I always used to think Chinese were good cooks - and they may be, at least as far as ordinary food is concerned. But when it comes to vegetarian cooking they are hopeless. All Chinese monks and nuns are strictly vegetarian as are many more serious lay people and many nominal Chinese Buddhists will eat vegetarian food on special religious days. But if you are expecting a fresh bright salad, a tasty veggie pie or baked stuffed tomatoes you will be very disappointed. Chinese vegetarian cooking consists of vegetables that have been boiled to oblivion, rubbery dried mushrooms, oodles of oil, tons of MSG and strangest of all, soya bean paste that has been prepared to look like meat. It is quite amazing how realistic they are able to make what they call 'mock' fried chicken, 'mock' shrimps, 'mock' sliced duck and 'mock' abalone. But while it all looks just like the real thing it is tasteless (and hence all the MSG). It also points to a rather strange attitude to vegetarianism. Why decide not to eat meat and then dress up all your food so that it look like meat? I used to joke to my friends that if I ever disrobed I was going to start a restaurant where all the food was made of meat but prepared so as to look like vegetables.