China is on the fast track to catch up to the west in many areas, however one where they prevail is in healthy, healing food. For me, traveling vegan in China was oh-so-easy.
A few days into my visit, I realized that I felt very, very good, which is saying a lot because I eat well and feel great as a rule, but this was even more sublime.
What could it be? After a few weeks of eating lots of fresh fruits, rice, vegetables and tofu, I isolated two ingredients that showed up often on my plate there, yet rarely at home.
The first was the rice. At home I eat only brown rice, but it was nowhere to be found in China. I must say the white rice at almost every meal in China left me feeling light and full of energy.
The second ingredient with the most impact was the mushrooms. The way that they prepare mushrooms was heavenly.
Mushrooms of all sizes, shapes and flavors prepared alone or with other vegetables show up at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Fresh salads full of greens, sprouts, beans and all manner of cooked and raw mushrooms propelled me through many a morning feeling full of energy.
Prior to my trip I printed out a list of important phrases in Mandarin characters, especially “I am vegan.” I traveled on many short flights in China. Even on flights less than two hours there was a hot meal served.
To my delight on the first flight, from Beijing to Chengdu, I showed the flight attendant my Mandarin printout of “I am vegan” when she stopped at my seat to serve a meal of chicken or pork. She read it, beamed a huge smile and motioned that she would be right back.
I had not ordered a special meal and did not even know that there would be a meal. She came back with a delicious entrée of delicately cooked mushrooms over rice.
I could see that flying was going to be fun and delicious and I had the same experience on all six of my flights and at many restaurants and hotels. My goal once home was to learn to prepare some savory mushroom dishes.
When I got back, I went to the Malibu Farmers’ Market and for the first time noticed that there was a booth dedicated entirely to mushrooms. I bought three kinds, all packed in small brown bags for storing up to a week in the refrigerator. Here is how I prepared them….
I simmered whole-wheat angel hair pasta for six minutes, but allowing the al dente pasta to finish cooking in the last minute in the sauce to absorb maximum flavor.
While the pasta is cooking, chop the large porcini mushroom and sauté in olive oil, adding a Tablespoonful of Earth Balance vegan spread toward the end.
Drain the cooked angel hair pasta and stir into the porcini in the pan and cook for a minute or two. Add a touch of salt and pepper. I like to keep chopped lightly salted cashews on hand to use as vegan “Parmesan” topping.
Shiitakes really add an interesting texture to salads. Great sliced and sautéed in olive oil and added to a bed of greens or tossed in a French vinaigrette, shiitake mushrooms are lovely chopped and added to grain salads.
These chew like oysters, thus their name. They are oyster-beige in color and are flat-topped with thin, white clustered stems. Oyster mushrooms are delicious sautéed in olive oil.
Now, if I could just master that bamboo and mushroom soup that I enjoyed and that made me sleep so peacefully all night in Tibet!
Sherry Brooks is a healthy, happy and trim “Frugalista” living the lean and green life near Malibu in sunny southern California. Follow Sherry on Twitter