Veganism more than just a statement of health, it's a way of life
It would be fair to say in a largely carnivorous, meat-eating country you would be hard pushed to find a vegetarian. So imagine what the likelihood is when encountering a vegan. Yet there are vegans in China and they do, contrary to popular opinion, enjoy delicious, mouth-watering food.
In a recent forum held in Hangzhou, nutritionists, restaurant owners and practitioners clarified the myths and misconceptions of being a vegan.
“Ten years ago, when people told you there were vegan, you might guess it was for religious reasons. Five years ago people became vegans because they wanted a healthy diet. But now it’s a quite trendy thing to do,” said Chef Adrian Wu, who was invited to share his experiences in Austria to make vegan recipes more appealing to non-vegans and vegetarians.
Wu came from a vegan family and has been a vegan since the age of 2. This was due to his mother choosing a strict vegetarian diet when she was having a troubled pregnancy and her constitution was rejecting everything. As a consequence she used to vomit regularly.
“At that time, people, especially the elderly, had a lot of doubts,” said Wu. “They would say how can you not eat meat when you are carrying a baby? You need more nutrition!”
Another common misconception is that protein can be only found in animals, when in fact it can also be obtained from grain, beans and corns.
“Actually 95 percent of animals get protein from plants,” Xu Jia, a nutritionist and specialist on a healthy vegan diet, told Shanghai Daily.
According to the standards set by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in the US, a recommended consumption of protein for one person a day is 0.8 grams per kilogram weight. That is to say, a person weighing around 60 kilograms needs around 48 grams of protein.
“And that can be easily achieved by simply taking a bowl of rice,” said Xu.
But avoiding meat does not guarantee a healthy and balanced diet either. Xu also asserted that there are a couple of things that vegans should be aware of.
The first thing is to remember taking in enough calories, since the same amount of meat carries more calories than the same amount of vegetables. Many people ignore this when they first become a vegan.
“My advice would be to eat when you feel hungry and vice versa,” Xu said. “You don’t really have to starve yourself.”
The second thing is to eat whole grains instead of refined grains. The bran of grains contains multiple nutrients and fiber needed for the human body while the refined ones purely provide carbohydrates.
Xu also warned against the culinary culture of using too much oil in China. The percentages of monks suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure or high blood lipid levels are not as low as you may have thought. And the last thing vegans have to ensure is getting enough vitamin B12, vitamin D and Omega 3, which can not be supplemented from eating vegetables, fruits, beans and grains.
“Vitamin B12 can’t be acquired from plants or animals. It is only existent in bacteria. So it’s easier for us to take pills,” Xu revealed.
While exposure to sunshine is a good way to attain vitamin D, Omega 3 can be found in flaxseeds or chia seeds if you are vegan.
While having a healthy diet is important for more and more busy city dwellers, so is to eat and enjoy it in a fancy environment.
In his speech, Wu recommended several Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, many of which he visited when learning his culinary skills in Austria.
Wu believes vegan recipes are now becoming more integrated and accommodating to the tastes of a more diversified group.
For example, Swing Kitchen is a vegan restaurant in Vienna, Austria, which features deep-fried, fast-food style, vegan menus, that are popular among the young people.
In Wu’s recent vegan cooking class in Hangzhou, he found out that over half of his participants were non-vegans. But they were interested in cooking and bakery.
“Statistics already show that China will be the fastest growing market for vegan products between now and 2020,” said Wu.
“And I hope more people will realize in the future that vegan cuisine can be as tasty and delicate as meaty meals. I’m working toward that.”
A winter vegan recipe recommended by Chef Adrian Wu
2 tablespoons of plain flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of water
1/2 can of dried tomatoes
15 pieces of sage
1 piece of onion
5 pieces of garlic
A little salt
A little black pepper
A little paprika
4 pieces of flat pasta
2 pieces of king oyster mushrooms
1. Stir fry the flour with olive oil, then mix it with water and set aside.
2. Put dried tomatoes, sage, sliced onion and sliced garlic into the wok and pan-fry until the aroma of the spices comes out.
3. Add salt, black pepper and paprika to item 1 and 2, and mix well with water in a mixer.
4. Cook the pasta and drain well.
5. Boil the pasta together with the sauce we have prepared until it’s drained.
6. Carve the king oyster mushrooms with cross patterns on surface; pan-fry the mushrooms with sage until they turn gold, sprinkle some salt as you like.
7. Put the mushrooms and sage on top of the pasta to garnish.