Tuesday, 30 August 2011

las vegan nirvana iii

you'll be happy you did!

It's been ages between visits to Las Vegan Nirvana for me; in fact, I suspect I've not had a meal there since it changed hands last year. So it was with delight that Emilly and I meandered over there on a recent weekend. The weather was lovely and we walked east from Carlton through to Collingwood, and by the time we arrived at Las Vegan we were quite hungry.

Despite brunch still being available, we both went for some delicious lunch options (as well as some freshly squeezed orange juice, which was slightly tart but in a good way).

satay wrap thing

I went the tofu + tempeh satay wrap, mostly because I really wanted some tempeh and satay is always my favourite. This was pretty much exactly what I wanted, with delicious tempeh and soft tofu and some fresh bean shoots and lashings of satay sauce. (can I say lashings to refer to satay sauce?)

the greatest plate

Emilly went for the open salad sandwich, which came out on the loveliest plate. Emilly really enjoyed this. It was light and fresh and filled with her favourite type of olive (dried and marinated), as well as eggplant, avocado, and tomato; but was completely taken by the plate it was served on and the mug she was given for her water; she wanted to try and work out a way to take them both home with her!

Good delicious times all around!

I also picked up a massive slice of brownie, for later nommening. (It was delicious)

And I was recognised, thanks to my picture on my blog, and thanked for making someone's conversion to veganism a little easier. Which I like to hear! Not for the me bits, I mean, for the community bits. I love the idea that by creating this little vego Melbourne community people are actually making connections and making their way. It's exciting! So hello to Bonnie!

previous visits: one; eleven hundred.

recent reviews: where's the beef april and july; vicki vegan; zuckerbaby; danni.

Las Vegan
22 Smith Street

Monday, 22 August 2011

planet vegmel's 2nd birthday: that recipe seems very familiar...

September 14th sees the two-year anniversary of Planet VegMel, the useful and delightful way to read the foodie blogs of veg*ns from around Melbourne. In that time we've grown to 44 contributing blogs, covering all sorts of veg interests around Melbourne. We've also got a facebook page which, no pressure, you should feel free to like, and which is sometimes updated with links and new things that might not make it onto a blog post, such as the fact that there is now a mobile VegMel app!

To celebrate the Planet's two year anniversary, I am proud to announce the 'That Recipe Seems Very Familiar...' blog event. This blog event was suggested by Michael of Where's the Beef, and entails using the recipe (or recipes, don't let me restrict you) of a Melbourne vego blogger, and then blogging about it. Leave a comment on this post with a link to your remix, and on the 14th I will make a post with a round up of the original recipes and the remixes/attempts.

As part of the birthday celebrations, there will also be a Planet VegMel 2nd anniversary birthday picnic potluck at Edinburgh Gardens. Check out the facebook event for more details! Non-bloggers are very welcome to come along.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

invita at the queen vic markets

Recently I ended up loitering around the Queen Vic Markets, so it seemed like a nice time to revisit Invita and see what was veganly on offer.

oatie slice for afterbreakfasts

This oatie made a great second breakfast, though I ended up having to share it with Danni as it was massive. The only problem was how long it took the coffees to come out (about a million years).

76 Therry Street
In the Queen Vic Markets (next to the organic produce section)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

pumpkin + tofu risotto

For the first time in three months, could this be...A RECIPE?! I'm not even sure I remember how to do this.

there's tofu and pumpkin in there somewhere

pumpkin and tofu risotto

300g firm tofu
2 cups arborio rice
half a cup of cashew nuts
some sundried tomatoes
a handful of baby spinach
500g(ish) pumpkin (i used jap but butternut is also okay)
1 brown onion
however much dried oregano, basil rosemary and marjoram takes your fancy
a whole lot of vegan chicken stock (massels you're my hero)
a little paprika
a bottle of red wine (you will be drinking some of this red wine, not pouring it all into the pot)

dice the tofu into cubes of about 1.5cm. put these cubes into a bowl, and throw in some of the red wine with a dash or three of paprika and rosemary, and stir to combine. put the tofu aside to soak it all in.

slice the onion, and skin and dice the pumpkin, and throw it all into a pot with some oil. let this fry for a bit, then add some herbs and maybe some more paprika and the cashews, then the rice, a cup of wine, and some stock. let it simmer and stir it, in the way of all risottos. at this point, fire up a fry pan and bring some oil up to heat, then throw in the tofu. stir this occasionally, until it starts to brown on most sides; then add it to the risotto, and keep adding that stock. add some more wine if you like. now is a good time to add the sundried tomatoes, too, chopped into little pieces. keep adding stock until it reaches that lovely risotto consistency, then throw in the spinach, let it wilt in, and you're done! serve with something delicious. the risotto seen here was served with an avocado and apple salad, and some rosemary bread from coles.

