Whenever it’s Lent, I always find myself looking for special food that fits the season. One particular favorite is Jollibee’s limited edition tuna pie. Another is a fresh and crisply fried batch of homemade vegetable spring rolls. Must I also mention my mother’s amazing cheese-baked cauliflower?
My point is that during a time when one thing is forbidden is definitely the time to try something new.
As we trudge through weeks filled with no-meat Fridays, adventurous foodies have been going around experimenting on many delicious alternatives. We here at CHiNOY TV are also eager to share our recommendations!
Without further ado, here are some utterly scrumptious Chinese dishes for you to enjoy this Lent:
1. Sweet and Sour Fish (糖醋鱼)
Let’s start with something basic! Everyone knows sweet and sour pork, and maybe a couple of you have also tried some sweet and sour chicken; but for this Lenten season, the best choice obviously goes to this seafood classic! Mild, tangy, and fragrant — this dish is greatly enjoyed in casual meals or celebrations with family and friends.
2. Vegetable Dumplings (素煎饺)
Not only are potstickers some of the most satisfying treats on this planet, but they are also symbols of fortune! Dumplings are considered to be lucky in Chinese tradition because of their resemblance to ancient currency. While they are typically stuffed with a variety of juicy meats and seasonings, there are, of course, several vegetarian alternatives that are no less tasty to try.
3. Steamed Fish (清蒸鱼)
Here’s yet another classic and lucky Chinese dish! Steamed fish is often eaten during the Lunar New Year because the Chinese word for fish (鱼, yú) sounds exactly the same as the word for surplus (余, yú). In my experience, this is also a Chinese birthday party must-have. My personal favorite and recommendation is when the fish is dressed in light soy sauce and sesame oil, then topped with finely julienned ginger for that slight kick.
4. Hakaw (虾饺)
For dim sum lovers, we can’t recommend any siomai or char siu bao right now. However, if you haven’t sworn off the delights of seafood, then there is nothing stopping you from munching on this heavenly treat — we, for one, can never get enough of some crystal-skin hakaw!
5. Stir-Fried Tomatoes and Eggs (西红柿炒鸡蛋)
Looking for some Lenten-friendly breakfast options? Tomatoes mixed in with eggs are one of the most well-loved breakfast dishes in China — and for good reason, too! There’s just something wonderful about the harmony of sweet, sour, and savory flavors coming together to create this amazingly simple dish. It’s cheap, comforting, and perfectly balanced — really, as all things should be.
6. O-A-Tsian / Oyster Omelette (蚵仔煎)
Perhaps you’re looking for another eggy surprise! Popular among Chinese communities across Southeast Asia, o-a-tsian is a savory Hokkien dish that consists of small oysters that are first mixed into a starch-thickened batter, then pan-fried to perfection. Crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, oyster omelettes are truly irresistible. To avoid being tempted to eat meat, why not give this a shot?
7. Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans (干煸四季豆)
Let’s add some actual vegetables in the mix now, shall we? Those looking for an aromatic kick to the senses should definitely give this a chance. These green beans are first slowly roasted into a gorgeous char, then tossed around with some soy sauce, ginger, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, chili peppers, Shaoxing wine, and fermented mustard greens. The end result is a flavorful bomb that will explode in your mouth and blow your mind!
8. Di San Xian / Stir-Fried Eggplant, Potatoes, and Peppers (地三鲜)
Literally meaning the “three earthly bounties,” this renowned Shandong dish is composed of three main ingredients: eggplant, potatoes, and peppers — the most common vegetables found in Northern Chinese markets at any given time. As implied by its name, di san xian is essentially a transformation of simple rustic foods into a mouthwatering feast, drenching lightly fried vegetables into a rich and savory garlic sauce that will leave you wanting more.
9. Mapo Eggplant (麻婆茄子)
You’ve probably heard of mapo tofu, but have you ever heard of mapo eggplant? We think not. Though mapo dishes typically make use of a lot of ground meat, a vegetarian method of preparing this would be to use substitutes such as mushrooms. What’s important here is that you are able to taste the true essence of a mapo sauce: doubanjiang (a spicy fermented bean paste), Sichuan peppercorns, and a couple of aromatics. Add this all together into a plate of smooth and silky eggplant, then you’re good to go!
10. Vegetarian Chow Mein (素菜炒面)
What Chinese food list is complete without noodles? Here in the Philippines, we have our very own version of chow mein — pancit, a quintessentially delicious combination of the Filipino and Chinese cultures! The only difference with this specific version is that it shouldn’t contain any meat. But that doesn’t make it any less special — use the right sauces, mushrooms, and oil, then you’ll find yourself with a happy stomach.
Interested in more food you can eat during Lent? Check out our article on Chinese pastries to try right here!