Monday, March 22, 2010

Hong Kong: home of mock meat & vegan yum cha

It's kind of a cruel twist of fate that I am blogging about the wonderful gluteny world of Chinese vegetarian food in Hong Kong now that I won't be able to eat any of it. But Toby and I met in Hong Kong and it's also the place where he spent most of his life, so of course I will always have a soft spot for the place, and the food is just another reason to love the place well for vegetarians who can eat gluten. We had vegetarian yum cha almost every day that we were there! Toby speaks Cantonese though and always did the ordering so I'm not entirely sure how hard it would be without him to ensure that everything is vegan. (Toby also said he is not too sure if the staff are 100% sure if the mock meat contains whey or egg white) It was a long time ago that I lived there but I managed ok, although I did resort to using the translations in that vegan passport a few times.

For a relatively small city, there are plenty of vegetarian restaurants and we ate at lots of different places but have decided to blog about our favourites.

When Toby and I used to live in Hong Kong, we used to a frequent this place called 佛有緣素菜館 (Fat Yau Yuen) which I referred to as the 23 place because that is how much their meal deal was, back in 2003, in HK dollars (roughly $3.30). Toby used to eat there twice every day and so when we returned to their new restaurant, the staff chatted with him excitedly.

It's a super cheap place and the new location (Level2, 10-12 Stone Nullah Lane, Wan Chai) doesn't even have a sign. It's situated next door to a butcher, and there are no English menus. However, there is a picture menu so you can point at the pictures to order, or possibly get toby to write out some instructions for you.

To give you an idea of how much we loved it, we went 3 times in the one week we were there.

My favourite dish hands down was the "pork" or as toby translates is actually called "roast suckling pig", it consisted of crispy gluten with an amazing BBQ type sauce

I couldn't resist eating my all time fav chinese dish radish cake or turnip cake again and again. At most meals we shared a plate of some sort of asian greens such as gai lan or chinese broccoli. I like to think that it helped to balance all of that deep fried goodness:

Tofu with black bean capsicum sauce over thick rice noodles was absolutely delicious:

I can't even remember what this dish was but I remember it being tangy and kind of sweet and sour:

Roast "duck" with fermented tofu sauce.

Shredded "duck" with rice noodles:

Another place that we went to is Kung Tak Lam. They have branches in Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui (where you can see the "million dollar harbour view" perfectly). It's kind of the opposite of the $23 place, it's an upmarket vegetarian restaurant. We went there twice with Toby's family. The first time we went to the branch in Causeway Bay (where I once lived), and we had:

Fried rice with seaweed and pine nuts, it was a dish that we used to have all the time, I was really looking forward to it, and it was ok but not quite as great as the hype that Toby and I build up in our heads.

soya bean fillet with pepper sauce, one of my faves.

Deep Fried "Fish" or yam, I can never really get into mock fish but everyone else seemed to enjoy this.

Ma Po Tofu, with just the right kick of chilli

For dessert we shared red bean pancakes, otherwise known as deep fried deliciousness. On the right crystal buns with contained chinese custard but weren't vegan.

The second time we went we had:
Shanghainese cold noodles with various sauces, we actually had this both times. I loved this dish and the idea of being able to choose how much and what you wanted to go with your noodles. The options included: chilli sauce, chilli oil, sweet sauce, soya sauce, vinegar, sesame sauce, crushed cashews, pickled beetroot, and capsicum. I always added all of the possibilities except for the chilli options but kept playing with the variations.

Shanghai fried noodles with tofu and vegies.

We had spring rolls and pan fried dumplings. Toby's dad thankfully shares my love of unhealthy deep fried dishes. These were my fav spring rolls in HK.

We also had this pretty looking dessert called Eight Treasures rice which consisted of sticky rice, red rice, red bean paste, lotus seeds, lotus and syrup with some sort of edible flowers. It was like nothing I have had before, so yummy.

We went to this place in causeway bay called Harmony Village (shop 1, 7-11 Irving st, Causeway Bay) with Toby's sister. It's a small cafe that appeared to be constantly busy.

Toby swears that these were fried massive vegie dumplings but I remembered them being more like curry puffs. That's what happens you when you wait too long to blog, but whatever they were they were deep fried and yummy.

Fried rice with yam

Deep Fried "chicken" with Chinese greens

Roasted "Duck" with pineapple and preserved ginger which tasted similar to a sweet and sour sauce. This was our favourite dish there.

After we went to got dessert in a small desert place. I got red bean soup with walnuts and toby got red bean soup, I love chinese desserts especially since lots of them are accidentally vegan and I do have a red bean obsession.

