Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vegetarianism in China

Vegetarianism has been practised for almost two thousand years in China for both religious and philosophical reasons. Its practitioners have included famous historical figures such as Cao Cao, a warlord of the Three Kingdoms, and the 6th Century emperor , the founder of the Liang Dynasty of southern China.

Vegetarian cooking takes at least three recognized forms:
*Plain vegetable dishes, commonly served at home or in ordinary restaurants.
*Imitation meat dishes derived from Qing court cuisine, which use gluten, beancurd, and taro to mimic the natural attributes of meat, fowl, and fish.
*Buddhist cooking, which often avoids onions, ginger, garlic and other spices considered stimulating.

Options for vegetarians in China today

Options for strict vegetarians in Chinese restaurants today are still rather limited, despite a growing interest in vegetarian cuisine.

Vegetables are considered intrinsically healthy, but the Chinese have also traditionally believed that they lack any physically fortifying properties, and strict vegetarian diets are unusual except for religious reasons. There is also, generally speaking, a stigma attached to not eating meat.

Vegetable-only dishes are widely available, though cooking fat and stocks are usually of animal origin.

Most of vegetarian restaurants are located in the big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Sometimes, imitation meat dishes are still called by their usual name, such as West Lake fish, honey pork or roast duck.

In smaller places usually vegetarian dining rooms are located or run by Buddhist temples which are open to the public at lunchtime.

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