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Chinese Vs. Western Vegetarian Food: A Guide To Vegetarian Food Culture

More and more people are looking for ways to eat healthier, and following a vegetarian diet is one of the most popular trends.

So will there be any difference between Chinese vegetarian food and Western vegetarian food? Let’s figure it out in this article.

What is special about Chinese vegetarian food?

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Although China is not the country with the highest vegetarian population in the world, there are more Chinese who want to have their meals served without meat.

Not only Buddhism communities but also people who don’t follow any religion can be vegetarian by cutting down the protein from meat or seafood and replacing it with vegan protein.

Chinese cuisine is already reputed for using a lot of vegetables and plant-based dishes in their daily meals.

Therefore, it is not a surprise if you can see a meal from any Chinese family is served without any meat dish.

The Chinese tend to eat different kinds of vegetables, from leafy greens like bok choy or cabbage, to legume vegetables like potatoes, beans, peanuts, chickpeas, bean sprouts, or eggplant, white radish, tomatoes, and bamboo shoots.

Rice and noodles, which are two staples in Chinese cuisine, are already vegan.

No wonder why these ingredients are still widely used no matter if it is a vegetarian meal or not.

They also use soy-based ingredients like tofu, soy milk, and soy sauce, with mushrooms, different kinds of nuts, and fungi to substitute the protein from regular meat.

When it comes to eating on a plant-based diet, Chinese people tend to use vegetable cooking oil instead of lard, and soy sauce instead of fish sauce to cook and season their food, while the boiling and steaming methods will be more favored.

What is special about Western vegetarian food?

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Western cuisine has long been known as heavier on meat or seafood and contains just very little vegetables.

Recently, people realize the impact of lacking vegetables in their meals.

That’s why more people from Western countries, such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Austria, Sweden, or Switzerland are following a vegetarian diet.

First, we should make clear that a vegetarian diet excludes protein from meat (red meat and poultry) and seafood, but it can include dairy products like eggs, milk, cream, butter, or cheese.

These ingredients have always been widely used in Western cuisine, therefore, no surprise that they are favorite vegetarian options.

Vegetarian Westerners tend to eat more salads that can be made from raw vegetables or fruits like tomatoes, avocado, corn, lettuce, or carrots with some spices and cheese to add flavor.

There are also things like vegan meat or seafood that are made by combining different vegan ingredients like beans, nuts, or grains with or without a somewhat compound to mimic the texture and flavor of real meat.

And don’t worry if you will not get enough nutrients like eating meat because a vegetarian diet still provides us with essential vitamins, minerals, and energy, which even helps us live healthier, stronger, and happier.

What are the differences between Western vegetarian food and Chinese vegetarian food?

When it comes to vegetarian food, many of us think it is all the same in any part of the world.

In fact, Chinese vegetarian food is different from the Western counterpart, in several terms like ingredients or cooking techniques.

Here is the most typical distinctiveness between these two kinds of food:

Chinese vegetarian food and Western vegetarian food mainly make use of different vegetables

In China, vegetarians tend to eat a lot of vegetables like bok choy, cabbage, white radish, bamboo shoots, mushroom, peanuts, and bean sprouts.

On the other hand, people who follow a vegetarian diet tend to eat more raw vegetables and fruits in salads like tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, cress, and avocado.

Western vegetarian cuisine tends to use more dairy products

For your information, a vegetarian diet can include eggs and dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and butter.

The fact is that in Western countries, people tend to use these food items in their vegetarian diets.

Meanwhile, Chinese vegetarian food is not likely to include dairy products or eggs, but vegetables, nuts, and tofu instead.

Vegetarian food is typically cooked and seasoned in different ways in two cuisines

Since the popular cooking methods in Western cuisine are baking, grilling, or roasting, they don’t have to change their habit of cooking that much.

Moreover, they also often season or marinate their ingredients with spices and herbs like salt, pepper, chili powder, thyme, mint, sage, basil, and oregano, which are all vegan.

However, in Chinese cuisine, there are some habits needed to change.

For example, instead of cooking with fish sauce, oyster sauce, or shrimp paste, they will only use soy sauce, salt, sugar, or vinegar.

If they can stir-fry or fry with lard before, when eating vegan-friendly, they substitute lard with vegetable cooking oil or boil and steam food instead of frying.

What are the similarities between Western vegetarian food and Chinese vegetarian food?

Despite several key differences between vegetarian food from Chinese cuisine and Western cuisine, they do share some similarities as well:

Western vegetarian food and Chinese vegetarian food still provide sufficient nutrients that are essential for our health

A common misconception about vegetarian food is that it lacks protein and nutrients.

In fact, both Chinese or Western vegetarian food is packed with all essential nutrients that benefit our health in many ways.

The protein, vitamins, and minerals that you can get from animal meat are all included in vegan ingredients like vegetables, nuts, or grains.

They are even much healthier for us because they have lower cholesterol, fat, and sodium levels.

Vegetarian food from both cuisines is delicious

Another misconception about vegetarian food is that it is tasteless.

Either meat-free food from China or the West, you can get the most flavorful dish that can taste like meat, or have a specific flavorful taste from these vegan ingredients with the help of various spices. 

Which one is better?

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The two different types of vegetarian diets from Chinese cuisine and Western cuisine are so drastically different, but basically, they are meant to remove meat from animals from our diets.

There is no universal truth on which diet is better for health or tastes better.

So it may be best to try both out yourself and see what works best for you between Chinese vegetarian food and Western vegetarian food.

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