Use an “I can’t eat this” card – Dining out tip

Before you go out of the country, make a few wallet-sized cards that list what you can and can’t eat in the native language(s) of the country you’re visiting.

I like to list what I’m able to eat on one side of the card… and list the foods I can’t have on the other. This makes it so the server and kitchen can’t easily mix them up.

This is especially helpful for vegetarian and vegans, people with religious dietary restrictions, and people with food allergies.

Undiscovered New York: Green NYC

You can’t go more than 10 feet lately without hearing about the burgeoning green movement. Whether its organic food, carbon footprints or green travel, it’s a word on the tip of everyone’s tongue. For travelers on the hunt for all things green, New York City is not exactly the first eco-destination you might conjure. Yet remarkably, the past 15 years have seen New York City dramatically cleaning up its act.

Although there’s still a long way to go, New York is more than ever a city that’s “all about the green.” From its increasingly bike-friendly streets and plentiful public transportation to bountiful farmer’s markets and eco-friendly businesses, it’s clear that New York’s residents are working hard to make the city a more green friendly place for locals and tourists alike.

Best of all, you don’t even need to work that hard to enjoy New York’s many green-friendly advantages. All you’ll need is a love of good food, a desire to get around as easily as possible and a healthy appreciation of nature. Ready to enjoy all things green in the Big Apple? Click below for Undiscovered New York’s roundup of the best Green NYC shopping, food and activities.
Grab a bike

There’s simply no way to describe the radical transformation that’s happened to biking in New York in the last 10 years. All of a sudden, bikes are everywhere – from the ubiquitous bike ownership among the city’s young and old, the increasing number of bike lanes on NYC streets and more and more bike-friendly activities.

Coming from out of town? Don’t worry, it’s easy for New York visitors to take advantage of all the biking fun. Cultural sites like Governor’s Island allow visitors to rent a cycle for the day, even giving away free hour rides each Friday. If you’re looking for more NYC bike info, check out the rental list over at Bike New York, where you can track down NYC cycle clubs, bike rentals and figure out some great local rides.

Head to the greenmarket
New Yorkers were already pretty snobby about their food before the word “organic” started to get thrown around. With the organic and local food trends in full swing, we’ve had further opportunity to gloat: New York is one of the best spots anywhere to get fresh, local produce, meat and even seafood.

One need only spend a day at one of the city’s many greenmarkets to enjoy the bounty: a cornucopia of fresh eggplant, locally grown chiles, fresh-baked organic chocolate chip cookies, and grass-fed beef are all on offer. Though Union Square is perhaps the best-known of New York’s nearly 50 greenmarkets, they can be found everywhere from the Bronx to the far reaches of Brooklyn. Check New York’s Council on the Environment website for more greenmarket info.

Shop and eat green
In recent years, New York has seen a healthy spurt of new retail stores open that cater to green purchasers. Yet it’s easy to forget that New York has hundreds of great thrift and vintage stores, offering some of the city’s best “green” shopping since long before “eco” was trendy.

Check out New York Magazine’s shopping pages or this list for some of the city’s best thrift and vintage clothing. If new stuff is more your thing, boutiques like Gomi NYC and Kaight specialize in sustainable, eco-friendly clothing. Bookworms, don’t feel left out: if you’re in the market for printed materials, why not save a few trees and check out one of New York’s massive variety of used book stores? Strand Books is among the city’s best.

After all that shopping, you’re probably going to be hungry. Don’t feel like cooking? Head to one of New York’s many restaurants that specialize in organic/locally grown ingredients. Although you’re likely to find green items on just about any NYC menu these days, there are several restaurants that specialize in “green cooking.” One spot is Chelsea’s The Green Table, known for offering some of the city’s freshest, most sustainable food. Meanwhile, downtown diners favor spots like Spring Street Natural, which has found favor among vegans, foodies and locavores alike.

Fight global-warming by eating chicken

For someone who is a sacrilegious beef-eating Hindu carnivore, I have many ‘official’ reasons to quit eating meat, but I love my steak and chicken-wings, so that’s not going to happen. (In my caste, we cannot even eat egg).

Which is why I was thrilled to read that eating chicken can help combat global warming drastically!

A recent story on Salon explains in a nutshell: the amount of energy and resources we invest in breeding animals for food, alongside naturally toxic excretions of those animals, is more responsible for global-warming than burning fossil fuels. However, poultry are the least polluting. (Gore, did you know this?).

The story throws in some shocking statistics:

  • “livestock accounts for 18 percent of global warming emissions worldwide, more than the entire transportation sector” — why is this not in Al Gore’s film?!
  • “cattle, bison, sheep and goats burp out a lot of methane that traps 23 times more heat per ton than carbon dioxide” — and we’ve been fretting about spraying deodorant?!
  • “the difference between a vegan diet and one that includes cheeseburgers is less than 2 tons of greenhouse gases a year — that’s about the equivalent of switching from a Camry to a Prius” — I wonder what Toyota would have to say about that.