Monday, 15 August 2011

china summary: getting by

turtle dragon!

Getting around Shanghai and Hong Kong was super exciting. I had a lot of great eating, and a lot of great yelling in Mandarin, and just generally a pretty great time. For the most part I ate at vegetarian restaurants, where the only concern was whether or not it contained egg or dairy, and this was usually pretty easy to suss out.

On one occasion I had cause to eat at a meat-serving restaurant, where nobody spoke English. Despite the wide choice of vego restaurants to visit, with their english-subtitled menus where pointing could take place, this meal did highlight how convenient it was that I speak Mandarin, and I was comforted when our server used the magic word (素) to describe what she was recommending.

Hong Kong was a little English-speaking, though I did have to use my terrible canto skills to get by at some points. After two weeks adventuring through Shanghai and Hong Kong having to speak either Mandarin or Cantonese every day, I don't know how someone who didn't speak any Mandarin or Cantonese would fare. I was definitely glad I can read Chinese characters, because often there was no English to be had. This also made reading train maps in Shanghai a lot easier, though there were sometimes subtitles there, too.

Speaking of the train maps: the trains in Shanghai and in Hong Kong are pretty great. Easy to use and easy to get around, and cheap. If I did it again I'd seriously consider a top up card for Shanghai, due to the frequency with which the ticket machines broke or were unavailable. The stations themselves are massive, and many of the entrances are not great for people with mobility issues, or with sight issues.

The only food backup I really relied on was the corn on the cob you can get from stalls as you wander by. I had seen stalls selling you tiao/yao chao guai one morning, on my way to a temple; however on my return they had packed up and I was so disappointed.

Using Happy Cow was mostly fine, though a few of the details were out of date. I didn't really do much research beforehand into what restaurants would be good, I kind of just went for it. I had one bad restaurant experience, at the Jade Buddha restaurant, where despite the restaurant only being half full we were unable to be seated, and the wait staff refused to even catch my eye, so we left. Also I can confirm that the restaurant at Jing'an Temple has indeed closed, much to our chagrin.

Please note that everyone smokes, and most places allow smoking indoors. And many places are filled with stairs.

A summary of my Shanghai and Hong Kong posts:
i: godly vegetarian [功德林素菜馆], shanghai
ii: song yue lou [松月楼], shanghai
iii: vegetarian lifestyle, shanghai
iv: new age veggie at the super brand mall [新素代餐厅- 正大店], shanghai
v: the yangtze langham hotel, shanghai
vi: annamaya, shanghai
vii: three virtues vegetarian, hong kong
viii: long man lou - chi lin vegetarian [龍門樓 - 志蓮素齋], hong kong
ix: gaia veggie shop, hong kong

I only wish I had eaten more noodles!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

hong kong iii: gaia veggie shop

Despite having a Visa debit card which I had used just fine as a credit card all over Shanghai and Hong Kong, my hotel was unable to take an imprint of it and instead unexpectedly took a huge chunk of my cash as a security. As a result, by the time I hit dinner on my second day, I was running short of cash and reluctant to withdraw more. This is what led me to the Gaia Veggie Shop when I was in the area (visiting the flower market on instructions from Nan).

soup and porks

There is a review on Happy Cow that suggests that single diners be careful not to over order. I wish I had headed this advice. Pictured above is the pork noodle soup I ordered. It was super amazingly delicious, I was so happy to eat this. The mock pork was beautifully flavoured and delightfully crumbed, and the noodle soup had a hint of sweetness and I ate as much of it as I could. Towards the end, my Hokkien chicken finally came out (not pictured). It was okay, but there was no way I could eat more than a slice or two.

Gaia Veggie is a Cantonese Buddhist restaurant. There were no English speaking staff on the night I was there, but the menu is in Chinese with English subtitles and also has some handy pictures. It's a mostly vegan menu.

