Monthly Archives: September 2010

Bombay Spice: Healthy and Fresh Vegan Indian Food in Phoenix

It’s rare to find a restaurant that improves over time, but Indian bistro Bombay Spice Grill and Wine made a great “third or fourth impression” on us recently.

Bombay Spice Grill and Wine

On our first visit to Bombay Spice about two years ago, they were still working out the kinks. This was at the Glendale Rd. location, which has since closed – leaving only the restaurant at Tatum and Shea in front of the Paradise Valley Whole Foods. During that first visit, they served us chicken instead of a vegetarian item, the samosas were cold inside and the curry was bland. We made one or two more unremarkable visits after, but haven’t been back in ages due to our love of Udupi. We recently noticed that they have an entire vegan menu online, and thought we should give them another try just as a reward for catering to vegans. We were pleasantly surprised by an outstanding meal.

The main difference between Bombay Spice and a run-of-the-mill Indian restaurant is that the food isn’t greasy. Everything tastes fresh and comparatively light, dramatically reducing the typical after-effects of eating spicy Indian food. They also offer plenty of clearly-marked gluten-free options on the menu.

With a whole vegan menu to pick from, decisions on what to order were tough! I initially questioned why the vegetable samosas were not on the vegan menu. The waitress and chef could not think of any ingredients that weren’t vegan, so they assumed it was an oversight and we ordered them.

Bombay Spice vegetable samosas

At Bombay Spice, the samosas are baked, not fried, but they tasted just as good as less healthy veg samosas. The tamarind sauce was great, and they offer extra spices in salt shakers on the table.

My husband decided to order a few “tapas” instead of a full meal. He selected the seared tofu, vegetable paratha and lentil cakes, which ended up being more than a meal.

Bombay Spice seared tofu

Bombay Spice vegetable paratha

Bombay Spice lentil cakes

My favorite was the vegetable paratha, but all of them were great. I suspect the white goo on the lentil cakes may have been yogurt though, so ask for it to be left off before you order it.

One of the unique aspects of Bombay Spice is that you get the option to order two entrée items as a plate, bowl, roti taco, lettuce wrap or side. I ordered a rice bowl with lentils and spicy veggie curry.

Bombay Spice lentils and spicy veg curry

It tasted as gorgeous as it looks. The lentils were lightly spiced with cumin, while the vegetable curry was hot and full of a wide variety of fresh vegetables. I also liked that they offered brown rice instead of just starchy white basmati rice. The piece of papadum down the middle was a nice touch as well.

Bombay Spice also features decent $6 glasses of wine for those who chose to indulge. And to top it off, they offer vegan mango sorbet for dessert — if you have any room left after the meal. We didn’t!

Bombay Spice may not fit the traditional Indian restaurant mold, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint – especially for vegans. It’s great for people new to Indian food, and also for anyone who wants a healthy dining experience with lots of spice.

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No Vortex for Vegans in Sedona

I was hoping to avoid ever having to write a negative post about a vegan restaurant in Arizona. However, my recent experience at ChocolaTree Café in Sedona left me with no choice.

ChocolaTree Vegetarian Restaurant

With the demise of D’lish, the only other 100% vegetarian restaurant in Sedona, former raw turned vegan restaurant ChocolaTree became our focus for a day trip out of Phoenix.

The menu online looked promising enough, with a variety of standard vegan food options plus some interesting looking desserts. We arrived at about 2:00 p.m. on a Saturday, well past lunch hour, and found a line at the order counter of about six people. It was pretty clear from watching the not-so-streamlined order process that we’d be in for a bit of a wait. The counter person told the people in front of us it would be about 15-20 minute for any cooked food. Okay, no problem, we’re patient types. When it was our time to order, we selected a raw appetizer since we were hungry, a raw veggie sandwich and a cooked veggie burger, plus two deserts.

