Once, I used to be a damn fine pescetarian. I was a poor uni student and didn’t buy much meat, so gave it up for a bit. Then I got diagnosed with IBS and had to abstain from it for weeks at a time. However, I’ve always loved vegetables. Even as a kid. I feel guilty that I don’t do my body enough favours by eating just vegetarian fare, especially as I feel so good after eating it, digestion-wise.
This was what compelled me to try out a very modest looking establishment by the name of Vina Vegetarian Restaurant one day as I walked up a main road in Newtown, Sydney. The once strict vegetarian T was keen, as was my host C who is currently a practising vegetarian. When you first enter, a unit displaying some Asian vegetarian groceries is visible for inspection and purchase. C thought this was pretty cool, and I must concur.
The three of us sat down to enjoy some complimentary tea, and we studied the menu. We all chose entrées and mains. A lovely old fellow came out and presented us with bean sprouts. I am mad about bean sprouts! T had mock BBQ pork buns, C had crispy fried vegetables and I had crispy fried tofu. I loved mine best – it had this delicious shredded dried stuff on it that tasted very much like chicken, and sesame. I swear the dipping sauce tasted like fish sauce (or patis as we call it in Filipino/Tagalog) but Vina is pretty strict about such things. I must confess however that the crispy xui cao I persuaded all three of us to share did not live up to expectations.
For mains, we all had rice noodle soups – T the mock beef noodle soup, and C and I both the same: bamboo rice noodle soup with crispy veggie chicken. Gosh, I love bamboo shoots – they are delicious and the texture is just so appealing to the tongue, and the serving was very generous! The chicken tasted more like chicken skin, and resembled it in texture, but it soaked up the coriander and chilli laden broth very well.
Despite the sparse décor, there were still some nice touches: I liked the painted flowers on one part of the wall, and the chopstick envelopes that also happened to have instructions on how to use the dining implements. The service was friendly and attentive. I felt like the three of us dined like kings for very little cash. The menu claims that it is strictly vegan, with the exception of dessert. I’d personally recommend that one doesn’t dine here thinking that this place will serve vegetarian versions of meat or fish, but rather as a place that serves tasty and varied Vietnamese vegetarian fare. None of us tried any on the night, but you can also have salads, dry noodles and fried rice dishes too.
The crispy fried tofu sounds most excellent. I went to Bodhi in the city a couple weeks back; very excellent vegetarian food, it was strict Buddhist, no garlic, onions and something else but I can’t remember. I thought I would miss their flavours but they definitely made up for it with other herbs and spices!
Oh wow, no onions or garlic! Come to think of it, this Vietnamese food didn’t seem to taste much of garlic or onions and I think it caters to Buddhists too. I know it’s not really in your area, but I highly recommend trying it out. Their noodle soups are to die-for. All those bamboo shoots, om nom nom! It’s definitely a place that deserves more attention, and patronage. Let me know if you ever go.
Ar cool! I miss those mock meat dishes. Can hardly find a good one here. And did I say I love fried tofu…. join me on my once a week meatless adventure 🙂
@Penny I think your cookbook challenge, and your meatless challenge are excellent ideas – have been following these keenly on your blog! I definitely need to eat more vegies. We should use our foodie powers to try and hunt out some restaurants in Melb with good mock meat offerings! Only place I can think of is The White Lotus in West Melbourne, but after having barely survived a few shifts there, I am loathe to go back. The owner is a horrible man, though the food is popular with vegetarians.
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