Vegan eats, tours and cooking classes in Tokyo

In late summer 2019, I had a chance to visit Tokyo again. People have this impression that Tokyo is crowded all the time, but in fact that’s only true for some parts of the city. Tokyo’s spaces are much more diverse and varied than Singapore’s. This time I tried to explore spots outside of the popular Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku etc…but somehow I still ended up in those places because they are major transport hubs after all.

Cover photo credit to my friend Truphotos, who’s a very talented National Geographic featured photographer.

This time I flew in via Singapore Airlines (I usually fly budget). I’ve booked everything 9 months in advance so the price of SIA was about the same as budget airlines at that point, while being able to fly into my preferred airport at a better timing. By the way, SIA’s vegetarian oriental meal is pretty decent – see my review on abillionveg  (yes, you can review vegan airline food there and complain as much as you want! :D).

What to eat at Haneda airport?

Haneda airport is much closer to Tokyo’s centre but it’s not as vegan-friendly as Narita (which now has TWO vegan restaurants!). In Haneda’s international terminal there are a couple of non-veg restaurants offering vegan items (list here). If you have time, I highly recommend going over to domestic terminal (by free shuttle bus) to check out Haneda’s only 100% vegan cafe.

HEALTHY Tokyo Cafe & Shop

The staff here was SO nice! She spoke perfect English and said she visited Singapore before. It’s a rather small shop with outside shared seating that offers a large menu of lasagne, sandwiches, salad, lattes, cake, cookies and even bubble tea! In the freezer section there was a variety of imported frozen desserts and ice creams. I got a cocoa latte and vegan egg sandwich. Do drop by if you can, their food can be easily taken away.

They use medicinal CBD oil in some drinks (didn’t try it though).

Day 1

Choufu Walking Tour 

Wanted to explore more peaceful places outside of Tokyo’s 23 wards so I signed up for Ai-san’s walking tour in Choufu, west of Tokyo. 

Choufu is known for producing a number of famous Japanese filmmakers, the Jindai-ji temple (Tokyo’s second oldest temple) and good soba.

Lunch was part of the package, so out of courtesy I informed Ai-san in advance of my dietary requirements. I was really surprised that she got back to me saying she called all the soba restaurants in the area we were going to and told me how to get it vegan! I’ve never received such fantastic service on a tour before!

I had the tororo soba set made vegan by swapping the dipping sauce, which always contains fish stock, to soy sauce.

Vegan Ginza Walk 

In the evening I went to Ginza, which is within the 23 wards. Signed up for Marion’s vegan Ginza tour. I wouldn’t go there otherwise as it’s pretty similar to our Orchard Road (not a big fan of shopping). Things are expensive, lots of crowds and salarymen/women looking stressed out. Not somewhere I would go to relax, but I wanted to explore hidden food gems here. Here are some highlights from the tour.

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets that are almost always vegan. Marion brought me to a shop that has a bar counter where chefs make the most exquisite-looking sweets right in front of you. They are made to reflect each season. Served with 2 types of tea.
T’s Tan Tan in Tokyo Station is likely the most popular vegan spot in Tokyo! The black sesame was absolutely amazing, once you get past the initial saltiness. Ramen in Japan is generally saltier than what we are used to.

Day 2

Wagashi Class 

Conducted in our teacher’s house beside Meguro River, famous for cherry blossoms during spring. We learnt to make a variety of traditional sweets like dango, daifuku and seasonal wagashi. Hands on, very fun with all materials provided!

This is a vegan class by default, even the colouring is derived from plants like sakura, sweet potato and matcha.

Ko-So Cafe 

After the class I took a couple of stops to Ebisu to have a light lunch (mochi can be very filling). Had a refreshing tofu hijiki (a type of very nutritious seaweed) salad and lemon tiramisu here. 

Lemon tiramisu was so fantastic! Sweets in Japan are really suitable for those who prefer less sweet.

Organic Plant-based Cooking Class

My favourite experience because I finally learnt how to make Japanese-style home dishes. People associate ramen and sushi with Japan but the type of dishes that Japanese people make at home is very different. It’s 1 rice, 1 miso soup, 3 side dishes with pickles. Yukari-san was very detailed in explaining what the ingredients were (some were really new to me) and shared lots of useful cooking tips. I’ve started cooling fried items on a metal rack instead of paper towel because of her!