With that in mind, eating beef is the worst; then comes cattle, sheep and goat; and then pork and dairy products are relatively less harmful. Pork and dairy hold the same place in the environment?!

Conclusion: if you want to change your diet to combat global-warming — eating chicken is the best thing you can do. Chickens don’t “burp” methane and they produce only one-tenth the methane of cattle waste.

Now who would have thought!

GADLING’S TAKE FIVE: Week of June 24

Some of these are still pretty recent posts that you SHOULD NOT have missed if you’ve been a good little Gadling reader checking in everyday. In the event you somehow slipped and missed a day or two here are five worthy of review.

5. Only in OZ: Irwin’s Whale Watching Boat:
Still feeling melancholy over the death of Steve Irwin? Don’t! Chances are he wouldn’t want you to be and if you find yourself heading to OZ soon this featured activity may be your chance to remember Steve and learn a lot about whales which he loved just as much as the famed crocs.

4. A Canadian in Beijing: Vegan Mandarin Language Survival Guide:

After reading this little language survival guide Ember whipped up, my head is full of useful new words to help out at the dinner table in China. I’m not vegan, but it never hurts to know.

3. Swimming with Manatees: Life in the Slow Zone:
When my friend invited me to swim with manatees the first time I laughed not really knowing what they were or thinking she was serious. After hearing how fun her trip was and this tale by Gadling guest blogger, Dolores Parker, I wish I were closer to Crystal River, FL to swim with them myself. If you’re searching for fun ways to hang with the family in Florida this one is sure to please all.

2. Traveling Tips from a Backpacking Geek:

No matter how prepared you think you are for your big trip ahead looking over some one else’s tips never hurts. Here are a few ideas from a backpacking geek on how to save digital photos and important documents from being lost forever.

1. Hilarious Hand-Written Airline Complaint:
In need of a good laugh? This has to be one of the funniest complaints I’ve ever seen in regards to that horrible seat next to the lavatory that some ‘poor soul’ gets stuck with on a completely packed flight. In this situation the poor individual decided to share the experience with the airlines in a laugh-out-loud hand-written complaint with pictures. A MUST READ.

A Canadian in Beijing: Vegan Mandarin Language Survival Guide

When I first arrived in China, I wrote a post entitled: “Vegan in China, Part 1.” It was pretty negative all around. Why? Because I was hungry! About half-way through my trip, I followed that post up with a piece about the presence of an active vegetarian and vegan society here in Beijing. I would consider that my “Vegan in China, Part 2” post, although it wasn’t titled as such. This, then, should be considered my “Part 3” post, as it’s now at a point where I’m posting to help the next traveller get through these food dilemmas rather than posting in the hopes that someone will help me!!

I’m on third base and I’m heading home.

(to my own kitchen! I can’t wait to do some full-scale cooking again!)

Because I have experienced the trials of getting my language skills to the point where I can successfully feed myself, this post includes the explanation of some necessary short phrases in Mandarin for a person who fits this description:

  • non-Chinese speaking
  • vegetarian or vegan
  • who is in a restaurant
  • that isn’t necessarily vegetarian
  • and staring at a menu
  • that isn’t written in English
  • and is nearly faint with hunger

Good luck!

The following sentences I have found to be very useful. I have written them out in both “pinyin” (their sounds) along with the tones (the numbers in brackets) for those who have some knowledge of Chinese pronunciation. They are followed by the actual characters and then the translation, all of which is set off in the boxes below.

Under each box, I have explained how to actually say these sentences. This isn’t official and I’m not a linguist (let’s state the obvious right off the top!) but these are common English words or close approximations which can help an English speaker find these sounds without much difficulty. At least, here’s hoping!

So, let’s start off with the basic greeting and ice breaker. This is good to say when the waiter or waitress approaches your table and looks at you expectantly. It’s both a greeting and a comment, and it’s very casual and so it will probably make them laugh or smile if they’re not completely overworked and miserable to begin with!

Pronunciation Approximation: Knee-how, woe doe kuai euh seuh le

Here “kuai” is like the sound of “kw” put with the word “eye,” also known as one of the casual words for the currency here in China. Also, “euh” is like the vowel sound of the word “wood” in English. Just take off the “w” and the “d” and that’s your sound. If that doesn’t work for you and you speak any French, then this sound is also the sound of the French letter “e.” Another tip is the tail end of the German word “adieu” but with the German pronunciation! Finally, these three words “euh seuh le” all rhyme. I left “le” as it stands in its pinyin form because almost everyone pronounces that one correctly on first sight!

