Vegetarian-friendly Dim Sum?

I’ve not had dim sum in years (at least 11) and, for whatever reason, am currently craving steamed dumplings and such.

It looks like Lunasia has some good veg options, as does DTF: any other places we should consider?

Also, what’s the noise level like at Lunasia in Pasadena?

You realize that very few dim sum items will be vegetarian in the strictest sense, right?

Even if an item does not contain meat, it most likely will have some sort of meat by-product (oil, lard, stock or soup base from meat/seafoods).

So if that’s a concern you’re going to be limited to things like vegetarian dumplings and Jell-O for dessert (even something benign like Chinese broccoli (or gai lan) will not be strictly vegetarian as the oyster sauce, even if fake, will still be diluted with chicken stock most of the time).

And if you’re limited to vegetarian dumplings and Chrysanthemum Jelly, why bother?


Unless it’s different in Chinese restaurants, Jello-O isn’t usually vegetarian :meat_on_bone: either :slight_smile:

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Fine Garden Vegetarian Restaurant on Las Tunas in San Gabriel serves vegetarian versions of most of the common dim sum dishes and more.


Because they are delicious.

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Yes, but why go to dim sum for that?

They are. Chinese dim sum jelly desserts use agar agar.

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Thank you! Have you eaten there - any standouts on the menu (dim sum or otherwise)?

Good to know. Thx!

Fine Garden is fine for what it is.

To me, the food there (dim sum or otherwise) tastes vegetarian. Despite their best efforts to replicate the original (non-vegetarian) iteration.


there’s always room for ground up horse hooves.

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if one is pursuing vegetarianism on moral grounds, it seems wrong to me to want to simulate the experience of doing something immoral. so i kinda respect what i call “no apologies” vegetarian - like most of the menu at happy family.

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What does that mean?

Hi. Long time lurker (been reading this board for over a year but finally decided to register to post here). Been vegetarian for 15 years.

As @ipsedixit mentioned, most traditional dim sum places will not be vegetarian friendly due to using animal-based ingredients like oyster sauce, chicken broth, etc. If you’re dining out with an omni group (with both veg and non-veg people), Lunasia would be the better option. Noise level at Lunasia Pasadena can get loud, especially if you are sitting on the upper level.

However, be warned that the different vegetarian dim sum at Lunasia are pretty much the same; they all have a shredded carrot/mushroom/cabbage/noodle filling in various wrappers (vegetarian steamed dumplings, veggie bean curd wrap, veggie rice noodle roll…all the same filling.)

Fine Garden is not mind-blowing, it’s fine and will scratch your vegetarian dim sum itch. But it relies on a lot of mock meats.


Or just go down and dirty at Mama Lu’s.

Chicken powder is probably the biggest worry, and at some (many) places, it will be ubiquitous (vs. regular MSG).
Lunasia has well-marked vegetarian items, some may have (non-vegetarian) oyster sauce etc., so ask. Lunasia has had some ebb and flow of quality over the years. I think the Pasadena one was not great (relative to the one on Atlantic) the time or two I went to that one, but it’s been a while.

I go to King Hua quite a bit, they have the Chaozhou style ‘fen guo’ which are marked as vegetarian, and which I’ve always been told are vegetarian. They also have a taro paste item with tofu skin on the outside, also claimed to be vegetarian. The last time I was at Sea Harbour (ages ago), I was told there was chicken powder in everything. IIRC, Elite should have one or two items as well.

In general, some of the sweet items are likely to be vegetarian, if not vegan (lotus buns, honeycomb cake, etc.). Most places have told me that they do not use lard (for cost reasons) in the egg tart crust, so I’m guessing usually veg shortening or maybe butter if you’re lucky? Most places will also be willing to prepare noodle dishes to order, so if you’re going along with friends / family and just want to not starve, you might want to get them to do a stir-fried noodle dish vegetarian.

Mustard greens or Chinese broccoli w/o the oyster sauce should be Ok, I think most places poach in water rather than stock, though correct me if I’m wrong. Plain chang fen (cheung fun) will be Ok, however, the sweetened soy sauce that comes with it could contain non-vegetarian ingredients like chicken powder or oyster sauce.

One of the challenges, esp. on weekends, is that it tends to be super busy, so you’re not likely to get super helpful answers. Going on the weekday and talking to the manager directly may be a better bet if you want to get better answers. My limited understanding is that some Chinese Buddhist vegetarians eat oysters, so that may be one reason that you’ll see dishes with (real, not vegetarian) oyster sauce specifically labeled as “vegetarian”.

I live near Fine Garden and go there occasionally, but I think their dim sum is not very good, even by vegetarian dim sum standards. It’s admittedly been years, but I remember Vegetarian Dim Sum House in NY being decent.


It means the stuff there tastes like they are made from seitan, bean curd, tofu skin, or gluten balls/puffs. Which they are.


Welcome to the Board!


Thank you!

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Interesting. To me, it’s a about the texture, more than the flavor itself. I prefer seitan or tofu skin, etc. to meat texture, so it’s not a problem, and I have no issues with using meat broth to cook the food.

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