Was also my first time properly working with Japanese seitan!

Day 3

Have More Curry

My Tokyo friend brought me to this shop that’s not very visible from the street, would never have found it on my own! Not a veg place but offers 1 vegan curry set. Clean and flavourful without being heavy. Has a shelf of food related books and magazines for everyone to browse.

There was Chinese cabbage in one of the curries, very interesting!

Coconut Glen’s 

Best coconut ice cream I’ve ever had! Quite hidden away in a small street in Harajuku but worth the trek. No strong coconut flavour.

The lemongrass flavour was spot-on and really fresh!

Natural House Aoyama 

Natural House is a chain of supermarkets that are focused on health and organic foods. They are the most vegan-friendly supermarket in Japan, offering imported goods, ready-to-eat bentos and other groceries. I bought some bread and ready-to-eat kelp which turned out to be the best kelp snack I’ve had.

This supermarket is only in Tokyo.

Other places that may be of interest

LUSH Harajuku

Specialises in bath bombs, many are vegan – just ask the super friendly English-speaking staff. Offers some Japan-themed bath bombs that are only available in that shop. Bathtubs in Singapore are rare, so I used it up in my Airbnb (bathtubs are common there). 

Godzilla matcha bath bomb!

Body Shop Harajuku

Was most impressed that the English-speaking staff knew what vegan was and helped me check if the item I wanted was vegan!

 

Got a face mist that smells really nice! That’s not my cat though 🙁

Kyushu Jangara Ramen

They have always offered a vegan ramen and recently expanded their offerings AND started selling vegan cup noodles!

In a previous trip I really enjoyed their soy sauce ramen. Will love to try this!

Day 4

Suppage 

Located in Daikanyama, a quieter neighbourhood with bars and bookstores that reminded me a bit of Tiong Bahru. Yukari-san, my vegan cooking class teacher, sells organic vegan set lunch at this music bar every Friday. So I just had to visit!

My favourite meal of this trip! Organic and fresh. Felt so refreshed and energetic after enjoying this.

Cooked

Was trying to clear the fridge (and save some money) so I made a one-pot dinner, which is the usual thing I eat at home and office. When travelling in Japan I always prefer Airbnb so that I can make meals while enjoying a comfortable homely stay. Stark and tiny hotels are not my thing. Japanese neighbourhoods are safe, more peaceful than ours and rather convenient if you book one near the train station.

Used T’s Tan Tan vegan cup noodles as the base (also available in Singapore’s Donki) and added veggies and tofu for a simple meal.

Day 5

Futaba Fruits Parlour (Shinjuku)

A fruit-themed, chill and trendy restaurant that offers a few vegan main dishes. Most of the parfaits can be made vegan by requesting soy cream at a 100 yen top up.

Pricy but it’s Shinjuku after all. The superb quality makes up for the price!

Tokyo actually has more vegan festivals than Singapore. Next post will be about what we had at the annual Vegan Gourmet Festival which will happen this year too!

Vegan finds in Saitama & Kawasaki, Japan

In September (late summer) of 2019 I visited my friends and went to a vegan festival in Tokyo. Weather was great, the daily average temperature was 25C (ideal for Singaporeans). 

In Japan, you can tell a lot about a city from the drain covers.

My first stop was Omiya, the commercial centre of Saitama Prefecture that’s located north of Tokyo. Usually tourists just flock to Tokyo and give Saitama a miss. Although there are less attractions there, Saitama is worth a visit if you want to take a break from the city without being too far away from it. And, there were quite a number of delicious vegan eats there! You can follow all my reviews on abillionveg.

What I ate in Saitama

From convenience stores

Convenience stores (conbini) in Japan are the epitome of convenience. You can literally live off them as they offer the most affordable ready-to-eat foods. There are quite a number of accidentally vegan food available from each chain. My favourites are Family Mart (famima), Lawson and Natural Lawson (only in Chiba, Saitama, Kanagawa and Tokyo region).

(natto roll + cookies from famima for breakfast. About $5)

Dinner: Absolutely delicious T’s Tan Tan cup noodles, salad without dressing (I put them into the soup as I don’t enjoy raw veggies) and soy yoghurt. About $8
Macrobiotic cookies which are confirmed vegan by Vegan in Japan Facebook group members. Not too sweet and very crunchy.

