How prevalent is vegetarian food in Shanghai?
There are many choices for vegetarians in Shanghai. The Chinese language word for vegetarian food is Sù shí (素食).
There is also a community platform for vegans in Shanghai operated by Plant Based Consulting. This group holds events and runs a community platform on WeChat called Vegans of Shanghai (VOS). You can join the VOS WeChat official account by scanning the QRCode in this posting.
We have a list of vegetarian restaurants in Shanghai at the end of this article.
China has a long tradition of vegetarian food connected to its own indigenous Taoist religion, as well as the imported Buddhist religion. Buddhist vegetarian-style food in Chinese language is called Chī zhāi (吃斋).
Although not all sects of Buddhism are vegetarians, and in fact Buddha himself ate meat occasionally, the sect most popular in China is predominantly vegetarian and strictly requires its monks to be vegetarians.
The Tibetan and Japanese Zen sects of Buddhism, however, are much less strict towards vegetarianism.
Some Western vegetarians might not like traditional Chinese vegetarian foods due to the predominance of mock meat dishes made with Seitan (pronounced "say-tahn"), (miàn jīn - 面筋) or Soybean Tofu (Dòufu - 豆腐).
Seitan is actually wheat gluten, so people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance need to be careful when eating vegetarian food in Shanghai.
Fortunately, there are more and more Western-style restaurants with vegetarian food in Shanghai as well as Chinese vegetarian restaurants
with more focus on vegetable dishes than mock meat dishes.
One of the most popular western style Shanghai vegetarian restaurants is Pure and Whole which was established by expats.
Many other Western restaurants and chains in Shanghai, such as Element Fresh, Wagas and Sproutworks offer a wide choice of vegetarian food on their menus.
You can find vegetarian food in Shanghai at many stores such as Sproutworks and Hunter Gatherer which also have small restaurants at some of their branches.
You can also order vegetarian and vegan food from many online stores such as Kate and Kimi.
Vegetarians in Shanghai will also be happy to know that organic vegetables are widely available here. You can find organic produce at many supermarkets including Carrefour, as well as order online directly from many organic vegetable delivery services in Shanghai.