By Melissa Hellmann
Originally published on ShanghaiExpat
As a lacto-ovo vegetarian for a ¼ of my life, consciousness and leading a healthy lifestyle in mind and body has been a priority of mine for the entirety of adulthood. Much to my chagrin I put my vegetarianism on hold upon arrival in Shanghai 6 months ago and became an occasional pescatarian when eating out. For those unfamiliar, the many faces of vegetarianism are as diverse as the multitudes of people who engage in responsible eating throughout the world.
Pescatarians abstain from red meat and rely on fish as a main source of animal protein. A diet of fish, grain and vegetables can provide a suitable transition for those considering becoming a vegetarian but hesitant to immediately take the full plunge. A lacto-ovo vegetarian abstains from eating any types of meat but consumes eggs and dairy products. The gamut of vegetarian diets ranges from flexatarian, a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat, to a raw vegan who eats unprocessed vegan foods that have been cooked under 115 degrees Farenheit.
Being a vegetarian in Shanghai is a trial of dedication and resourcefulness. I have attempted to order food with my minimal knowledge of Chinese by asking for a meal without meat. Incredulously I am often delivered a meal of tofu with miniscule pieces of meat sprinkled on top. If it weren’t for a keen eye and previous knowledge of the flavor of pork, the presence of meat might have seemed imperceptible.
The concept of vegetarianism in China remains an unexplored topic; many restaurants create soup broths from animal fat or add a small amount of meat into vegetable and tofu dishes for flavor. Concerned about consuming a healthy diet in a country where I was unfamiliar with the viable protein options, selective pescatarianism seemed a judicious choice.
In an attempt to constantly strive for self-betterment and acquisition of knowledge I have not allowed myself to comfortably settle into my new-found pescatarianism. I would like to believe that it is feasible to be a lacto-ovo or even a raw-food vegan in Shanghai without spending an entire paycheck on protein supplements.
Annie Taylor Chen and Kimberly Ashton, two of the three hosts of the Shanghai Veggie Club, convinced me that vegetarianism is in fact a viable option in Shanghai. Compared to other cities throughout China, vegetarianism is a more developed lifestyle with a varied selection of vegetarian restaurants and availability of products.
The Shanghai Veggie Club began in April 2010 by Alexa Chiang as a way to gather vegetarians in Shanghai to eat together. Annie Chen joined the club in September 2010 and launched a website, www.shanghaivegetarians.com, to receive a wider audience and to easily organize vegetarians throughout the city. Annie (a vegan), Kimberly (a flexatarian) and Mary have since taken over the organization in an attempt to provide a social platform for vegetarianism.
The Shanghai Veggie Club provides information on leading a lifestyle for the healthy, environmentally conscious individual; it is not at attempt to convert the meat-eater into a tree-hugging broccoli-eater as meat-eaters are welcome to events. Shanghai Veggie Club insists that eating doesn’t need to be an isolated event; as a vegetarian eating meals with friends can sometimes be an awkward abstinence from the main courses or a trial of personal beliefs.
At this club everyone is on the same page. Whether a macrobiotic, a pescatarian, an omnivore or a vegan, all are accepted. Although the club strays from propaganda, Kimberly, who is also a health coach and nutrition consultant, suggests that research has proven the prevention and illness reversal that can be achieved through introducing more vegetables and less meat into a diet. Annie and Kimberly recently outlined the benefits of Vegetarianism on ‘Culture Matters’ on ICS. Kimberly suggests that the overlying philosophy behind the Shanghai Veggie Club is to: “bring restaurants and people together to enjoy good food.”
The Shanghai Veggie Club site includes upcoming events, tips for vegetarians, vegetarian or vegan restaurants in Shanghai and various foods that could be used in a plant-based diet. Mentioned on the website is also the 21-Day Healthy Challenge, which was recently launched in Mandarin on March 5th. The health challenge is an information platform that invites people to abstain from meat and dairy products. It provides recipes of vegetarian and vegan-friendly versions of traditional Chinese recipes.
Shanghai Veggie Club’s future plans involve conducting cooking lessons. The hosts also hope to create a tour in Shanghai throughout the Universities to teach the college students how to eat healthily. Annie plans on creating a podcast to teach expatriate vegetarians how to ask for certain dishes in Chinese. She insists: “I’m always happy to hear other people’s experiences and any challenges that they’ve encountered.”
The Shanghai Veggie Club is a valiant effort towards awareness in a city that is experiencing rapid development; a consciousness to alternative lifestyles shortens the bridge of misunderstanding by providing restaurants and stores with the knowledge and individuals with the resources.
Although vegetarianism is not a popular concept in China, the presence of vegetarian restaurants or vegetarian friendly options on menus has proven that Shanghai vegetarians will no longer remain silent! According towww.happycow.net, a website that lists vegan and vegetarian restaurants throughout the world, there are 30 vegetarian or vegan restaurants throughout Shanghai. Kimberly’s favorite vegetarian restaurants in the city includes KUSH, which specializes in Western style meals, and Ana Maya which caters to a more macrobiotic diet.
Annie’s favorite vegetarian restaurant in the city is Lucky Zen & Veg, which she attests has delicious meals at a reasonable price. My personal favorites in the city include KUSH and Vegetarian Lifestyle. The international concept of ‘Meatless Mondays’, which promotes consuming a plant-based diet at least one day of the week, is also offered by some restaurants throughout the city such as Origin Café.
Along with the advent of vegetarian restaurants throughout the city, Shanghai has made great strides by introducing vegetarian products in the stores in recent years. Tempeh was recently introduced in Chinese markets! Tempeh is a fermented soy product that has a higher content of protein and fiber than tofu. Tianbei Tempeh, the Chinese version of tempeh, is now available for purchase on Taobao. The price is still relatively high due to the lack of demand. Biofarm also serves as an alternative to delivery: an individual or restaurants can sign up with a farm located in Pudong to have fresh vegetables and tofu delivered to their door.
For those considering becoming vegetarian or interested in continuing a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, a plant-based diet in Shanghai is an attainable goal! Finding like-minded friends to share meals with makes eating at restaurants easier. Learning enough Chinese to communicate your dietary restrictions or to order popular vegetarian meals is suggested.
An individual can also train an ayi to cook meals without adding meat products. Vegetarians throughout the city must remember that they are not alone! Suggest to your favorite restaurant or store to carry vegetarian products. The only way to achieve marked differences is to raise restaurants and individuals’ awareness. The resources and information available to vegetarians in Shanghai will only increase if the market insists on its unwavering presence in the city.
Annie Taylor Chen 和 Kimberly Ashton是上海素食俱乐部三位组织者中的两位，他们使我相信，素食主义在上海是可行的选择。与中国其他城市相比，上海有许多素食饭店和食品，如此多样化的选择也使得素食主义成为更加成熟的生活方式。
上海素食俱乐部由Alexa Chiang在2010年4月组织发起，旨在号召全上海的素食主义者共同聚餐。Annie Chen在同年9月加入并发起一个网站——www.shanghaivegetarians.com,从而可以在全上海吸引更多素食主义者，把他们组织起来也更容易。后来Annie（素食主义者）、Kimberly（弹性素食主义者）和Mary接手俱乐部，试着为素食主义者提供一个社交平台。
尽管素食主义在中国不是一个大众化的概念，但素食餐馆和菜单上可供选择的素食制品的出现已经证明，在上海， 素食主义者不再保持沉默！根据www.happycow.net网站上列出的全世界的素食餐馆，全上海就有30家。Kimberly最喜欢的上海素食餐馆就包括KUSH和Ana Maya，分别以西餐和养生饮食为特色。