Year of the Takeout day 214: Is Chinese Takeout Vegetarian Friendly?

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Tofu and Vegetables

We weren't too excited about our selection at a Cantonese-American restaurant revisit today.

So instead of writing about that, we are going to answer a question often posed to the Year of the Takeout team: Can vegetarians and vegans get anything at these eateries?

Turns out, there are two completely contradictory answers: Yes and no!

Allow us to explain...

As anyone who has eaten at a Chinese takeout joint has probably noticed, there are typically menu sections marked "vegetables" or "vegetarian."

Some of these establishments might even feature whole menu portions dedicated to tofu or mock meat.

At the most bare bones of these places, you can typically get some type of vegetable and tofu stir fry, with toppings such as brown, white, sweet and sour, garlic, General Tso's/sesame sauce, etc.

Here's the deal with these gravies -- depending on how they are prepared, they might be made with meat stock and/or oyster sauce.

So, if you're worried about these ingredients, ask.

This is also where it gets tricky, though.

As with most restaurants, there is always the potential for foods to mix and mingle on cooking surfaces -- which is why you might accidentally find a chunk of roast pork in, say, an order of green beans. Deep friers also might be used for both meat and non-meat products.

Of course, there are Chinese restaurants dedicated entirely to vegetarians and vegans, such as Buddha Bodai and House of Vegetarian.

However, if it's straight up takeout you want, there are a couple of options which probably won't pose the sauce problems inherent in other picks.

Most recipes for cold sesame noodles -- AKA noodles with peanut butter or peanut sauce -- do not contain meat, just lots and lots of (marvelous!) oil and legume paste. Also, steamed vegetable dumplings tend to be an equally safe bet.


If you are extreme in your culinary beliefs -- or have bad food allergies with animal products -- you should probably stick to the specialty shops, though.

Hope this answers that question!

But what do y'all think: Are there other veg choices at common takeout places?

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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1 comments
billyjoe
billyjoe

"So, if you're worried about these ingredients, ask."

 

In the case of most vegetarians and vegans I know, "ask" is a relative term. These people are ready to give the poor waitperson, sometimes barely fluent in English, a third-degree browbeating about the ingredients of the meat-free dish they want to order. 

 

The kitchens in most of these places are very busy, and there is not guarantee your veggies are going to be prepared on completely meat-free surfaces. If you want to be a complete and utter control freak (which is really the issue among a lot of self-professed vegetarians and vegans), my suggestion is do everyone a favor (including your dining companions) and go for the strictly vegan restaurant.

 

 

 

 

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