East vs West: Vegan Junk Food

For those who have been following my blog for a while now may have noticed the absence of a ‘vegan junk food in China’ post, despite me shamelessly telling you all to keep posted. Well, to be quite frank, there was not a great deal of junk food in China, or at least in Ningbo that I was aware of. As a huge snacker and with an ‘it all goes to my child-bearing hips’ sweet tooth, I was gravely concerned. I ended up being that girl that would snack on fruits and nuts, not because I wanted to prevent the likelihood of heart disease (although, on the odd occasion that was the reason) but out of sheer necessity.

And the militant 3 square meal consumers amongst you all might be wondering why I didn’t just eat more nourishing and satisfying meals? That’s a valid question (even if I did pose it myself).

The simple answer is that I was just a hungry gal. Rin, Fu and I would eat at Canteen 1- it was the cheapest of the 4 canteens on campus and there were more diverse vegan and vegetarian dishes available. Canteen 1 had, and still has a special place in my heart (but never my stomach!). We had a love-hate relationship with the place and the food. It was beyond basic, unsatisfying and kind of oily; yet day after day, meal upon meal, we would return. We were the losers that went there while the cool kids were in 3rd space. If we were to be typecast in a Mean Girls scenario, we’d be the weird ones that ate their peanut butter and jam sandwiches near the bins with the cleaner . Sorry Rin and Fu! 🤣 We were the losers that would eat dinner at 4.30pm!! We’d have to wait for the lovely ladies to bring the hot steaming dishes out and to start up the till.

Hence how essential snacking became. So for these ‘girl who cried vegan struggle’ reasons, I thought I’d do a junk food battle post, East vs West style.

The East: Less Sugar (just naturally occurring goodness, not the high fructose corn syrup kind).

If we choose to be pedantic and focus on the semantics,  (I love poetry) the term junk food need not exist in this context. Rather, it was merely snacking to fill the void of an insatiable appetite and hunger that canteen 1 food never ever filled. I snacked on lots of fruit, dried fruit, nuts and seeds. I was that kid that had tupperware in a backpack filled with healthy snacks! Believe me, as someone who loves junk food and sweet cavity-eroding gems, I didn’t even know who I was. I was that kid that would offer the class cherry tomatoes midway through a democratization lecture, choke on the pip of an apple and be the walking (and constantly) talking human brand of the campus snack shop. Previously the girl who would think it was absurd when someone brought an orange to the cinema- I became that person.

However, for all the condemnation and disapproval that someone that snacks healthily deserves, I did end up losing weight. I initially became leaner and lost body fat-although the copious amounts of white rice drenched in soy sauce then evened it out.

The West: Creative Concoctions

The West, particularly in London, serves up some delicious albeit diabetes-inducing vegan junk food. Don’t let the vegan lifestyle fool you; you can fall into the rabbit hole of vegan junk food heaven- your arteries and life insurance company won’t thank you. Paradoxically, to my delight everything can be veganised! Betty Crocker cake mixes are vegan! Co-Op does vegan custard doughnuts! There’s vegan ice-cream (Yorica Moments), vegan pizza  (Zizzi’s, Fed By Water), vegan churros (Club Mexicana). The list is endless but don’t the prices reflect it!

The East: Protein in Sweet Pastries?!

Once Fu, Rin and I discovered the snack shop off campus it was a game changer, but sadly a weight gainer. Mooncakes, red bean pastries and mung bean drinks do not sound tantalising, nor are they overloaded in sugar and preservatives that those with a Western palate are accustomed to. To be perfectly honest, they did not quite hit the note with my sweet tooth, but they certainly are higher in protein! As someone who goofily gets excited by macros and protein content, it is interesting to note that pastries in China (typically) have less fat and more protein! Red bean paste is a familiar addition to pastries in the East, and has been associated with slower aging, improved health and cancer prevention. So while in China you can’t have your cake and eat it too, feel welcome to fill up on red bean pastries!

In conclusion, junk food and snacking in the UK differs enormously to that in China. I’m glad to be back on home turf and possibly single-handily keeping vegan bakery shops in business (Cookies and Scream, you sure know how to make a mean brownie). But, at the same time, I do miss buying industrial sized bags of dried fruit. If anything, China ignited my unconditional love for banana chips!

Thanks for reading!

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