Sansui Sushi

If you’re heading to Kawagoe (one of the popular attractions), you can have lunch beforehand here. It’s just a couple of stops from Kawagoe station. This old school, cozy sushi restaurant has a whole vegan menu of vegetable and mushroom sushi that used mostly local ingredients. The nice lady serving us even understood vegan before we explained it to her and informed us the miso soup used fish stock. The sushi was affordable, exceptionably fresh and well-balanced, didn’t even need soy sauce or extra wasabi. Highly recommend if you’re looking to explore gems outside of Tokyo.

Sansui sushi is on the left.
The mushrooms ones were my favourite!

Kawagoe is a well-preserved old town from the Edo period. Although it’s a crowded tourist attraction, it didn’t feel fake or too touristy. The shops sold really unique and quality items.

Like this sweet soy sauce for pancakes! Really delicious and the umami somehow worked well with the caramel flavour.
The old houses were beautiful and the shopfronts were carefully designed so as not conflict with the old aesthetics.

The famous local produce is sweet potatoes, but I ended up eating so much mochi instead.

Chestnut youkan, suama, grilled soy sauce dango.
An absolutely amazing black sesame soy ice cream that we stumbled upon! From Gomafuku-do, location here.
It said dairy and eggs aren’t used and 100% plant-based on the sign.

A quick search on Vegewel (Japan’s best site for finding plant-based foods that aren’t listed on other sites) shows much more options in Saitama. Will be back!

What I ate in Kawasaki

Vegan Burger Nourish

Kawasaki, located south of Tokyo, is more of an industrial and commercial city. I travelled there to do some shopping (can be cheaper than Tokyo) + eat at this place because I heard fantastic reviews:

Vegan Burger Nourish, walking distance from Shinmaruko station.
Vegan soy chicken burger – mind-blowingly amazing! Definitely worth travelling from Tokyo.

Managed to communicate with broken Japanese. The staff were so friendly and gave me recommendations since I was staring at the menu for very long. Wanted to try their sake lees cheesecake but it was sold out. Their poster for it said something like “Our sake lees is made from sake that’s from the Edo period 340 years ago.” Sounds so interesting! Please try it on my behalf when you go, if you can take alcohol 🙂

Had their chocolate miso cake instead, very interesting experience!

Also, I found these vegan ready-to-eat products at a supermarket (Tokyu Store) in Shin-maruko. Beyond Tofu (not affiliated with Beyond Meat) is a 60 year-old Japanese brand that makes soy-based vegan cheese. I’ve seen their products in Tokyo supermarkets. You can check out reviews of them on abillionveg.

Tofu gratin and gluten-free pizza. Vegan dairy alternatives are quite common especially in Tokyo and most of the time cheaper than Singapore’s.

Thanks for reading! Will be sharing my Tokyo vegan finds in the next post. It’ll be long 🙂

Vegan in China – Weifang in Shandong

The land of Confucius, Shandong peanuts and mantous. Being a province in north China, the food can be different from what you’d associate with ‘Chinese food’, which is mostly from southern China due to the bulk of emigration from there. Wheat, in the form of bread, buns and pancake items are the staple compared to rice in the south. Weifang is a small city in Shandong hence no Happy Cow entry – but the traditional food I had at locals’ homes are worth sharing.

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Handmade by a distant aunt – wheat pancake jiazi stuffed with chives and mushrooms, cooked without oil on a metal pan. Just one is very dense and filling because it’s farmers’ food. Bread items are always eaten with millet, corn or rice porridge because they can be too dry on its own.

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Wo wo tou – steamed corn bread with a pinch of baking soda to bring out the sweetish fragrance of cornmeal and soy flour! Gluten – free. It’s meant to be conical shaped with bigger hole but my uncle was lazy! The hole can be stuffed with stir fries for a savoury bun.

Other types of steamed buns are mantous (plain wheat bun) and huajuan (spring onion and wheat twisted into a bun). What I love most about Chinese steamed breads are the simple base ingredients – yeast, wheat flour and water.  Easily vegan and goes well with any dish!

