Best Vegan Food in China Town, NYC: Bodhi Kosher

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place in the city.

It was hard to find a vegan restaurant in China Town. Just kidding… it was hard picking one of the dozens of restaurants all claiming to have the “best vegan food in New York City.”

When we lived in Shanghai, China, the concept of veganism was not something that was understood by local people. Although it was easy to avoid animal products by ordering veggie side dishes in local restaurants, there was only one exclusively vegan expat restaurant. So even though we knew that New York is extremely vegan-friendly, we had no idea that China Town was in on the hype.

After a quick search on Google we picked a restaurant based on distance from where we were. It was raining and it would have taken an hour to go through all the options… so we walking for two minutes and found ourselves at the end of a long line outside of Buddha Bodai, supposedly the best vegan restaurant in the city.

Isaac used his Mandarin skills to eves-drop on the staff who mentioned a 45 minute waiting list. We considered waiting since the place had such great reviews, but we ended up finding another place nearby and it didn’t have a line. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant was barely a block away from Buddha Bodai.

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant, because I was excited to browse the menu without having to check what I could and couldn’t eat. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Everything in the restaurant was, and this place also claimed to be the best all-vegan restaurant in the city. Plus, another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place.

The list of items on the menu was overwhelming. There was sushi, dim sum, all sorts of traditional dishes made out with mock meat. Like pulled pork, duck and a meat platter all made of mushrooms, stain and other plant-based ingredients that I couldn’t identify.

Unfortunately we came about three hours after dim sum happy hour, which makes every meal a dollar cheaper! Not that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is expensive… we spent just over $35 on a giant meat plate, a sushi platter, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings and some dim sum. We even got fortune cookies with the bill – which is not something that happens in China by the way.

We definitely hope to go back and sample some more of their delicious menu. However there’s many other vegan places we still need to eat at in China Town. One of the best things about New York is that you could eat a different restaurant every day and it would still take you a lifetime to try it all!

What’s your favorite restaurant in New York? Leave a comment below!

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Wuxi Cherry Blossom Festival: Where People Outnumber Flowers

The Chinese Cherry Blossom Festival features Japanese Sakura and hordes or people!

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Wuxi takes place from March 20th until April 20th and welcomes visitors from all over the country. The stars of the show are the 30,000+ cherry trees, some of which were gifts from Japan. The location where the festival is held, known as the Turtle Head Isle Scenic Spot, happens to be an exciting place to visit year-round but it truly comes alive in spring.

We chose to visit at the very beginning of the festival on March 25th. The trip was preceded by a week of intense rainfall so I expected a blooming wonderland and was disappointed to only find a small percentage of flowering trees. The park was full of trees right on the verge of blooming. Their near-bursting buds were almost torturous to look at. We were tempted to spend the night and visit the following day but the crazy crowds ended up changing our minds.

Even though we arrived about an hour after the park opened, it was packed. If you’ve been to China before then I don’t need to tell you about the horrors of crowded Chinese tourist sites. People push, spit and take photos non-stop of literally everything. I had to wait for ages just to take a selfie in front of a blooming tree. I was there less than a minute before a rude man had the audacity to tell me to move!

It got worse on the boat… we had to wait in line to get on the boat, then were shoved and crowded on the boat and I won’t even mention the line coming back from the island. Other than that, the boat-ride was great and free! What we originally thought was an overpriced entry ticket turned out to be completely worth it.

For 150 RMB (about $20) we got entry to the park filled with temples, beautiful scenic spots and a round-trip boat to an island on one of China’s largest lakes. If I hadn’t looked at a map before the trip, I would have assumed that we were on a calm ocean. The water was clear and stretched as far as the eye could see.

Before coming to the Turtle Head Isle, we read up on the place on Trip Advisor. One of the comments mentioned that the place was “a little fake”. On a previous trip to Wuxi we had visited a large film set park, so we knew all about fake Chinese structures. That’s why I can guarantee you that this park’s monuments, temples and beautiful bridges are far from fake. They just weren’t built thousands of years ago, since the park is just 30 years old. “Look at how fake that is” became a running joke.

Maybe the visitors who left that comment didn’t visit the colorful Taoist temple where visitors prayed, monks preformed their duties and guards tutted at us as we tried to sneak photos of the largest wooden statue I have ever seen! Just outside the temple was a typical Buddhist candle-burning station that transported us back to Mount Takao in Japan. It was vibrant and breathtaking and like totally not fake. *smirk*

As the title of this post indicated, the con of the day was the masses of people who kept stepping on me or sticking their phones in my face to take photos. But the pro was definitely the food. Another Trip Advisor reviewer that we ended up mocking on the trip mentioned lack of food in the area. They must have visited during off-season because I have never seen a wider selection of Chinese food, with the exception of Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter.

Vendors selling at least ten different traditional street foods can be found approximately every 500 meters. There is a huge vendor area right near the entrance to the park where they sell literally every type of Chinese street food that you can imagine. Tofu (stinky and regular), roast lamb, sushi, dumplings, hot pot, chicken feet, fried rice – you name it, they had it. All of the prices are mostly around 15 RMB ($2) which is only slightly inflated and completely reasonable for the quality.

There were vendors all over the park, but we were the most impressed with the “food court” on the island. We found the spot by following what sounded like the grunts of men in combat. They turned out to be two guys beating nuts with large wooden hammers to make a delicious crunchy dessert. It was the perfect advertisement that we couldn’t resist. Needless to say, the box we bought to take home never made it off the train.

All in all, it was a fun day: as beautiful and delicious as it was crowded! If I could get a do-over, I’d visit a week or two later when everything is in full bloom. Wuxi is just a short train ride from Shanghai and worth a visit if you have the time to explore. It also happens to be really close to Suzhou’s famous ancient water town, but try not to mention Suzhou while you’re in Wuxi or vice versa – they is some rivalry there. It’s no wonder since both are perfect for a day trip and definitely worth a visit!