The small dining area inside was full, so we went to the garden in the back, which was nicely shaded even if the rickety patio tables/chairs were less than comfortable. It was pleasant enough, but the guy serenading his dining companions with folksy acoustic guitar tunes didn’t provide the type of peaceful ambiance I was after. Our next warning signal that our experience at ChocolaTree wasn’t going to go well came in the form of a seminar taking place on the ground next to us on fasting and cleansing. Aside from not wanting to hear about the importance of “poop” while I’m waiting for my meal, the more they talked about not eating, the hungrier I got. From looking around at the other tables full of people with no food, it felt like the entire restaurant had decided that fasting was the way to go that day.

From what we could tell, there was one person serving all the food, and she was stressed. She brought free appetizers to everyone else in the garden to apologize for the wait, but completely ignored us. We watched as various people got up and went inside to complain, came back with desert before lunch, etc. and then we eventually started to see some food come out. Forty-five minutes later, our raw appetizer of Thai Spring Rolls emerged.

ChocolaTree Thai Spring Rolls

Truth be told, they weren’t bad, but then again, we were starving by that point. The coconut-curry wrap was interesting and different from anything I’ve had before, but the massive amount of sprouts with a few other veggies inside the wrap left me cold (and still hungry). The sprouted nut dipping sauce was intensely garlicky, but palatable.

I lost track of how long it took for our lunch entrees to emerge, but it was probably another 15 minutes. My husband stuck with the safe option of a veggie sandwich.

ChocolaTree veggie sandwich

As you can tell from the picture, sprouts must be on sale in Sedona. There was nothing interesting or unique about this sandwich, other than it being vegan, and I suppose the $9 price tag for $1.50 worth of veggies is worth a comment. The sprouted grain bread was decent enough though.

My choice was the veggie burger.

ChocolaTree veggie burger

That thin red layer at the bottom of all those sprouts and lettuce is the veggie burger. It didn’t taste bad, and it was definitely unique, but all I could think of was “where’s the beef” while I rapidly consumed it.  It seemed to be beet-based, but the sandwich also had a tomato blend on it which added to the flavor. I certainly wouldn’t drive to Sedona for it again, but it was at least creative.

By this time (about 1.5 to 2 hours later), we just wanted to get the heck out of town, so my husband went inside to ask for our desserts to go. This wasn’t a problem, because the desserts we ordered were pre-packed. When we got home, we started eating our slices of double chocolate ganache cake and coconut cream pie. Both tasted horrible. To quote the menu, these deserts were supposed to be “pure vegan nourishment homemade with natural sweeteners.” But, to add insult to injury, we looked at the ingredients listed on the to-go containers and found that both contained honey. Seriously? They weren’t even vegan! Sorry, no pictures. They went straight into the trash. Later, I found a review of ChocolaTree’s chocolate online that asked what I thought was a very relevant question: “It’s not supposed to taste like ass, is it?”

After having so many good vegan dining experiences around the world, going back to a 1972 stereotype of what a vegan is supposed to eat (i.e. sprouts) was an incredible disappointment, especially in Sedona, “town of enlightenment.” I’ll always give a restaurant an initial pass on poor quality service, but given the total bill for our meal was over $50 and the dessert wasn’t vegan, I just can’t recommend going there and will certainly never go back unless someone can convince me that I’m wrong about this place. Other folks have written positive reviews of ChocolaTree, so maybe I just caught them on a bad day. But clearly there has to be some place good for vegans to eat in Sedona. I just haven’t found it yet. I welcome any feedback on other places to try in town.

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Vegan Food Adventures in Singapore: Part Four

This is the fourth (and last) part in a series of posts on the vegan and vegetarian food I found during a recent trip to Singapore. See parts onetwo and three for more information on the restaurants I visited.

After two intense Southeast Asian dinners in a row, I wanted something a little mellower for lunch the next day. I decided to revisit a place that I had tried on my last trip to Singapore – Original Sin, a Western-style vegetarian Mediterranean restaurant at the ex-Pat enclave called Holland Village (Blk 43 #01-62 Jalan Merah Saga Holland Village, Chip Bee Gardens).

Original Sin vegetarian restaurant in Singapore

While the menu is very solid for vegetarians, it’s pretty limited for vegans. We started with the Mezze plate, which included small portions of hummus, baba ganoush, falafels, pita bread and a delicious dip called Koresh – a pumpkin and carrot infused spread with caraway and fennel seed. The platter also included tzatziki and feta, but they were easily avoidable. All of the dips were delicious, and I should have ordered the large platter instead of the appetizer size!

