Food has an incredible ability to evoke feelings of nostalgia and bring back memories from long ago. The food that we eat as children often has a permanent impact on what we turn to for comfort, what feels familiar, and what we crave most often. Since I moved to America at the age of four, I don’t have many clear memories of living in China, but there are many dishes that have had a lasting impression on me.

Chinese Comfort Food
Chinese Comfort Food

One of the reasons I was initially reluctant about adopting a vegan diet was because I didn’t want to give up eating many of my favorite Chinese dishes that I grew up with. Dishes like dumplings and whole fish remind me so much of my culture, my family, and my childhood. However, I haven’t had to give up as much as I thought I would.

Unlike some other cuisines, Chinese dishes are often segregated into meat, vegetable, and staple food (rice, noodles, steamed buns) categories, rather than mixing numerous components into a single dish. As a result, there is an abundance of Chinese dishes that are completely free of animal products, with no need for substitutions or adjustments. Here in the U.S., Chinese food has a unique history of its own. When Chinese immigrants began to open Chinese restaurants in the early 1900s, Americanized Chinese food began to gain momentum, developing into its own distinctive category. After years of evolution, many of these dishes are unrecognizable by Chinese people as Chinese food. But the “inauthenticity” of the dishes has not deterred people from eating and enjoying this style of food. As reliable as McDonald’s, Americanized Chinese food has become one of the most beloved takeout cuisines in the country and a permanent fixture of American history.

 

Below, you will find a round-up of vegan Chinese recipes for those seeking traditional Chinese dishes as well as for those who enjoy the familiar flavors of American style Chinese food.

TRADITIONAL

Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (vegan) - Cook crispy and flavorful eggplant with the minimum oil and effort | omnivorescookbook.com

Chinese Eggplant with Garlic Sauce

smashed cucumber salad|chinasichuanfood.com

Smashed Cucumber Salad

Sacllion pancake (Shanghai)|chinasichuanfood.com

Scallion Pancakes

Sesame Noodles

Sichuan Napa Cabbage Stir-fry (Suan La Bai Cai), by thewoksoflife.comSichuan Napa Cabbage Stir Fry

Tofu Noodle Soup

Mapo Tofu

vegan pot stickers|ChinaSichuanFood

Potstickers

AMERICANIZED

Crispy Orange Ginger Tofu

Crispy Orange Ginger Tofu

Sweet and Sour Crispy Mock Chicken Stir Fry

Sweet and Sour Crispy Mock Chicken

Fried Rice

General Tso’s Tofu

veggie lo mein

Veggie Lo Mein

Spring Rolls

You can find even more vegan Asian recipes on my Pinterest board!

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Indeed so many Chinese dishes are vegan or at least vegetarian. What I always hate in China is that the entire family and all the friends always order an insane amount of dishes with meat. I am no vegan or vegeterian but really don’t like to eat meat every single day or similar. Back in the days when we lived still in Finland and my wife actually had time to cook we had meat like a few times per month!
    I just love sesame cold noodle at all that stuff from Shaanxi 🙂

    • Meat has definitely become a symbol of wealth and luxury. Meat dishes are used to impress people, to show off wealth, and for celebrations. It really should be only eaten sparingly. I love the noodle dishes as well!

  2. I agree about the eating too much meat thing! I even wrote a post about that before. It’s like they think a proper meal needs to contain meat. Even many of the dishes you mention here usually have minced meat added (the mapo tofu, all the veggie stir fries, the eggplant… the fried rice usually contains a spam kind of thing). My MIL often cooks lamb or beef and then she doesn’t eat it herself. Recently I finally told her she doesn’t need to cook meat for me and that I prefer veggies, fish or eggs…

    • It really has become more of a status thing. I think people are aware that eating too much meat is not good for your health, and they don’t even enjoy eating so much of it. But it has become a major part of the culture because of the social stigma.

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