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Of course, the iconic northern food, dumplings! Making them is a family event. This is stuffed homegrown chives and gourd with tofu! Large bamboo trays are used to hold wheat – based foods because they are naturally anti-stick.

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Pickled foods are in every meal in Shandong. It can be any crisp or juicy plant from cucumber to peanuts, and fermented in water or wine. It’s VERY SALTY but also very umami – best nibbled with porridge!

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Raw, minced garlic is a popular dressing for cold dishes. There’s even a saying that Shandong people can sing well because raw garlic make voices good. This appetizing steamed french beans with garlic, sesame sauce and vinegar made by my cousin in law is creamy, tangy with the famous Shandong – grown spicy, garlicky kick.

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菇汤素食馆 (literally ‘Mushroom Soup Restaurant’. Address 高新区东方路与福寿街交叉口东南) is one of the vegetarian restaurants I visited in Weifang – the best one! Choose anything you want (The pictures show only half of the buffet) and it will be boiled in rich mushroom broth. Such an overwhelming selection of noodles, ingredients and sauces – from seitan sticks to sweet yam balls to arrowroot noodles. 99% vegan except for the (very little) mock meats!

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Lastly, 2 traditional, handmade snacks from a second-generation shop where the son learnt the art of making from his father and is continuing the tradition, but isn’t optimistic about passing onto his son. Melt-in-your-mouth, rustic green bean cake and the crispiest, most fragrant sesame candy I’ve had. Definitely supporting them the next time.

Here ends my Vegan in China series. My travel itch is still there – look forward to more discoveries! Meanwhile, recipes. Thanks for reading these long posts and hope they help in your travels!

Vegan in China – Beijing

The capital of China, other than the air pollution, it is wonderful in many ways. Strolling through hutongs you can tell the local residents really love their pets. Perfectly groomed and well-fed, even being carried in their human parents’ arms like babies.

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In one of the hutongs near Yonghe Lama Temple, there’s a vegan gem – The Veggie Table, serving an extensive menu of mostly Western food with the best environment I’ve entered in Beijing. Maybe its the air purifier, or the occasional cats running in and out, a wonderful selection of books and potted plants lining the window sills. And gosh, they are amazingly popular and almost always fully seated, sometimes by cats. Once there was a cat napping on a sofa seat and refused to move despite coaxing from many people, so the customer just got another chair!

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Everything I ate here were excellent – even better quality than what I had from similarly priced restaurants in Singapore. Wholesome, clean, and made from scratch hence a bit of a wait but definitely worth it. Plus I really appreciate the accurate English translation in their menu!

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Safe to say these are the best hummus and baba ganoush I’ve ever had!

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They have only a few soups – pumpkin, chilli, lentil, tried them all and can’t find a single fault!

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My favorite will be their fluffy cous cous with a heaping of veggies in tomato sauce with crunchy almond bits. Being someone from a tropical country, I wasn’t quite used to the too generous portions!

I truly wish there’ll be more restaurants who really care like this in China!

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‘Stumbled’ upon a new vegetarian noodle place, Good Earth, after my friend did a check for veg places near the popular Sanlitun shopping area. It’s opened by a famous food blogger and the reviews were great so we were excited to try!

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Some dishes have egg, otherwise menu is super vegan-friendly, everything exquisitely handmade. Choose your noodle type and then the sauce or soup. In a country with food safety issues, transparency is really valued. You can look through glass panels into a clean kitchen and watch chefs making your noodles. This guy here is pulling a single strand of TEN METRES long noodle from dough!

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Yes, a single strand of 10 metres long! My friend loved it. And look how big the bowls are – specially designed so that soup and sauces won’t spill out when you slurp!

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I got a warm noodle salad with sesame sauce and my friend an eggplant and tomato soup base noodle. The nice waitress told us that the soups are stewed over many hours, so flavourful that my omni friend was suprised that it’s made purely with veggies! With everything handmade and made in-house, is there’s any need to say that taste is superb and wholesome? Plus the place had clean vibes and lovely interior that made dining very pleasant. A bit hard to find being nestled in a hutong, but a MUST try in Beijing.