I loved my meal, and the service was fast though perfunctory, and I heard someone get in trouble for seating me next to the kitchen. The only problem I had was the tea and shoots which were given to me as I was seated, and were in fact secretly not free (10HKD).

Gaia Veggie Shop at the Pioneer Centre
Shop 135, 3/F
Pioneer Centre
750 Nathan Road

Get there on the MTR, Prince Edward Station (Not sure which exit, I actually walked up there from my hotel). Near the streets with the Ladies Market and the Electronics Market.

Accepts credit cards (min HK200).

hong kong ii: long man lou

Prevented from accessing Twitter in China, it wasn't until I was on the bus from HK airport that I was able to ask for any advice on where I should go. K was super insistent that I go visit Chi Lin Nunnery and the restaurant there, which is 100% Buddhist Vegetarian, and situated beneath a little waterfall.

golden tone

Long Man Lou is inside the Nan Lian Garden, which is next to the Chi Lin Nunnery. I got up early and went for a wander through the garden, checking out all the pretty things and visiting the little exhibitions situation here and there throughout the garden. There is even a little rookery there!

I had been hoping for an early lunch, but alas it was not to be. The restaurant opens at 12 and not a minute before.

the foooods at chi lin

I ended up going for the four dishes banquet, which looked like a whole lot more than four dishes. I was worried about the excessive mushroom component but it was totally amazing. Service was lovely and the venue was very pretty, with the waterfall and things.

The menu is in Chinese with English subtitles, and a few of the staff speak English. There are technically no photos but I snuck this one so I could show you how lovely the food looks!

And it's such a lovely garden! Definitely visit the gardens and the nunnery even if you don't have time to visit the restaurant.

K's review.

Long Man Lou - Chi Lin Vegetarian [ 龍門樓 - 志蓮素齋 ]
Nan Lian Garden
60 Fung Tak Road
Diamond Hill

Get there on the MTR, Diamond Hill Station, exit C2. You have to walk the winding paths of the garden to get there, it's about a ten minute walk through the garden but it's nice and flat. Acceps credit card. Long Man Lou has a 85HKD minimum spend, which is easy to meet. My meal cost 88HKD.

Friday, 12 August 2011

china vi: annamaya, shanghai

I missed one of my Shanghai noms!

C and I ventured out to the French Quarter to visit the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre, a tiny little private museum. The museum is a little confusing to find, as it is located in the bottom of an apartment complex, but it is totally worth the visit. After we finished up there we were hungry and it was hot outside, and we didn't want to have to trek too far. Located just on the opposite side of the train station from us was Annamaya, a macrobiotic Japanese restaurant.

This place is adorable. It is tiny, with mismatching everything and a little hand written menu in Japanese and English. Vegan items are clearly marked, and there are many of them.

I went for the tofu steak, which is served with miscellaneous salads, sadly including one of my least favourite vegetables. The steak itself was delicious, though, and served with a really lovely vegan mayonnaise.

C had the curry of the day, which when I sampled it was also tasty.

Diners have the option of selecting directly from the menu, or choosing one of the set menus (which go salad-main-drink or salad-main-drink-soup).

There's lots of Buddhist and Ayurvedic literature available.

3 Taojiang Lu
near Hengshan Lu

Get there on line ten of the metro (Shanghai Library stop - 上海图书馆) or line one (Changshu Road stop - 常熟路). Two little steps up into the shop, the tables are close together and mine was wobbly. The toilet is out the back and is Japanese style (ie, has a seat warmer and a bidet and plays music) but is a little difficult to get to if you have accessibility issues.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

hong kong i: late night takeaway snack from three virtues vegetarian restaurant

My flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong was delayed for two hours, putting me in HK much later than I thought I'd get there. As a result, by the time I checked in to my hotel and oriented myself, it was late and I was hungry. Fortunately, marked on the map provided by the hotel was the nearby Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant, with handy late night takeaway window.

late night snack

I know this picture looks unappealing! I promise it was a perfectly serviceable late night snack, ordered by me in Cantonese and eaten in my room with a bunch of grapes picked up from a nearby street stall. I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself!

Three Virtues also has a sit-down restaurant four floors up, but I was a bit too restless to give it a go.

Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant
Shop D 4/F, JD Mall,
233-239 Nathan Rd

at Bowring St, Jordan MTR Exit C1; accepts CC. accessible via an escalator and a lift. the takeaway counter is on the bottom floor.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

china v: drunk in the langham

One warm night two weeks ago, C and I went for a walk over to the Bund, checking out the lovely view. We tried to find the cocktail bar in the Peninsula Hotel, which the Lonely Planet said was Shanghai's first, but to no avail. Finally, tired and hungry and warm and a bit grumpy, we decided to get a taxi the two kilometres back to the hotel. Getting a taxi was easy. Then the taxi driver yelled at me that we were going such a short distance. Then we sort of got lost. Then, driving down the middle of a road (literally, straddling two lanes), the taxi driver and I got into a yelling match and didn't notice the bus heading straight for us (the only evidence I have of this bus' existence is that C told me about it later).

This was a really exciting experience for me because all the yelling was done in Mandarin. This was a real turning point for me during our trip to Shanghai (and happened quite early on, I have not been blogging in order, sorry!).

We finally made it back to our hotel and, determined as we were to have cocktails, we availed ourselves of the bar in the hotel.


I know everyone makes fun of JD in Scrubs when he orders his appletinis, and I don't know how much alcohol they have, but this lycheetini was epic. I ended up with two of them because it was so delicious, and it was totally worth it.

Sadly there is no food to be had in the bar, though there were free nibblies (and free apertifs, which, surprise, were not vegan in the least), and we headed back up to our room and then C had to take charge and order us some room service.

drunken noodles

It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this how happy I was to drunkenly eat noodles in my hotel room. Room service was very accommodating, letting us make all the mods required to make greasy, wheaty, saucy noodles for a late night vegan consumption. It was basically the only thing we really could eat, but it was good and it was exactly what I wanted. A bit expensive, comparatively, but that is no real surprise either.

The hotel was pretty, too! I totally recommend staying there, it's central and I liked it.

Langham Yangtze Boutique Hotel
740 Hankou Road

Right next to People's Park


Wednesday, 3 August 2011

china iv: new age veggie - super brand mall [ 新素代餐厅 ] Shanghai

at sunset

Across the river in Pudong, the very picturesque tall buildings of Shanghai can be found: the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Centre, and the Jinmao Tower. Towards the end of our stay we ventured across to this side of the river, hoping to get a closer look at the Oriental Pearl Tower, and an opportunity to go high up in the sky. We did manage to find ourselves 91 stories high, in a bar at the Park Hyatt (which doesn't even start until the 87th floor). However before we got that far, we found New Age Veggie, located at the Super Brand Mall in Pudong.

exactly what i wanted

There was a lot to pick from at New Age Veggie, and I wanted to eat all of it. It was hard to decide, but in the end we went with the pulled noodles and pork in soup; seafood curry with vegetables; saffron chicken rice; and salted chicken things (not its real name).

Probably my favourite of these dishes was the pulled noodles with pork. The broth had this lovely flavour and the noodles were excellent, just perfectly cooked. I actually ended up eating most of this, both because it was super delicious and because it was a bit too spicy for C. New Age Veggie is very Sichuan influenced, so a lot of the dishes have quite a beautiful chilli bite to them. I think that this noodle dish was an excellent example of it.

the spread at new age veggie salted chicken things

The seafood curry with vegetables was a perfectly serviceable and not too rich curry, complete with tofu cut and coloured to look like one side of a king prawn (awesome); the saffron rice was very understated but a perfect aid to mopping up the curry. Finally towards the end the salted chicken came out. Not only is it battered mock-chicken, but also capsicum. This was, as advertised, quite salty, and not really my thing, but C enjoyed them.

After we had paid the bill and were leaving, we dallied by the sweets counter. There had been a little menu sitting on our table during dinner, and C had perused it, interested. But New Age Veggie does use dairy, so we were unsure. Still, we hovered, and one of the wait staff came across to us. When I asked, she pointed to the black forrest cake. She was adamant that it was free of all dairy, so on that advice, we took it back to the hotel with us.

black forrest cake at new age veggie

Certainly it didn't make me sick, and my body reacts quite dramatically in the presence of dairy (as it proved three days later after a coffee at Starbucks in Hong Kong), and it didn't after eating this moist and creamy cake, so I am calling it definitely vegan despite appearances and wishing I could have another. This cake was lovely, though it was apparently the only vegan sweet in the window.

