Guide to Chinese Prepared Tofu and Other Vegetarian Fake Meat

I’m mostly vegetarian, so one of the best parts about living in China is the tofu.

However, I hardly ever eat that silky white slimy stuff that you buy in boxes in American grocery stores. Tofu options are on every menu (and are sadly sometimes accompanied by scraps of actual meat) and you can buy an array of prepared tofu that advertise as fake fish, chicken, etc. And at actual (usually Buddhist) vegetarian restaurants here, the vegetarian fake meats are extraordinary. Those are often not tofu, but rather seitan (AKA pure gluten!). My sister adores the mock duck, for instance, and that is usually seitan.

In addition to tofu, Chinese cuisine has a ton of soy-based sauces. Overall, I’m less fond of them than the tofu.

Anyway, so here’s what I have learned about all this delightful stuff:

  • Tofu is called 豆腐 (dòufu) and comes from soy beans (黄豆, huáng dòu).
  • Seitan is wheat gluten and is called 面筋 (miàn jīn)

Prepared tofu. A brand I have bought from larger grocery chains is 白玉 (báiyù). Found in the refrigerated section, often near prepared meats. They have a few flavors including 素啤酒肉片 (sù píjiǔ ròupiàn), which is sweet and can add flavor to an entire dish. Here’s a link to all Baiyu’s tofu-related products.

I’ve barely scratched the surface here on all the tofu that needs describing… the tofu that comes in flat sheets and can be cut with scissors. There is 腐竹 (fǔzhú) — is that soy? I’ll need to add some pics to this post and fill in a lot more when I find the time!

And if you want to explore non-vegetarian meat alternatives, there is an awesome thing called 鱼豆腐 (yú dòufu) which is not really fish or tofu, but like a kind of fish leftovers hot dog thing shaped into lovely cubes perfect for putting on skewers to barbecue or fry up with veggies. We enjoy tossing with Old Bay seasoning and frying. I have also made a decent pot pie with it.

Switching from Marvelon to Mercilon

Mercilon_PackshotOk, so I’m making the switch from Marvelon to Mercilon. It should be ok, since it’s the same contents just at a lower dosage. As I said previously, they both contain ethinylestradiol and desogestrel but Marvelon has 30 micrograms and Mercilon has 20 micrograms. I talked to my sister and she seems to remember that this was the pill she was on for awhile without major problems — and she’s more sensitive than I am to headaches, bloating, and stuff.

I messed up the switch though. When starting this new pill, I should have skipped the “off” week. These packs contain 21 pills and after you complete a pack, you have 7 days where you don’t take anything. However, if you are starting a new pill you should go ahead and start the new pill, so there is no gap between the pills. Now that I’ve started Mercilon essentially 7 days late, I have to follow the instructions for 7 missed pills and wait 7 more days until I’m fully protected from getting pregnant. Here’s what I found online:

What do I do if I miss a pill?
If you forget to take your pill at your usual time, take it as soon as you remember. A missed pill is one that is 24 hours or more late. If you miss a pill, follow the instructions below.

One pill missed
If you forget to take ONE pill, or start your new pack one day late, you should take the pill you missed as soon as possible, even if this means taking two pills at the same time. Then continue taking the rest of the pack as normal. You will still be protected against pregnancy and you don’t need to use extra contraception.

Two or more pills missed

If you forget to take TWO or more pills, or start your new pack two or more days late, you won’t be protected against pregnancy. You should take the last pill you missed as soon as possible, even if this means taking two pills at the same time. Leave out the other missed ones. Then continue to take your pills, one every day, as normal. You should either not have sex, or use an extra barrier method of contraception, eg condoms, for the next seven days.

If there are fewer than seven pills left in your pack after your last missed pill, you should finish the pack and then start a new pack straight away without a break. This means skipping your pill-free week.

Source: NetDoctor

I wish there wasn’t such a significant difference in price. These pills cost 68 rmb, I think, and before I was paying less than 30 rmb for a pack of Marvelon. Oh well. It’s the fucking evil pharmacy companies taking advantage of a corner on the market here.

Another Birth Control Pill: Yasmin

YasminToday I stopped by another pharmacy to ask for Marvelon and the pharmacist was eager to sell me on Yasmin. Also a Bayer product and even more expensive than Mercilon at over 100rmb per box (i.e. per month). What gives?

Anyway, another google search and here’s what I found. It’s a combination pill with drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol. And some disturbing headlines like this: Bayer sued in Germany over contraceptive pill after health scares (December 2015).

Name: Yasmin
Chinese: 优思明
Pinyin: Yōu sī míng
Some more info in Chinese:

I think I’ll pass on this one.

Update: Disappearing Marvelon

mercilonIt seems like the once ubiquitous birth control pill Marvelon is disappearing from Chinese pharmacies and instead they are stocking Mercilon, which the pharmacists insist are the same (一样呀!).

However, despite this very authoritative (ahem!) advice a quick google search reveals that although it is still a combination pill, the dosage is different! They both contain ethinylestradiol and desogestrel but Marvelon has 30 micrograms and Mercilon has 20 micrograms.

Also, it just happens to cost about three times the price! I think I was paying just over 20rmb per box for Marvelon and this is over 60rmb per box. Gah!

Name: Mercilon
Chinese: 美意避
Pinyin: Měiyìbì
Company: Bayer
Hong Kong website:

Indispensible Chinese Apps: WeChat, Dianping, Sogou, …

Found my phone! (Stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby.)

Found my phone! (Stuck on the couch with a sleeping baby.)

Well I just misplaced my iphone and turned my apartment upside down looking for it. My phone is virtually attached to my body, but somehow it went missing and the panic that ensued now seems pretty ridiculous. But really everything I need is on it. Anyway, I found the phone and noticed an email notifying me of a new comment on this blog. I replied to the comment but then seeing the front page reminded me that I haven’t posted here in ages and it’s hopelessly out of date. My tag for “social media” hardly makes sense. There’s still no facebook or twitter here behind the Great Firewall, but there is a rich life of apps that are China-specific. There are almost too many to mention.

  • WeChat (微信 Weixin) is your group chat, your newsletters from businesses, your facebookesque wall to share links/photos with friends, and it is your virtual wallet. This last feature is crazy cool. Of course it can do as you might expect — payments for online purchases, but I just used my phone to buy a milkshake yesterday! You bring up a barcode on your phone and the shop scans and processes it like a credit card payment. You get an instant confirmation message on WeChat. Also, it was a 59 RMB milkshake which makes it a stupid purchase.
  • Dianping is your Yelp but also insanely good for coupons and can do delivery. They take WeChat payments.
  • Sogou is your Google maps, because Google is fucked here. If you try to rely on Google maps the coordinates are always off just enough to be totally confusing. And that’s only if you get Google to load. Most Google products are all strangled by the GFW.
  • is maybe not as big as Taobao but it works better for me. It takes WeChat payments (woohoo!) but also has vendors that will accept cash on delivery! And some products if ordered before 11am will arrive THE SAME DAY. Crazy.

So anyway I’m sure I was looking for my phone to use one of these apps. But now I’ve forgotten what I was doing…