• First time to the mainland: attempting vegetarian eating in Beijing and Shanghai

Salivating after viewing pictures from yummy food blogs and my family’s China adventures, I was excited about the eating prospects I had assumed China would bring.  Chinese are restaurateurs in Melbourne, surely the home country would be a mecca for fine eating?  I hate to break it to you, but if you don’t speak Chinese, telling someone you are vegetarian is about as successful as predicting the future, although the latter is more popular.
The concept of vegetarian eating is not understood (despite vegetarian Buddhists) and meat stock, accidental meat left over in the wok from the last dish and any animal products you think possible can end up in your meal.  This drawing by Hua Junwu (popular Chinese cartoonist) in the Shanghai Art Museum seemed to sing out the challenge perfectly.

Translated: "Don't worry.  There is no mutton in this mutton hot pot."

A Beijing guide book suggests that you go overboard to stop them from spiking your food with meat, tell them “if I eat meat I will die” it recommends.  If I spoke Chinese, perhaps this one would have worked.  Instead I relied on my brother to order when I was with him, or sourced out wholly vegetarian restaurants – yes they do exist - or went hungry when I was by myself.

Check out my posts over the next few days on the vegetarian restaurants I discovered, the vegetables we ate in non-vegetarian ones, and the street food that kept me going till dinner time.