Meat-free in Hong Kong: City's best vegetarian and raw-food restaurants revealed
Have all those food scandals put you off eating meat? Fear not, vegetarian and raw cuisine has never been more exciting. Here are someold favourites and a few newcomers worth stepping out for
Text: Vanessa Yung, Bernice Chan, Charley Lanyon And Alan Yu
Tucked away on the first floor of what looks like a residential building, Branto has been serving authentic, purely vegetarian Indian fare for a decade, and it's a favourite among both Chinese and Indian diners.
Dahi puri (HK$43) is a popular Indian snack of deep-fried balls of dough filled with yogurt and spices. The special Indian thali (HK$99) is a complete meal consisting of rice, paratha and small pots of various dishes, including yogurt, cooked long beans, potatoes, yellow lentils and a spiced tomato soup.
Restaurant manager Revanth Komarla eats the food every day and the pav bhaji (HK$64) is his favourite. It comes with bread, and a gravy, which is made by mashing potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables together. Squeeze some lemon on top, mix in the onions and eat it with the bread.
Komarla also recommends eating Indian-style - with your right hand and no utensils. He says that mixes the food and makes it taste better. He says this goes back to a traditional belief that there are benevolent Indian gods in our hands, and when you eat with your hands, it's like receiving a blessing. Alan Yu
1/F 9 Lock Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2366 8171
Next month, IPC Foodlab is revamping its menu to highlight healthy, vegetarian and vegan dishes. The signature AbM mushroom bouillon (HK$98) features fragrant mushrooms from IPC's farm in Fanling in a broth that is said to boost immunity, while the beetroot penne (HK$98) is a vibrantly coloured dish seasoned with black pepper.
Also popular is the wheatgrass wild rice (HK$98) that uses rice, wild rice, zucchini, peas and parmesan with home-grown wheatgrass. Finish off with the lemon pie revisited (HK$68) and wheatgrass apple juice (HK$48).
The first IPC in Fanling opened in 2013, followed by a branch in Mid-Levels earlier this year. While not exclusively vegetarian, the restaurant has a strong focus on locally sourced ingredients and healthy eating created by Michelin one-star chef Jeremy Biasal. Bernice Chan
- 38A Caine Road, Mid-Levels, tel: 2810 6083
- G/F 26 On Lok Mun Street, Fanling, tel: 2676 6900
From its first outlet in SoHo, The Herbivores has expanded with another location in Eslite in Hysan Place. It shares the same ambience as the bookstore, which has a dark, calm atmosphere with lit candles in the evening.
The restaurant recently updated its menu. Mash & cheese (HK$68) is deep-fried balls of mashed potato with mixed cheese, topped with diced mango and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. We also liked the velvet kombu (HK$88), a light, refreshing salad of cabbage and marinated beetroot with mixed seaweed and a sesame dressing.
The crispy pumpkin tofu roll (HK$188) has a curious presentation with potato cake on the bottom, covered by potato fritters, then pumpkin purée wrapped in bean curd skin and topped with perfectly roasted okra.
For dessert, there's the Earl Grey chocolate mousse with caramelised pears (HK$78). It has a subtle hint of tea, and the richness is nicely cut by the pear cubes. A lighter option is the lemon tart in a glass (HK$58), with a delightful lemon curd decorated with meringue rolls and sweet dough. Bernice Chan
9/F Hysan Place, 500 Hennessy Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2613 2920
Like Branto, Khana Khazana is on the first floor of a building without much advertising or signage on the ground floor. It also specialises in authentic vegetarian dishes and promises a more upscale experience - the refined decor includes white linen tablecloths.
The medu vada (HK$58) look like small doughnuts made of lentils and rice. These are eaten as a snack, or dipped in sambar, a soup with vegetables and lentils. The idli (HK$50), which are small, white, steamed rice cakes, can also be dipped in the soup, or in coconut chutney. Paneer tikka (HK$88) are blocks of cottage cheese marinated with a special spice mix, then baked in the tandoor.
Restaurant manager Nitish Anand says they use a secret and unique blend of spices. The paneer tikka is a staple on the weekday lunch buffet, but when ordered separately, it's served on a sizzling pan with sliced red and yellow peppers, cucumbers, lettuce and lemon. The plain dosa (HK$58) is a 60cm-90cm long crispy crêpe-like monster filled with mashed potatoes. You break it and dip it in sambar or chutney. For take-out, the chef makes a more portable version - with the dosa folded into a small triangle. Alan Yu
1/F, 20 Luard Road, Wan Chai, tel: 8108 1070
Chinese cuisine has a long history of vegetarian cooking. The tradition originated in Buddhist monasteries where master chefs would prepare everything from basic daily fare to feasts in the model of the imperial court for the devoutly vegetarian monks.
Chinese vegetarian food is known for its use of tofu, gluten, mushrooms and fruit to create realistic faux meat dishes. Some chefs will go so far as to use sugar cane sticks in the place of bones, or construct lifelike "cooked chickens" from tofu.
