Chinese Vegetarian Food
Most Chinese vegetarians are Buddhists, following the Buddhist teachings about minimizing suffering. In addition, many Yoga practicers in China are vegetarians or vegans. Nowadays, in order to keep health and fit, more and more Chinese people who are not vegetarians or vegans, tend to eat vegetarian food from time to time.
Buddhist cooking斋菜 (zhāi cài) - Casserole
The cuisine of China is widely considered to be one of the worlds best because it meets the requirements of geographic variety, inclusion of all types of foods, and a long-established and well-developed culinary tradition. The Chinese culture can be labelled a food culture for the interest and honour given to food and its rituals.
The Chinese believe that appropriate food selection is important for maintaining good health. For thousands of years they have investigated and developed elaborate traditions about food consumption and medicinal cooking, including the use of herbs. To them, cooking and eating are healing arts. They think that food is medicine and medicine is food. Therefore, eating good foods ensures and prolongs life, and the right amount of each food group and which combinations should be consumed together are important considerations.
They trust that grains are the foundation of the diet. Meats, fruits, and vegetables should supplement grains, not take their place or exceed their consumption. They think beverages, particularly soup, should be consumed with foods at main meals. Their beliefs were developed and written about thousands of years ago.
Since 1991, the valleys of the river Panyang, in the Bama Yao Autonomous district of Guangxi in China, are known to have a percentage of centenarians with regard to the total population among the most important. Chinese gerontologists went to study there the reasons of this longevity and concluded that it was due to a participation in the works of the village, the purity of the water of the river and the air of the valley as well as to a vegetarian diet. Actually, with the exception of certain main feasts, the inhabitants of Bama usually exclude from their food any meat.
The dieticians of the whole world know that vegetables and fruits contain a strong proportion of vitamin C; beans are rich in protein, etc... For the Chinese, the edible mushrooms are not only a very nourishing food, but also they still have multiple uses in the medicine, as for example to make lower the blood pressure and the rate of blood lipids, prevent the cirrhosis of the liver and strengthen the heart and the kidneys; some would possess active elements against the cancer.
Vegetarianism is not uncommon or unusual in China, even if, as it is the case in the West, it is only practiced by a relatively small proportion of the population.
Historically, China was a major centre of Buddhism and the founding state of Taoism, two nature-oriented philosophies that promote vegetarianism. In temples, the monks ate and offered to the pilgrim’s only vegetables soups and tea. As from the dynasty of Qing (1644-1911), the vegetarian cooking became widespread and was not only practiced in temples, but also by certain city-dwellers, even in the imperial court. Cooks specialized in the vegetarian cooking appeared.
The base of the Buddhist kitchen is constituted by vegetables (e.g. Bak Choy, shiitake mushroom, sprouts, corn), by fruits, by flowers and by medicinal herbs. Some temples as Fayuan in Beijing, Dinghui Temple of Zhenjiang in the province of Jiangsu, Baiyun in Shanghai and Lingyin Temple of Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province, started to offer vegetarian quality dishes, which attracted a big clientele.
At Po Lin Monastery which is the most popular Buddhist temple in Hong Kong, you will be served a Chinese Vegetarian cuisine which is a culture heritage from ancient China
At the time of Qing dynasty, except the Buddhist kitchen itself, existed a popular vegetarian cooking which could be found in numerous vegetarian restaurants; the vegetarian cooks of the imperial court were able to make more than 200 exclusively vegetarian dishes. Today, the vegetarian cooking, which is represented by about 500 dishes, is a particular culinary school beside those of Shandong, Sichuan, the Guangdong or Jiangsu, China's four major styles of cooking.
Traditional dish – Minced Stuffing Serves with Pancake
A large number of famous vegetarian restaurants exists in numerous cities, such for example the Xingjutang restaurant at Yongquan Buddhist Temple located on the mountaintop of Gu Mountain in Fuzhou City -Fujian Province-; Caigenxiang in Guangzhou; the atypical vegetarian Restaurant Baihe in Beijing and Gongdelin in Shanghai.
Kung Tak Lam Shangai vegetarian Cuisine, Hong Kong
The Xingjutang restaurant at Yongquan Buddhist Temple is located on the mountaintop of Gu Mountain in Fuzhou City, Fujian Province and is one of the less numerous Buddhist restaurants existing at present. Although the temple has a history of more than thousand years, its restaurant was created only in the fifties.
In the Buddhist dishes, there is a difference between the ordinary dish which is only a mixture of vegetables simply boiled in the water, and the one intended for the offerings and for the receptions cooked in a more sophisticated way and which ingredients are carefully chosen. At the restaurant Xingjutang, you can mainly taste this last one. In the kitchen, the bonzes prepare vegetables, beans and mushrooms and make some cheese of soya, which is very digestive and rich in protein. The Chinese make a big consumption of it. Vegetables and mushrooms used by the bonzes are sowed and cultivated by them. The Buddhist dishes have very beautiful names, inspired generally by the colour or the shape of the used vegetables.
The Caigenxiang Vegetarian Restaurant in Guangzhou exists for a little more than 60 years. It is one of the rare vegetarian restaurants of Canton: Buddhist recipes of Guangdong Cuisine, more than 200 dishes and appetizers. Also chicken, duck, pig and fish completely reconstituted with vegetable substance.
By entering, the customer can read following maxim made by the restaurant owner Zhou Zhihong: "A vegetarian dish is fortifying, a meal with vegetables is delicious; A vegetarian banquet allows prolonging the life that is why the dinner guests flourish to Caigenxiang.” Caigenxiang means in Chinese the “flavours of the roots of vegetables ", which is a Buddhist saying meaning that the Buddhist acquires a quiet inside and is fine in a thatched cottage, happy to eat roots of vegetables.
To make a dish, this restaurant chooses only varieties of nourishing mushrooms, some cheese of soya and vegetables of season. Any animal fat is forbidden as well as strong spices as the ginger, the leek or the garlic.
Certain vegetarian cooks apply to prepare dishes of vegetables calling back the taste and the shape of meat dishes. Such imitation meat is created mostly with soy protein and/or wheat gluten to imitate the texture, taste, and appearance of duck, chicken, or pork. Imitation seafood items, made from other vegetable substances such as konjac, are also available.
For example, a dish entitled “Shark fines “is constituted in fact only by slices of bamboo shoots treaty in a special way. The preparation of this dish is the following one: make horizontal or verticals sections on the surface of the slices of bamboo shoots; dip them into beaten eggs and fry them in some boiling oil; cut finely mushrooms, spice them and saute them separately; place then mushrooms and slices of bamboo shoots so prepared in a bowl to steam them. This delicious dish is of a beautiful white colour looking finally like a dish of shark fines.