Mmm. Meat.

By Stephen Ewashkiw | November 2, 2013

7,150 km so far.

After three weeks of riding through industrial zones, smog, rain, and dirt, it is laundry day! Almost every piece of clothing we have is now with the hostel’s laundry service, which is one of the luxuries we allow ourselves. It is quite nice to know that by the time we are back from visiting the pandas tomorrow there will be clean clothes waiting for us.

We walked to Wenshu Temple this morning, partly to see the temple, but also because we had heard there was a good vegetarian restaurant there.

Flower cart outside the Wenshu Temple, Chengdu.

Flower cart outside the Wenshu Temple, Chengdu.

Sadly, renovation works are underway on a large area of the temple grounds, which means the restaurant is closed, at least for now.

So, after visiting many of the temple rooms, bowing to a seemingly endless array of Buddha statues, including some spectacular white jade ones, we left the temple in search of food.

wenshu temple pagoda china

Pagoda at Wenshu Temple.

Despite Buddha having been vegan, the food vendors outside the temple walls are not. You can usually find one that is, but it never ceases to amaze me that people are grilling meat mere feet away from praying Buddhists.

Meat 2. Vegans 0.

We went to a street stall where the man was making what appeared to be soy flour pancakes and filling them with a selection of items.

We watched a few people order, and figured we should try them. We were selecting what would go in them, when Jane said she thought the green bean dish I wanted had meat in it. I looked at it and was sure it was carrot. So I ordered it. Turns out she was right, and it had chopped up hotdog in it – so almost vegan, but not quite.

Pancakes stuffed with pig parts.

Pancakes stuffed with pig parts.

I took a few bites, since I’d already bought it, but was none to happy about my mistake.

Jane’s note: All husbands repeat after me. I should listen to my wife. She is always right.

Jane decided to order what the young girl in front of us had, which appeared to be some sort of fluffy sugar, something creamy, and sliced root vegetable. The fluffy sugar was something we had seem on donuts last night, and also on several other sweet pastries in Chengdu, but we weren’t sure what it was. The cream, while probably not vegan, also wasn’t meat, so it seemed like a safe vegetarian bet.

Jane’s note: I actually think the cream was coconut cream or something similar. The Chinese are not big on dairy foods, and this did not taste like something made from animal milk.

It turns out, however, the sugary stuff was floss. As in pork floss. Which we didn’t know was a thing, until we saw it labelled in English later in the day. We didn’t realise that Jane was eating animal at the time, since floss is so far removed from its original form, there is no remnant flavour of pig about it.

Meat 3. Vegans 2.

We then found a small kitchen making delicious looking steamed buns, jiaozi, and noodles. We showed them our “no meat” cards, said it several times, and got assurances they could make us some “no meat” food.

When our meal came, the jiaozi had something suspiciously meaty in them. Sigh. It seems vegetarians aren’t taken as seriously in Sichuan as they are in northern parts of the country.

One of our steamed buns had red bean paste in it, which was the tastiest red bean paste I have ever had. The other was just plain dough. At least these were vegan. Our noodle soup was also vegan, so things were looking up.

After we left the restaurant, we walked about 300 m and came face to face with Vegan Restaurant, a, yes, vegan restaurant. Argh! If only we had turned right instead of left when looking for food!

Communism / Consumerism

We had read how crazy busy the pedestrianised shopping area, Chunxilu, is, but nothing could prepare us for what it was like on a Saturday afternoon. It is hard to imagine this is what Mao had in mind. Thousands upon thousands of people filled the streets and shops, buying, buying, buying.

So many people, all here to shop, in Chengdu's Chunxilu shopping street.

So many people, all here to shop, in Chengdu’s Chunxilu shopping street.

The shops were packed with people throwing away their hard-earned cash on completely unnecessary clothes, appliances, accessories, toys, and junk. It was a swarm of people, all focused on getting more stuff. Nothing with a brand name is any cheaper than it is in the US, and some seem to be far more expensive.

This is what communism looks like in the cities of China, and it is in stark, stark contrast to the China we have been riding through for the past two weeks.

The really high-end retailers, like Cartier and Bulgari, are all located in Tianfu Square, right under the watchful eye of the statue of Mao.

kids posing for a picture in chengdu china

Kids posing in front of Mao, in Chengdu.

Is this really the future he foresaw?

Meat 3. Vegans 5.

We decided we had to check out Vegan Restaurant for dinner tonight. Happy Cow reviewers liked it, and it is walking distance from Lazy Bones, our hostel.

Their menu is in Chinese only, but it is a full photographic menu which the server brings to your table on an iPad. To order, you tap the item you want and choose a quantity. Our server spoke just enough English to help when we had questions, though he couldn’t think of the word for potato. When a female server standing nearby supplied it for him, they both delighted in repeating the word po-ta-to over and over again.

The food was delicious. And 100% vegan! Flavours were deeper and more complex than last night’s dinner, the food was delicately prepared, and our potato dish was immaculately plated, simulating two mountains, with trees made of sauce and boulders of rock candy.

The mushroom dumplings were incredible, containing a delicious mix of fungi, and the tofu and vegetables Sichuan style were spicy, crunchy, and sweet. An absolutely delicious meal that almost made the day’s earlier meaty difficulties worthwhile.  

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    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen November 6, 2013 at 2:17 am

      Thanks for the link Kimberly. Sounds like a great idea, and it sure would be useful here!

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