All in all, a most excellent experience at New Age Veggie. After I absconded to HK, C went back for lunch without me and reported that the pancakes with pork was good, and like everything else we'd eaten there it was kind of spicy.

The menu is in Chinese with English subtitles, and has several pictures. The staff don't speak English at all. No egg, but some items have dairy so you have to ask.

Accepts credit cards, accessible via lift in the mall, wide apart tables and an area just inside the door with no steps. You can call for service via a remote that sits on the table (it has buttons for water, order, and cheque).

New Age Veggie - Super Brand Mall
5F - 20A/B
Super Brand Mall
168 Lujiazui Xi Lu

Take Metro Line Two to Liujiazui Station ( 陆家嘴站)

新素代餐厅- 正大店

Monday, 1 August 2011

china iii: vegetarian lifestyle, shanghai

I swear, there are more than just half a dozen vego restaurants in Shanghai. In fact, Happy Cow lists 26! (Ignore the fact it say 31, it doubles up on some of them) Despite this, not only did we end up dining twice at Godly and Song Yue Lou, we ended up dining twice at Vegetarian Lifestyle in Luwan. Again, we totally had good reasons for this.

Using the directions provided by Happy Cow was excellent for the first visit. Happy Cow notes that it's down a little alley that says 'Las Vegas KTV Club,' off to one side of Songshan Lv. We were lucky to get the last free table on a busy night, and we were quickly seated and my bag was bike chained to my chair. I know that makes it sound like a dodgy restaurant but it's really not.

We started with some genma cha, and then began ordering things. First was the veggies wrapped in beancurd skin (definitely one of my favourite things). We also ordered a 'Thai style' noodle soup, as well as a mushroom dish with nuts that looked like it might be similar to Utopia's houtou mushrooms, some dumplings, and a dish intriguingly listed in english as 'chao amaranth veggies' (this is not what it said in Chinese on the menu).

some noodles at vegetarian lifestyle

Aside from the beancurd skin dish, everything else was kind of bland. The amaranth veggies grew on me but was not especially flavoursome; the mushroom dish was okay but nothing exciting; and the dumplings were bland and chewy. The beancurd skin though was very excellent.

The presentation was good and the service was fine, though, and we saw the potential there so we gave it a second try.

nom nom noodles

We tried a different sort of tofu wrapped veggies; some cha noodles, a soy fish dish, and some crab meat, because C had been so taken by the crab at Godly and we wanted to compare.

here fishy fishy fishy

The fish came out last and I regretted it, because it was the best. The mock-fishy-flesh was tender and delicious and I lamented that I was too full to fit it all into my belly, though I tried my best. Look at that little fishy shape! Full points for presentation and deliciousness.

tofu skin + vegie rolls

The tofu skin was good, as were the noodles. The noodles had that graininess that indicates it's been dry fried with some curry powder, which is my favourite. (who am I kidding - all noodles are my favourites, but especially the ones that remind me of home) We tried to compare and contrast the crab meat with Godly's, but to be honest it was hard. This one was definitely more gingery than the Godly's one, and I think I liked it a little better, but I'd have to sit down with them both and compare them side by side, a hardship I hope to put myself through one day.

crab meat

I ordered some xiao long bao, but inexplicably this came to us as a takeaway at the end of the meal. Sadly here is where my Mandarin failed me, as apparently I don't understand the word for takeaway? I was too full to try to eat it in the restaurant anyway, so I took it away with me, then completely failed to eat it later. Xiao long bao doesn't heat up very well even if you try to steam it with the hotel kettle, who knew? So I cannot tell you how their xiao long bao is. Damn it.

Some of the waitstaff speak a little English, and most of the menu items are in English and Chinese (and there are some pictures in the menu). But take a Chinese speaker with you if you want to do more than point at the menu items. (One who understands '带走' when they hear it? I don't even know who I am.) Little step up to get into the restaurant, widely spaced tables for Shanghai. Accepts credit card, does not accept tips.

Vegetarian Lifestyle - Luwan
77 Songshan Road

Get there on line one on the Metro, South Huangpi Road Station [黄陂南路]