I greatly enjoyed the city despite being quite sick from the air. The quality food and good service was a major comfort to my swollen throat. Highly recommend to bring a N95 mask when you visit there, and a good appetite 🙂

Vegan in China – Fuzhou, Fujian

Fuzhou, capital of Fujian – a province of immigrants who brought their culture all over the world. Coming from a country with many Fujian descendants, yet Cantonese cuisine being more dominant, the new dishes were an eyeopening and biggest treat to the taste buds! These are favorites picked from 2 of the best restaurants I went to.

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First, from Ji Shan Zhai Restaurant – a Fuzhou specialty is lychee pork. This meat-free version is made from monkeyhead mushrooms, an unique mushroom used in Chinese food for its juiciness and similarity to fatty meat – smooth, tender and melt-in-your-mouth sweet and sour pieces!

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Fuzhou is also know for bamboo shoots! Crunchy with a subtle sweetness – this one is done with savoury Chinese olive sauce.

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This is what the vegan world loves – seitan, or mian jin (wheat gluten), has been used since thousand of years ago as protein for vegetarian monks. One main characteristic of this spongy protein is that it can absorb flavours fully, and magnify them.

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Most excellent meal was from Lotus Teahouse – a posh kind of place that I won’t usually go. But fine dining has its merits, every dish was full of surprising combinations with some ingredients I’ve never heard of. Soup must be in every meal in the south – I thought this was a chrysanthemum flower but it turned out to be soft tofu skillfully cut into this flower shape, sitting in a superb truffle broth.

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I never knew things like these existed – a cold dish of a type of fungi that grows on bamboo! The crispness and crunch was indeed reminiscent of fresh bamboo shoots, addictive and refreshing!

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Lotus roots are common but baby lotus roots is a first time – this was made into crunchy pickles. Those cute little holes soaks up the sweet vinegar perfectly!

Next post will be Beijing 🙂

Vegan in China – Hong Kong

2 days in Hong Kong is too short to try the 200 over veg food places! Had no problem finding nice places within walking distance wherever we were. Just don’t expect good service from most places – its all about the money!

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They have an excellent range of smoothies with no additives in every convenience shops! Envious because the only natural drink you can get in ours are overpriced coconut water and plain water D:

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From one of the canteens in Chinese University of Hong Kong, probably one of the least vegan friendly spots but they had my favourite type of noodle soup!

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And Green Fresh just happened to be right near our hotel. The staff there are superbly friendly for HK standards, welcoming me like family when I came back a second time (and literally swiped their desserts).

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Generally their mains are on the very healthy side, less oil, salt, seasoning etc. A bit light for salt loving person like me, but you can feel each dish is refined and detailed. This refreshing pesto rice was my fav!

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The absolute BEST is their sweets. Cakes, puddings, mango tarts, muffins..they have something new every couple of days!

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The raw ones are so-so, but the tarts..are the BEST vegan fruit tarts I had! The crust perfectly crumbles and melts in your mouth with generous amount of whipped cream.

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Chanced upon Gaia Veggie Restaurant while in bustling city area of Nathan road. Typical Buddhist Cantonese vegetarian style with lots of mock meat dishes. I feel it’s pretty overpriced for the average quality. One thing I didn’t enjoy was the fact that the ever-smiling and polite staff didn’t tell us the 3 dishes we ordered for 2 is enough for 5! Capitalism at its finest 🙂

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Po Lin Vegetarian is a small restaurant selling traditional Cantonese dishes with good portions and prices. Taste wise is average to me since we also have plenty of Cantonese food in Singapore.

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But wow, the mouth-watering selection of traditional sweets and cakes surprised me again! Rice dumplings, sticky rice cakes, mooncakes, jellies and pastries shaped like ducks and lotus! (Non-vegan butter may be used in some baked items so I avoided them.)

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These were some excellent sweets and cakes. I got the coconut jelly cake, glutinous rice balls of peanut, red bean and sesame fillings, savoury seaweed sticky rice roll and lotus paste wife cake. Compared to those sold in supermarkets back in Singapore, everything tasted much fresher, sweetness not overdone and very, very flavourful!

Didn’t find very amazing Cantonese dishes this visit, but that’s because we have excellent ones here! But the sweets are truly not to be missed if you are visiting Hong Kong 🙂

Vegan in China – Kaiping, Guangdong

A short post from my short stay at Kaiping, a small town in South China with a UNESCO heritage status. These are castle tower clusters from the 1920s built by rich merchants who came back from the West, hence the blend of Chinese and Western architecture. However in my books, these are the type of architecture that looks great from outside but pretty blah inside.