Our all time favourite yum cha place is a place called Three Virtues Vegetarian Restaurant﹕1/F, 395 King's Rd , North Point, we went there 3 times. The last time though we had all of my favourites like turnip cake, spring rolls, BBQ "pork" buns, coriander "prawn" dumplings and lots more. I felt like a kid in a candy store.

Toby introduced me to this dish for the first time and i was kicking myself that I hadn't tried it before, it was AMAZING! Stir-fried rice rolls with soy sauce or chung fan. The rice rolls were soft and super tasty and it comes with amazing peanut sauce and sweet sauce.

I tried turnip cake or law Bok Gow at almost every restaurant we went to but this restaurant certainly had the best that I have ever had, it was just oily enough, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside and was full of flavour.

Dim Sum order form, this might be a little difficult if you don't read Chinese.

Hong Kong is a crazy crowded place and it's a little too easy to get caught up in the world of non stop shopping and overwhelming crowds. I think the key to surviving it it going to fruit based places like Hui Lau Shan (They are called Creations in US):

Coco de Mer desert with fruits and Nata de Coco

mango sago with fresh mango juice and more fruit

There are generally have both english and chinese menus plus pictures.

The prettiest place that we visited and ate at was Nan Lian Garden (The extention of Chi Lin nunnery, 60 Fung Tak Rd, Diamond Hill.) The vegetarian restuarant Long Man Lau ( sits under a waterfall). There is a strict no photos rule but you can see the photos in the 32 reader reviews on There is a minimum charge of HKD 85 per head (about AU$12) and you must book in advance. This is Toby's favourite and the most vegan-safe place. Some pics from the nunnery:

HK also have lots of vegan shoes, I got a custom made pair of non leather brogue shoes made from this shop:
Toby's mum made us desert (soup) almost every day. My favourite is the mixed bean sweet soup, we generally had it for breakfast. Thanks again Angela! Steph, what would you call it?

(Kudos to Toby who looked up English name/address/reviews of restauranst and correct names of obscure ingredients like Coco de Mar.)

I miss you gluteny Hong Kong, you do rock!


  1. Everything looks so good! I'm particularly intrigued by the Eight Treasures dessert-y rice thing. It looks really yummy. I too share your love of deep fried yumminess, whenver we go out to eat I feel the urge for crispy oily crunch.

  2. Theresa, their Eight Treasures Rice is very different from the "main stream" one with lots of dried fruit. You can find the English recipes of Eight Treasures Rice if you google it. But not their special version though.

  3. *eats everything here*

    chee cheong fun is my favourite! i haven't had it in ages (and have been thinking about making it myself, because i have a gf recipe for it).

  4. I brought my pares to Kung Tak Lam last year. It was so fancy but the dim sum was so good (albeit more MSG than I could handle. It made me woozy.) Never had the chance to try the other places since they weren't fans of mock-anything.

    Where is this handmade shoe store? It sounds awesome!

  5. Oh how interesting! I always steer clear of asian foods firstly because my experiences of eating it havent been great and secondly, im always unsure about the ingredients.
    But wow, you have tasted so many different things, how lucky. And to have lived in Hong Kong must have been such a great experience. I have a friend studying in Bejing uni at the moment and although being home sick shes having the experience of a lifetime.
    Thanks for sharing :)


  6. Okay, this post is overwhelming in its deliciousness. I love red bean desserts too, and the seaweed in the fried race sound magnificent, and aaaah! I think I might have to make my next overseas trip Asia-oriented, before I comeback to Europe for Austria/Spain/etc...

    Are the turnip cakes ever likely to be non-gluteny and safe for you in a restaurant setting?

  7. Steph, do you know the name of the sweet soup pictured?

    inthezoo, it wasn't a handmade show store, they just did it since they didn't have my size, so I got lots of options, It was in causeway bar, in one of those shopping malls which toby thinks os ca;;ed ginza.

    Rose, we only ate at veg restaurants, which makes life a lot easier!

    Hannah, the food was awesome, well worth a trip IMO!

  8. great write up of hong kong - makes me long to visit - and I am glad you visited again before the gluten went out of your life - I am not into mock meat but still remember toby's radish cake and could just live on it - plus I love those garden photo - all sounds fascinating

  9. Who would have thought you could eat so well as a vegan in HK. When I used to frequent there with work with Qantas I wasn't vegan but I sure did eat well, but I only ever knew of Life Restaurant and Bar :) Thanks so much for this!

  10. That's only scratching the surface, there is so much more especially if you speak chinese or have someone with you who speaks chinese.

    I've been to and enjoyed life cafe, but it's quite expensive!