We next tried one of the famed vegetarian eel dishes. I was surprised to see how tiny the portion was, considering how the other plates were pretty big, but considering how much food we ordered, it was for the best (although for the price, it's kind of a dick move). The eel did not disappoint! It's been a minute since I've had real eel, so my memory is hazy, but it tasted as much like the real thing as I'd want! Caramelized slightly sweet skin and that really good fishy-but-not-gross-fishy flavor and a pretty spot-on texture, so I was a fan of this dish. Maybe I do want more...in the past...however that works.
The craziest thing we ordered at SUHU was the purple yam. I know you're thinking, like, okay, that's just what most people think are sweet potatoes, what's the big deal. Well just look at how it was served:
Less fun was our Singapore noodle dish, which on the menu looked like a good plate of noodles and accompaniment but in reality was a bowl of broth with noodles (and lots of chilis!) in it! We didn't order soup! It was fine, just a little bit not what we wanted.
The waitress came, looked at our order form (you check off what dishes you want and how many of them), and changed all the 1's we put next to the dumplings into 2's. So, it is true, and they are not just changing the official order size and price which makes SO MUCH MORE SENSE, but anyway, in more important news, we idiots could not decide what dumpling to cross off because they all sounded good so we just said FORGET IT BRING US ALL 30 DUMPLINGS. 30 dumplings is a lot, guys.
And guess what, having a limited number of vegan dumpling choices did not make ordering here any easier, because they still had an EPIC long menu of regular Chinese food! Ahhhh it looked just as good if not better than SUHU. We decided on a sauteed green vegetable with beans (BEANS!), plus one of their advertised (on the wall) specialties - a stewed meatball and cabbage (or other similar green) dish. SO MUCH FOOD. And it was all great.
The stewed meatball dish we got was one of the best things we ate in Beijing. It had NO business being that incredible. So delicious! Oh man! And the greens and beans were great too, if standard, but that's what I want out of my greens usually.
I went back another night and had an incredible homestyle tofu dish, cooked and served in a black clay pot that DID NOT COOL OFF. I also had this raw cabbage and peanut salad that was just perfection.
Did I...did I not get dumplings this time??? What's wrong with me!
I love Vegetarian Dumpling so much. It was pretty darn cheap, too, for SOOO much food. I wish they had one closer to me.
Another vegetarian restaurant we went to was Baihe Lily. This was not our first choice - after seeing the Lama and Confucian Temples, we wanted to go to a very closeby veg restaurant called Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian that was in the book and highly recommended. It sounded amazing! We got there, and it was NO LONGER IN EXISTENCE. BOOOO. The closest veg restaurant we could find on Google (we were hangry, no time to travel to something too far) was Baihe Lily. The food was good, but I can't recommend it really because it's super overpriced, frustrating to order, and impossible to get service.
First of all, the menus are tablets. Like, electronic little fake iPad looking jawns. So cool and technologically advanced, right? No it was the moooost annoying thing ever. You can't go back and look at things that looked good without going through 100 other pictures, and then trying to go back and find where you left off. WORST OF ALL, you can't keep going through and pointing to the things you want to order! They had a kind of online shopping style checkout way to order, by adding things to your cart, but unlike the menu descriptions, the things added only in Chinese so if you added something by accident you couldn't figure out which thing to delete and would just have to start over and OMG MY AGITAAAA.
Second, no one came back to the dining room to do any of the service in an appropriate fashion. We had to keep flagging someone out in the lobby to order, to pay, &c. During our meal, a white woman was seated at the table next to us. We had seen her at the temples that morning so we made friendly small talk. We finished our meal before anyone even came to give her A MENU. When we saw someone, we asked 'can someone please get this girl a menu?' and no one did, so she left without even ordering. UNACCEPTABLE.
Luckily, the food was pretty great. We had this cool vegetarian spare rib-meat kind of dish that was excellent, and of course a plate of leafy greens.
A few meals were not at all-vegetarian restaurants, if you can believe it! In the APM Mall (SO MANY MALLS IN BEIJING I LOVE IT, AIR CONDITIONING AND BUBBLE TEA!) was an outpost of the very famous Din Tai Fung restaurant, which is in the New York Times Top 10 in the world, apparently. Crazy. There's one opening soon in London, which I imagine will be priced at 100x as much, because it was pretty cheap and casual and hectic for being so highly ranked. It also was, like, just okay. Granted, they just didn't have that much for vegans, so I got the standard Chinese restaurant order of a sauteed garlicky leafy green plus another leafy green with bean curd (the smallest amount of bean curd ever served in China) and plain rice. It was fine, perfunctory, but like, not even in the top ten of restaurants we went to in Beijing. I'm sure for Z it was better. The best thing about it, though, was that an official manager lady, complete with microphone headset for running the large restaurant, came over with not-our-waiter, and asked if they would take our photos while we were eating! We were like...seriously? We are used to people asking to take our pictures, or take pics with us, because we are white, but that's out in the world from regular people. Being asked by the MANAGER of an important restaurant? SO WEIRD! And we were eating! I was literally chewing with food in my mouth and was like um noo thanks you are not taking me with my mouth full of food and then what, putting a poster on the front wall? To quote Danielle Brooks as Sophia in The Color Purple, 'heeeeeeell no. HELL NO.' But like, why the manager? And why us? It was full of other whites who were slightly less sweaty, so why us? Did they think I was famous? Who did they think I was? Now I'm curious. But thank goodness I'm not now on Din Tai Fung's promotional materials before I was able to take my 3rd shower of the day.
Early in our visit, we went to the Zheng Long Zhai Vegetarian Shop to stock up on goodies, as per Jojo's recommendation. It is a little hard to find and not really near anything convenient, but it's so worth going to. They have all these amazing jerky packets, like beef jerky and stuff, of 100 different sorts and it's all vegan!
Regardless, this vegetarian shop is a must visit if you are traveling for a while and need snacks and emergency protein strips.
In the complete opposite world, we also stopped at a Wal-Mart. They have Wal-Marts all over China! And while 90% is Chinese products, they do have a decent amount of recognizable stuff. Like sooo many weird flavored Oreos! We tried the vanilla sundae kind - reeeeally good! - and the strawberry kind - reeeeally gross! We got some candy and some drinks, including a lot of what we thought was cranberry and blueberry juice (as per doctor's orders!), a really good apple cider vinegar drink, and an almond milk. Some of that is pictured; I think I forgot to take stuff out of another bag.
Lastly, I have to share one of my favorite things. After my doctor's appointment, we went into a nearby office building to pee, and of course the basement where the toilets were had an epic food court/mall style set up because every single building does. The very first thing I ran into?
A JUICE BAR!!! Despite doctor's orders to consume berries, I of course ordered the greenest option on the menu (which was also in English!) because I can't not! If it's my only real green juice/smoothie opportunity for 4 months, I'm going to get the greenest one obviously! It was peasprouts, lettuce, pineapple, apple, and orange I think. I think I added spinach? It tasted just like peashoots, and you know what? I loved it. (Z did not.)