extensive buffet. disappointingly I found it at the tail end of my trip so was only able to dip into their exotic meals the once. They were conveniently located across from  The Lama Temple, a Beijing tourist attraction sporting a three storey high Buddha.

As well as a unique vegan buffet of sushi, tangsu-u and kungpow chicken, Xu Xiang Zhai offer an a la carte menu and take home TSP (Textured Soy Protein) in a variation of marinades and textures. This will blow you away – two servings of caramelized chicken ‘meat’ in a sweet and sour sauce cost the equivalent of US$2. Of course I bought 7.

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xuxiangzhai Restaurant 5

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xu Xiang Zhai Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xuxiangzhai Restaurant 3

Xu Xiang Zhai Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xuxiangzhai Restaurant 9

Xu Xiang Zhai Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xuxiangzhai Restaurant 4

Xu Xiang Zhai Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Xuxiangzhai Restaurant 7

Mock meats and marinated vegetables at Xu Xiang Zhai Restaurant. 

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Beihe Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing, Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing, Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

The second favorite place to eat in Beijing was Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant. Again, the food was incredible, rich in spices and heat with an array of herbal teas and quant side dishes such as roasted asparagus or bamboo shoots.

Every time I ate at Baihe I noticed the calm, relaxed atmosphere. Families and friends sat along a central table exchanging stories and jokes while couples romantically touched hands in the dimly lit corners. I was comfortable sitting alone and didn’t draw the usual unwanted attention of being the only western person in the restaurant.

The restaurant itself was hidden down an alleyway in the Hutongs of old Beijing. The courtyard would be stunning during warmer months when tables and chairs set the scene for an impressive nights sky.

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant Mushrooms

Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant Mushrooms in Peppers with Soy Sauce and Cilantro

This one dish in particular impressed me. It was a variety of mushrooms served with peppers and cilantro. The deep flavors left memories in my mouth which I recall to this day. It was delivered upon the heat of a candle and would’ve made for a perfect shared dish. I however, gobbled the whole thing as was my obligation as the only person at the table.

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant Mushroom 2

Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant Soup

Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant, Pumpkin Soup

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Restaurant Cashew & Faux Chicken Stir Fry

Baihe Restaurant, Cashew & Faux Chicken Stir Fry

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Restaurant Soup

Baihe Restaurant Soup, Chestnut Soup

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Baihe Restaurant Dessert

Baihe Restaurant Dessert, Depp Fried Coconut Milk

Overall I was content with the food options in Beijing. I did go out of my way to find decent food but there were choices for the less motivated. I saw street vendors selling corn and rice cakes, cafes sold salads and sandwiches and Subway stores were dotted around the city. Plus many touristy centers offered western food, at western prices.

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Temple

Lama Temple, Beijing

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Buddha

Lama Temple Beijing

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing burning incense

Lama Temple, Beijing

Vegan Urbanite in Beijing Pagoda

Lama Temple, Beijing

Beijing has a lot to offer.  The people are very generous with their time and in their efforts to help I seldom felt I was being taken advantage of. It’s a fascinating place drenched in culture and history. But more on that in the next post.

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6 Responses to VU in Beijing, China

  1. This looks quite amazing.
    I heard good things about Beijing, but the smog and pollution has deterred me from possibly visiting.
    Did you notice how poor the air quality there was?
    Did it bother you?

  2. VeganUrbanite says:

    Hi,
    I hear what your saying. I was put off too. In fact, the week before I left there were warnings about the ‘extreme’ smog pollution. I was fortunate to arrive just after Lunar New Year celebrations so factories had been closed for 3 days drastically improving the air quality. On top of this, it was cold at night and windy during the day which contributed to eliminating toxic air particles. I had brought three face masks but never needed them even though I was outside all the time. I was very lucky.

  3. Sebastian says:

    Hi there,

    Happy to find your blog. Actually I am living in Beijing but I am on my way to Busan for the coming weekend – having a little bit of fresh air after some really bad days with sand sturms over the last week. How funny to find out that you just came to Beijing. I really like those restaurants you mentioned, too. There is even a nice western vegan place in a Hutong, called Veggie Table – they offer vegan dishes from all around the world, really cool.

    Do you by any chance have any suggestions for my weekend in Busan? Where should I def go? Happy Cow is helpful but there is not so much on it. Are there some more places, like restaurants or even vegan bakeries? Do you know about a place where you can buy soy yoghurt?

    Thanks for your help and all the best from Beijing,
    Sebastian

    P.S.: And let me know if you come to Beijing again – I can give you tons of recommendations ;-)

    • VeganUrbanite says:

      Hi Sebastian,
      I have a ton of suggestions for this weekend. You can find a list of restaurants here in particular I’d recommend Loving hut (in Haeundae if you’re near Haeundae beach), Benekong is nice for an evening meal and is close to Kyungsung University area which has lots of packed bars on the weekends. Kim Mee Ja is a buffet with a plethora to eat and is great for lunch, also in the Kyungsung area. Otherwise there are lots of Korean dishes you can buy anywhere that are vegan versatile; like Gim Bap (no ham or egg) or Bi Bim Bap (no beef or egg). You can get some useful phrases here. If you’re looking to socialize you ought to jump on the Busan facebook pages/ Busan Veggie club page or check out BusanHaps. It’s St.Patricks day this weekend so there’s a lot happening. I hope you enjoy your trip. I’m justing writing the second part of my adventure in Beijing – at the zoo.
      Peace, VU

      • Sebastian says:

        Hi,

        Thank you so much for your swift reply. Just after I did send my post yesterday I found the link to your list of veggie places in Busan and felt really sorry for asking for something I could found out myself. So thanks again for your kindness. Anyway, the Italian place sounds awesome and I am now really looking forward to the trip. And also to your second post about your time in Beijing ;-)

        All the best from China,
        Sebastian

        • VeganUrbanite says:

          Not a problem Sebastian.
          I hope you have a great time too. You’re lucky, the weather is set to warm and sunny.
          Peace, VU

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