The landscape is the main thing making the place beautiful – lotus ponds with ducks, rice fields, smiling grandmas, wooden bridges and stone paths flanked with mango trees with a cluster of towers in the distance.

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Lots of small shops selling homemade beancurd desserts (kinda regret not trying it because I was concerned about hygiene) and wild grown jambus. (photo from mom)

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We stayed at the only hotel in this town, and for breakfast there is an interesting kueh (the Southeast Asian and Southern China term for cake). Seems to be simply rice and sugar, but baked in a tiny clay dish! Certainly had this warm, earthy taste that I’ve never experienced from our kuehs.

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Being a South Chinese town, various rice noodles are common. In their restaurant I had the BEST EVER fried hor fun (flat rice noodle). The light soy sauce not overpowering sweet crunchy onions and chives, the tender slippery noodles coated in the right amount of oil, and the wok hei – ness was so memorably perfect.

Next up, Macau!

Vegan in China – Shenzhen, Guangdong, Part 2

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Shenzhen is considered a new city by China’s historical standards, is a bustling metropolis. Located in Guangdong province and right next to Hong Kong, it is the major financial power in South China. When I visited it was lychee season, thus lychees of all sizes where at every corner.

Chains of fast food kiosks such as 邓老凉茶 (Denglao Herbal tea) and 永和豆浆 (Yong Ho Soymilk) usually have breakfasts of you tiao (fried dough fritters), mantou (plain wheat buns) bao zi (stuffed buns but commonly with meat) and dou jiang (soy milk). At one 邓老凉茶 they just happened to have yummy handmade vegetable and mushroom buns!

There are cold and hot dishes in Chinese cuisine; cold dishes are not like chilled cold but are usually pre-cooked and served at room temperature. They are mostly appetizers or sides and hence savoury-sweet and tangy. We Chinese can’t stand much cold foods so the mains are piping hot!

These are from 福田林 (Fullness Vegetarian Restaurant on Happy Cow), the best place I’ve tried in Shenzhen. Almost everything is above average and here I’m only listing the 3 cold and 3 hot dishes that blew me away!

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Smoked beancurd skin. Basically it’s the layer of protein that is formed on boiling soymilk, dried, flavoured, rolled and steamed together into a roll.

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Silken tofu with sweet soy sauce is my favourite way to tofu. Theirs redefines the meaning of soft tofu! Melts in your mouth with the savoury sweet sauce.

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Looks scary but trust me it’s the best cold dish there. Soft, slippery and springy noodles made from kudzu root tossed in a spicy soy sauce. Gluten-free too!

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Mashed yam stuffed in fried beancurd skin and soaked in sweet sour sauce. Crisp, creamy and sweet haven in a two-bite parcel.

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Zha jiang mian (fried sauce noodles) is a famous dish from China with its Korean counterpart called jajangmyeon. Here the fried sauce is excellently rendered with textured soy protein minced with lots of peppery spices and fermented bean sauce. The only thing that’s slightly unsettling was the saturated green of the spinach noodles.

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French beans stir-fried with preserved Chinese olives and fried chilli. The rustic wok hei taste was rich and the beans, so so juicy! Which is amazing considering how much heat was used to achieve wok hei which will have turned any veggie dry. A highly skilled chef indeed! For the uninitiated, wok hei is a most unique taste in Cantonese cuisine. Not achieved by adding any ingredient, instead it is given to the food by the highly heated wok itself.

That’s the end of Shenzhen, there are much more places on Happy Cow that I couldn’t visit. More Cantonese food coming up from my travels in the south!

Vegan in China – Shenzhen, Guangdong, Part 1

38 days grad trip in 10 cities and towns with some of the most simply amazing food, places and people. China, despite popular assumptions, can be very vegan-friendly. Because China had a long history of religions that advocate vegetarianism, and is the land where tofu and seitan originated. With agriculture produce and cuisines as diverse as the cultures and the most of the cuisine traditionally don’t use dairy, China should be on the good vegan food radar – if you know where to go and what to say. Happy Cow was a great help but there are some places I stumbled upon, or so hidden that only locals knew. Click on the Chinese restaurant names for links to their address and details.

