It is a solemn and oft-recognised truth that an enormous number of people, upon arriving in China, renounce their vegetarianism. If, however, you have yet to succumb to the meat-saturated nature of Chinese cuisine and still stoically retain your herbivorous idealism, you’ll be happy to know that Nanjing has a few restaurants that will cater to your leafy-green demands. What’s more, these places are not just for the bland palate-ed vegetarians in the group – carnivores too will notice that the food quality and flavours at these “veggie friendly” restaurants is often well above average.
Jiangxi Vegetarian Restaurant 江西素食馆
It is located near Nanjing Normal University where you have a good chance to experience the university culture. There are many kinds of southern Chinese style rice noodles which are quite delicious. The environment is good and this gives you a feeling of comfort. It is a perfect place for lovers who are dating, self-relaxation and having a break after a long time spent shopping or walking.
Address: Suojin Cun, Xuanwu District (玄武区锁金村), near to Nanjing Normal University (南京师大)
The Taj Mahal 泰姬玛哈印度餐厅
The Taj Mahal is a popular Indian restaurant found right near Xinjiekou (Nanjing’s epicentre). The restaurant’s service is the best I have personally experienced in China, and the staff speak both English and Chinese well. The Taj Mahal comes highly recommended as a vegetarian restaurant, partially because Indian cuisine is so well suited to extracting flavours from vegetables without the help of meat, and partly because the restaurant itself is well known for providing excellent cuisine. The Rajma Makhani (red beans cooked with garlic and ginger) is an excellent choice, as is the Dum Aloo Kishmiri (potatoes stuffed with cheese, nuts and raisins and heavily spiced). Having regularly eaten both meat and vegetarian dishes at this restaurant, I can honestly say that I struggle to tell the difference between the two in terms of quality. Needless to say, the décor and location of the restaurant only add to the overall eating experience. The prices tend to fall between 50-100 RMB per person, depending on the number of dishes you usually order.
Add: 117 Xinjiekou Fengfu Lu, Baixia District, Nanjing
Tel: 8421 4123
Green Cuisine (formerly Wu Shang Vegetarian)
This restaurant is extremely popular with vegans. It offers vegetarian food of the Chinese variety. The food is served buffet style, and the ordering procedure is also fairly unique -simply choose whichever raw vegetables you want from the buffet, hand them to the chef, wait a few minutes and then receive a freshly cooked plate of greens. Of course, the dishes are not limited to greens; many other options are available as well. The restaurant’s food is mainly stir-fry, with a number of mock-meat and mock-fish substitutes available. A strong selling point of this restaurant is the sheer frequency with which non-vegetarians visit, simply because the food is so tasty, and is such good value. It also helps that the restaurant has a number of English speakers who can guide you around the buffet, introduce you to ingredients and their levels of spiciness. The cost, for all-you-can-eat, is 66 RMB for lunch and 88 RMB for dinner.
Add: 56 Yudao Jie, Baixia District, Nanjing
Tel: 8025 66619222
The Buddhism Vegetarian Restaurant 佛缘素食
It advocates the concept of supporting vegetarian diets and cultivating good health. The ingredients are all organic vegetables, beans, peanuts and seaweeds or other healthy items. The environment is great, giving you a sense of comfort. Complimentary health tea is offered. The entire turnover is used for printing Chinese classics. There are also many books available to read about Buddhism.
Address: 12 Small Jiuhua Mountain, Xuanwu District (玄武区小九华山12号), near to Beijing East Road (北京东路)
Jiming Temple Vegetarian Diet 鸡鸣寺百味斋茶社
Located at the top of the Jiming Temple, this restaurant combines vegetarian-friendly foods with spectacular views. A buffet option is usually available, which can also be supplemented with purchases a la carte. The menu has a number of helpful pictures with English translations. There’s a huge variety of vegetarian dishes and mock meats – the lemon chicken being the pick of the bunch. While the restaurant is much cheaper than the other two options mentioned (around 20 RMB per person), it closes at 17:00, so make sure you don’t head over for an evening meal. Also, be aware that smoking is permitted in this restaurant (somewhat negating the presumed health benefits of a vegetarian diet).
Add: Jiming Temple
Tel: 025 5771 3690
Opening hours: 11:00-17:00 (restaurant)
While not a restaurant per se, BHC should be included for being an excellent “bonus resource” for vegetarians struggling to get by in meat-obsessed Nanjing. Located in the enormous, techno-modern Aqua City mall, just east of the Confucius Temple(夫子庙), BHC sells a great deal of organic produce and specialised ingredients for vegetarian dishes. It’s a perfect place to pop into after a visit to the Confucius Temple, one of the city’s top tourist attractions. The mall, also, is one of the most modern and varied in Nanjing and prides itself on its wide range of Western products, so a trip here to stock up on vegetarian essentials could also coincide with the purchase of a number of other creature comforts that you may be missing while living abroad in China.
Add: Aqua City Mall
Tel: 6698 5066; 6698 5068
Opening hours: 10:00-22:00
Shensongju Vegetarian Restaurant 深松居素菜馆
There has been a long history of this vegetarian restaurant in Nanjing. The service is quite considerate and is highly spoken of by the customers. The environment is elegant and comfortable. It is near to the Nanjing Institute of P.E and there are a lot of scenic spots around. The dishes are mainly light to taste, are very delicious and healthy.
Address: Linggu Temple scenic spot, Zhongshan Cemetery, 2 Linggu Temple Road, Xuanwu District, near to the Nanjing Institute of P.E.