Other options include: “Wo hen e” 我很饿! or “wo feichang e” 我非常饿! = “I’m very hungry” and “I’m extremely hungry,” respectively. Pronunciation Approximation: “woe hun euh” or “woe fay-chong euh.”

Next, we’ll move to the crux of the issue. You’ve just expressed that you’re really hungry but this isn’t going to be easy. This is a great place to also put the opening “I am a vegetarian” statement (see image that starts this blog.) It can either follow #2 or precede #2. The word “but” is “danshi” and can easily be removed at anytime. It’s just a filler here.

Pronunciation Approximation: Dan sheuh, woe e dee-are roe yeh boo cheuh

Here the “e” is just as it looks. It sounds just like the letter “e” in English as though you’re naming the letter in the alphabet.

Next, you need to acknowledge the fact that you’ve no idea what’s happening on the menu that has been set before you and you need the server’s help. I can teach you how to say “I don’t understand this” or “I can’t read Chinese,” but that’s just boring. Why not enlist their assistance in the process? You can wave your hand at the menu and/or close it altogether. Most people assume that foreigners can’t read Chinese anyway, and so I think it’s unnecessary to state the obvious if this is the case.

The following is a casual and friendly way to request their help ordering. Since they already know that you’re not a meat eater, they will now (ideally) only suggest vegetarian options! Feel free to repeat the statement above (#2) to reinforce your point.

Pronunciation Approximation: Knee gay woe tway gee-anne gee geuh bah

Don’t forget that “gee” is not a hard “g” but a soft “g.” This is the fifties word of “darn,” for more context! Also, If you’re still having trouble with that “euh” sound then here is another tip: this “geuh” is the beginning of “good” without the “d” at the end of it.

Now, here’s yet another point of clarity. Sometimes the server will respond to your request for their suggestions (above) with yet more questions about what you’re interested in, i.e. what flavours you’d like, whether you can eat hot foods, etc. If you don’t speak Chinese, this will all be fired at you with questioning eyes and it will only be responded to in return by your questioning eyes of complete confusion. Generally, if you don’t know what has been said to you, keep the doors open! This comment, below, encourages them to be more assertive in their suggestions to you and gets you closer to food.

Pronunciation Approximation: Jeuh yao may yo roe doe keuh yee

Here, “yao” rhymes with “mao,” as in the Chairman!

Now, much vegetarian food here in China contains eggs. In fact, it’s been really hard to find soups without egg in them, for example. Dumplings are often made with eggs, as well, even if they’re not described as such on the menu. So, if you’re vegan and you don’t want your vegetable soup to arrive with egg floating in it, then this next sentence is really vital.

Pronunciation Approximation: Woe yeh boo cheuh gee dan

Next, here is another phrase that is useful for the vegans out there! Now, it’s not exactly a lie. Technically, if you’ve been a vegan for a while then your body will stop producing lactase, the enzyme necessary to breakdown lactose which is found in milk products. Thus, eating lactose will result in a great big stomach ache and some might identify this response as a typical allergic reaction! (What’s more, lots of people are lactose intolerant these days and so it’s not so rare for restaurants to hear, even in China.)

I do find this explanation works a hell of a lot better than expressing that you choose to simply not consume dairy products. In the bubble tea line-up, you’ll be sure to get a few odd stares when you just say that you don’t drink milk. An allergy makes everyone more vigilant about protecting you and their livelihood. In fact, sometimes I even use the allergy angle in English-speaking countries…

Pronunciation Approximation: Woe dway knee-oh nigh jeuh pin goa min

By “nigh” I mean the word that rhymes with “eye!” I know it’s not a very common word, but it’s still in the dictionary! Also, “goa” is just like “boa,” as in the snake!

Finally, this is your last resort. When there’s no way to get any food because you have not been understood in the least and everyone looks lost and frustrated, saying the following phrase while also cupping your hands in a small bowl and simultaneously pointing to something white (or pointing at the bowls on someone else’s table!) will surely get you some white rice. Afterall, this is a staple food here!

Pronunciation Approximation: Gay woe e wawn bye fun

Here “wawn” rhymes with “yawn” and don’t forget that the “e” is just like the sound of the English letter “e” when you’re naming it off in the alphabet.


Alright, here lies the end of this quick-vegetarian-or-vegan-language-survival-in-a-restaurant lesson!

And, as I said in my last post, if all else fails then there are always “su baozi” (pronounced: sue bao zeuh). See this post for more information on this tasty restaurant replacement food!

But mostly, the possibilities are here and China has shown me that there is even more for me to eat in a restaurant (besides salad!) than in a typical North American restaurant. I have completely changed my tune from the Part 1 post; there’s so much out there for me to eat! My body is happy.

My official stance on the issue is this:

The visiting vegan or vegetarian should have no trouble in Beijing.

Oh, I guess you could also just print this off! Then, you can just show the server these phrases and the only reason for opening your mouth can be to put food inside it!