So here’s my picks from Shenzhen, a bustling city in the southern province of Guangdong.

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Refreshing and creamy coconut juice from the tropical island of Hainan is available in almost every supermarket, convenience shop, roadside drink stalls in the cities!

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First meal out was at 大秦面馆 (Da Qin Noodle House), a chain of non-vegetarian noodle restaurants that serve traditional Xi’an style noodles  – we simply told them “no this and that” and the staff recommended 油泼面 (Youpo noodles), a (traditionally vegan) handmade noodle dish that’s generously drizzled with a very high temperature chilli oil that cooks and caramalises the toppings, giving its unique spiciness.

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 怡新素食 (Yi Xin Vegetarian Restaurant) at Foshan, another city near Shenzhen. The only dish I liked is this stew spiced with Chinese red peppers, chilli oil, holding generous amounts of veggies and pieces of chewy Baiye tofu soaking up the soup! I’m sure usually the quality should be good but we went near 2pm when the kitchen crew was having break time..

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法味轩素食馆 (Fa Wei Xuan Vegetarian Restaurant ) has a focus on charity – they have a 10 yuan lunch buffet and free flow of soy milk and porridge for anyone, poor or rich. You can have this if you want quantity. For quality go for the excellent menu!

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Stir fried glass noodles (made from green bean, not glass!) with fermented black bean bits – springy and savoury with sweet crunch from the capsicum bits – a must try, gluten free too.

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Spinach noodles in soup was a favourite! The clear broth is so richly umami with a slight smokiness.

锅巴 (guo ba) – think rice crispies freshly deep fried with salt and cumin spice mix generously sprinkled on it. A traditional gluten free snack that’s common and easily made vegan.

Next post will be the part 2 of vegan in Shenzhen! Then it shall be Macau and Hong Kong and more! If you need help with Chinese or are going to these places in China and need info please PM me 🙂

Vegan in Suzhou

I visited Suzhou last month with course mates on a landscape architecture study trip. Beautiful rustic place – black and white houses lined with canals crossed by petite stone bridges. Suzhou’s heritage love their gardens and plants, evident from the famous Suzhou gardens to the numerous potted plants that dot residential streets.

 

Some of the street food we had:

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Sticky rice rolls coated with peanut powder and filled with anything from jam to lotus paste.

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Steamed goodies along Pingjiang Road, not all are vegan though. Luckily they do write out what it is, both in English and Chinese.

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I bought a couple of sticky rice cakes, the purple ones are taro flavoured rice cakes. The pig is actually a red bean bun! Lastly the cupped cake is soft black rice with taro topped with a hazelnut and that’s the yummiest!

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Fresh lotuses are sold for one or two yuan at many places on a pushcart. You have to break the shell, then peel the green coating off the seeds to reveal a white seed that tastes like a juicy almond.

Restaurants usually have a good selection of veg dishes like stir-fries or salads with rice or noodles. It’s still best to remind them not to use any animal oil, just as a precaution.

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Edamame, red capsicum, button mushroom and wood’s ear fungus stir fry. You’d find this fungus in Chinese dishes a lot, doesn’t look pretty but it’s full of minerals!

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Lightly stir fried potato strips. Unlike the Western potato dishes, this is not the starchy type but a very crisp one. You can find this in many places in China, not only Suzhou.

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Cold noodles are sold everywhere in the summer. Usually tossed in sweet vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil, topped with coriander, sesame, crushed peanuts and sometimes shredded cucumber.

We had our last meal in a Cantonese restaurant at the airport.

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Wood’s ear salad for appetizer. The juicy fungus is tossed in a fragrant vinegar and bamboo shoots and served chilled.

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Soy milk tea! Full marks for presentation, and taste too because it’s rich and not too sweet.

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Stir-fried veggies in a fried taro ring. A common dish in Singapore Chinese restaurants too, yet this is better done than those I’ve had. What I loved most is that they used fried enoki mushrooms to line the dish, unlike the usual fried rice noodles which local restaurants use. Crunching on them is as addictive as potato chips!

Hope this helps you in your travels to China. It’s not impossible if you dine at restaurants, ask and communicate well 🙂