Beijing– I had nearly given up on vegetarian eating in Beijing after discovering that two centrally located vegetarian restaurants recommended by Lonely Planet had closed. Green Tianshi had gone out of business since the time the book was published (2005), while Gongdelin was shut down due to pre-Olympic construction. So imagine my joy accidentally discovering the one-year old Deng Pin while wandering around the hutongs that surround the Lama Temple and Confucious Temple. Before I continue, I need to say that Deng Pin is the best chinese and all-around (yes, I said that) vegetarian restaurant I have ever been to.
Deng Pin offers a buffet and a standard menu option. On both occasions I visited I went for the buffet, although the hotpots that I saw people ordering looked splendid. I chose the buffet after doing a walk around of the options, and was blown away. One table had beautifully cut up raw vegetables and mushrooms. The table behind that were the main courses: about 8-10 mushroom and tofu heavy soups and stews, another 10-15 tofu/gluten+vegetable dishes with varying spicing and saucing. This table also had several rice and fried noodle options, and another 10 or so fake-meatless vegetable dishes. On one side of the buffet area was vegetable sushi rolls and cooked nut options. At the far end were some more soup options and 2 types of vegetable wontons, chinese pancakes, and poppyseed biscuits. A table to the left of the main buffet contained raw greens (a splendid idea!) and a non-standard dessert table (given that non-fruit desserts in China are rare) filled with cookies, cakes, fruit (whole bananas and oranges), and ice cream.
I’ve established that the restaurant has quantity and a diversity of options. So what about the food? To put it blunty, it was amazing. I tried almost every dish possible and liked virtually everything, a rare feat for a picky eater. The tofu dishes were delightfully fresh and moist. The tofu and vegetables did not suffer from the usual over-oiling that plagues some chinese foods. The mushroom soups were especially good, dense with at least 5 different types of whole mushrooms – perfect for the frigid Beijing winter. The (normally meat-eating) friend that joined me on my second trip thought the food was the best he had on his 3 month travels through Asia, and particularly admired the soup selection. The restaurant was also beautifully decorated and relayed the surrounding temples’ sense of calm. A wonderful escape from sometimes dreary and militaristic Beijing!
Fruit in meal: Raw fruit available but in keeping with standard chinese cooking, was not mixed in with dishes.
Deng Pin (also called Xu Xiang Zhai) is located on Guozijian Jie across from the Confucious Temple (subway Yonghegong Lama Temple, take exit “C”). Most dishes are vegan, but some of the desserts have dairy and egg. Buffet is RMB 58 or about $9. Hours 11am-2pm for lunch and 5pm-9pm for dinner.
The writer is travelling in Shanghai and Beijing as part of the QSB’s ongoing empirical research on wordly vegetarian eating. The therecreationalvegan.wordpress.com is proudly banned in China.