A great place to sample this cuisine in a casual setting is Green Veggie, which opened in June in Sheung Wan. Relax in this island of tranquility on bustling Des Vouex Road and tuck into lamb skewers with peanut sauce, steamed chicken with red dates, or pork spare ribs with strawberry sauce, all excellent and made with no meat at all. Charley Lanyon
Room A-B, 1/F Finance Building, 254 Des Vouex Road Central, Sheung Wan, tel: 2771 3260
Natural Vegetarian Food Restaurant
Chinese vegetarian food need not be precise or painstaking, and there are plenty of delicious, cheap and filling options. Natural Vegetarian Food Restaurant is a great place to sample everyday vegetarian food.
Line up with the crowd of regulars at lunchtime for Cantonese vegetarian comfort food served cafeteria-style. Expect rich, saucy dishes with generous chunks of gluten, tofu and mushroom.
The set-up is bare bones, the service is friendly and the food is nourishing and dirt-cheap. There is a proper dinner menu with slightly more high-end dishes, but to get the best sense of the place and enjoy the neighbourhood vibe, lunch is the time to visit. Charley Lanyon
17-19 Sung Kit Street, Hung Hom, tel: 2319 1299
The raw food trend takes healthy eating to another level. It is an attempt to retain all the enzymes, vitamins and minerals which proponents say are killed by the heat during cooking. However, it is a lot more complicated than dishing out salad greens or puréed ingredients. It involves a great deal of preparation.
Hygiene is very important as the ingredients are not cooked. Nuts and seeds are soaked and germinated in order to activate their full benefits, while a dehydrator, which works at a low temperature, is used to transform textures without removing the nutrients from ingredients.
Anything But Salads
Arguably the first person to bring the raw food concept to Hong Kong, Calista Goh's Anything But Salads started two years ago as a catering company offering private cooks, meal deliveries and later, a range of healthy snacks sold online and in pop-up markets. She opened a raw cafe last month in an attempt to further popularise health food and make it more accessible.
The law graduate learnt about the basic concepts of raw food at high-end restaurant Saf in London and said that creativity is key to doing more than just a bowl of salad.
The probiotic coconut yogurt parfait (HK$75), layered with sprouted nuts and seeds, and dried fruits and the customer's choice of superfood powders, won't leave you missing your dairy as it is similar - if not better than - an indulgent Greek yogurt dessert.
One staple is their colourful carrot chow mien (HK$89) tossed in with a dressing made of apple cider vinegar, coconut sugar and tamari. Served with a creamy spirulina garlic-naise, their Mediterranean platter (HK$85) of four of their signature raw crackers is addictive. Vanessa Yung
14 Tai Ping Shan Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 6743 5000
Maya Cafe Mediterranean Lifestyle
Introduced to raw food by Chan Cudennec of Sol Wellness, chef Tina Barrat of Maya Cafe Mediterranean Lifestyle is convinced of the benefits of the raw food diet. With 40 per cent of the menu raw, Barrat is keen on expanding the selections, especially when the trend is picking up and more customers are requesting raw dishes.
Some of the existing raw dishes in the Mediterranean restaurant include zucchini pasta (HK$162) with meatless balls made with marinated and dehydrated mushrooms, walnuts and flaxseed.
The popular chocolate mousse (HK$30) is made from coconut cream, raw chocolate and coconut nectar, and her velvety chia seed pudding (HK$42) gets its attractive purple colour from mixed berries.
Barrett is experimenting with new dishes, which include gazpacho three ways and no-milk cheese, which is made from nuts. She's excited about the chicken main course she has come up with using dehydrated cauliflower in place of poultry.
Other raw food eateries include GreenWoods Raw Cafe in Tsim Sha Tsui and Nood Food in Central, while Grassroot Pantry in Sai Ying Pun and Mana! Fast Slow Food in Central both feature some raw food options on their menus. Vanessa Yung
5 Moon Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2529 3319
MORE VEGETARIAN OPTIONS
Chi Lin Vegetarian
Nan Lian Garden, 60 Fung Tak Road, Diamond Hill, tel: 3658 9388
12 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2873 3353
Isoya Japanese Vegetarian Restaurant
9/F, 83 Wan Chai Road, Wan Chai, tel: 5500 8812
Kung Tak Lam Shanghai Vegetarian Cuisine
- 10/F World Trade Centre, 280 Gloucester Road, Causeway Bay, tel: 2890 3127
- 7/F One Peking, 1 Peking Road, TST, tel: 2312 7800
- Shop 701, 7/F New Town Plaza Phase 1, 18 Sha Tin Centre Street, Sha Tin, tel: 2362 1911
10 Shelley Street, SoHo, Central, tel: 2810 9777
Miu Fat Buddhist Monastery
18 Castle Peak Road, Lam Tei, Tuen Mun, tel: 2461 8567
Po Lin Monastery
Ngong Ping Road, Ngong Ping, Lantau,tel: 2985 4736
Pure Veggie House
3/F Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Central, tel: 2525 0552
Queen of the East
25/F Circle Tower, 28 Tang Lung Street, Causeway Bay, tel: 2337 7733
Shop A6, Wah Hoi Mansion, 254-280 Electric Road, North Point, tel: 2881 7996
Room 3, Loft, Block B, Kwong Sang Hong Building, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai, tel: 2115 8880
10/F, 11 Stanley Street, Central, tel: 3902 3902