As a Chinese American, born and raised in Southern California, you can only imagine my excitement of visiting China for the first time. I grew up learning the culture from my parents, hearing historical tales from my Chinese tutor, and being proud of my heritage. With almost all of my immediate family in Taiwan, which I have visited countless times, I was finally going to see the mainland my grandfather once called home.
After six months of planning and waiting, I, along with 17 Chapman University classmates and three professors were finally on our way across the Pacific Ocean to attend the 12 day US-China Student Summit program. As part of our travel course, we were given the option to create a blog and the freedom to write anything relevant to our experiences in China. While I thought of themes to maintain throughout the whole trip, I came to realize one of my biggest concerns was food. As a vegetarian, would I be able to sustain almost two weeks in a country where being vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free is not as trendy and accepted as in America? With that question in mind, I decided to embrace the stereotype of being the Asian who takes pictures of all the food and put my DSLR to good use.
We arrived in Beijing Capital International Airport after a 12 hour flight from San Francisco. A long wait at customs and a tram ride through the enormous Terminal 3, the second largest airport terminal in the world and the sixth largest building in the world by area (welcome to China) later, we were finally here. Because we had left during finals week, I had not slept for the past 36 hours. The naps on the airplane were short and sporadic. Regardless of the jetlag, my roommate (and fellow vegetarian) and I were excited and ready to explore the big city.
Armed with maps and earnest confidence, Van and I set out to find a promising vegetarian restaurant by the name of King’s Joy we had read about in the tourist map we picked up at the airport. After being disappointed by the lack of vegetarian meals on the plane, we were ready to go the extra mile for some good food. A long walk and subway ride later, we walked out of the dimly lit station located behind a dark alleyway. Little did we know, our adventure had only just begun.
We walked around the building once before we found the entrance to King’s Joy. Upon shyly venturing through the mysterious pathway and into the beautiful restaurant, we quickly realized how underdressed we were. Despite being clad in jeans and sweatshirts and not having a reservation, we were graciously greeted and asked to enjoy some hot tea while we waited for a table.
After a minute of nervous giggles and a dozen “omg’s” later, we decided to stay. It was our first night in China and we were going to feast! After swiping through the menu presented to us on a shiny iPad, we settled on the least expensive set meal. At 399 RMB each, it still cost us an arm and a leg, but we committed with no regrets.10 dishes later, we were more than satisfied. The dishes were stellar, the presentation beautiful, and the ambiance romantic. Upon further research when I got home, I learned that King’s Joy was founded by Taiwan-born entrepreneur David Yin, who holds a degree in nutrition from Fu Jen University in Taipei. Besides delivering wonderful flavors and an excellent fine dining experience, Mr. Yin aspires to promote a bigger message: that vegetarianism can be a lifestyle choice that is healthy both for our bodies and for the environment. Since opening in 2012, King’s Joy has gained positive media coverage and has served celebrities, government officials, and other influential figures in Beijing. The award-winning restaurant has become known as one of Beijing’s best vegetarian restaurants.The setting of King’s Joy is also as impressive as the food. Designed by renowned Chinese-American architect Yung Ho Chang, the restaurant’s exterior resembles a traditional siheyuan (四合院) or courtyard house while the modern interior uses natural elements like wood and stone with white décor, reflecting the clean lifestyle King’s Joy hopes to portray. In the back of the restaurant, a small grove of bamboo trees offers a unique garden experience that surrounds diners in the peaceful atmosphere of nature.By the time we got back to the hotel, it was nearly midnight. Although we were exhausted, we felt accomplished. We had made the most out of our first day in Beijing and we couldn’t wait for what the rest of our trip had in store for us. As I drifted off to sleep, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to travel and to experience life’s joy.
King’s Joy (京兆尹)
Address: 2 Wudaoying Hutong, Yonghegong, Dongcheng District (東城區 – 雍和宮五道營胡同2號)
Phone Number: 8404 9191