For my entrée, I ordered a pasta dish that I can’t recall the name of (and it isn’t on the online menu).

Original Sin vegan pasta

It was prepared with a light olive oil infused with garlic and chili pepper (okay, so maybe I just can’t do “mellow” when something spicy is on the menu!), plus included a variety of fresh veggies including tomatoes, spinach and edamame. It was good, but I thought the dish was a little heavy handed with the garlic and chili.  It actually upset my stomach more than the Thai and Indian food did!

My dining-mates ordered an interesting mix of vegetarian entrees, including the lasagna, supremo pizza, and the Absolut pasta.

Original Sin supremo pizza

Original Sin Absolut pasta

Out of them all, I was most jealous of the pizza – it looked beautiful. Too bad they haven’t discovered Daiya vegan cheese substitute in Singapore yet!

As much as it was a nice setting and good food, I don’t think I’ll go out of my way to go back to Original Sin if I make it to Singapore again. It’s great for vegetarians, but does not offer as much for vegans, and it isn’t serving anything I wouldn’t be able to eat in the States.

My last meal in Singapore was a very happy surprise. There were still three vegetarian restaurants on my list that I wanted to try – Zen Japanese Vegetarian at 122 Middle Road, Living Greens at 325 Beach Road, and Eight Treasures Vegetarian Restaurant Chinatown at 282A South Bridge Road.

Since I had a half day before our flight home with no meetings to attend, I decided to make a quick shopping dash for souvenirs in Singapore’s Chinatown. Eight Treasures was right by the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in the heart of the tourist area in Chinatown so it got the nod. The menu was vast (far more than what’s online), and claimed to be “100% vegetarian” – which, based on what I saw, I think meant it was totally vegan. There was a wide variety of mock meats and seafood – more than I’d ever seen – plus interesting bean curd and veggie dishes. Many dishes had photos accompanying them on the menu so you could get some sense of what was in it. They had interesting specials and the mock meats intrigued me (vegetarian suckling pig?) but, I decided to play it safe since I was about to get on a 17-hour flight. I ordered what I thought would be a basic tofu and veggies dish. It doesn’t show up on the online menu but it was called either the Family Bean Curd or the Eight Treasures Bean Curd. My dining companion ordered an eggplant dish that also does not show up on the online menu.

Both items were entirely unique. When the tofu dish arrived, I thought it might actually be in a pesto sauce.

Eight Treasures vegetarian bean curd

It was a light, clear sauce, almost like a Moo Goo Gai Pan sauce, but loaded with an herb that we just couldn’t identify. We thought it might be cilantro, or maybe parsley, but it was such a gentle flavor that neither of us could be certain. Either way, it was delicious and I don’t think I’ll ever have anything like it again. The tofu and veggies were fresh and full of flavor. I kept saying, “Okay I’ve had enough, I’ll stop eating now,” and then ate more.

The eggplant dish was similarly distinctive.

Eight Treasures vegetarian eggplant

It was beautifully prepared, with all the vegetables looking bright and fresh. The purple eggplant was glowing. The red sauce wasn’t spicy, but instead had a nice light flavor that wasn’t too sweet, wasn’t too sour. I didn’t know what to expect from Eight Treasures, and it ended up being the perfect final meal for me in Singapore.

I really hope that I have a chance to go back to Singapore again and try more vegetarian and vegan food from around the region. I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface of what’s available!

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Vegan Food Adventures in Singapore: Part Three

This is the third part in an ongoing series on the vegan and vegetarian food I found during a recent trip to Singapore. See parts one and two for more information on this flavorful locale.

With two good vegan Chinese meals and one spicy Thai dinner under my belt, I decided that it was time to give Indian food another try for our third night in Singapore. I went to Bombay Woodlands during my last trip to Singapore years before, which is a nice vegetarian South Indian restaurant with a wide variety of dosa, idli and chaat, but I wanted to give my fellow travelers to a more traditional Indian restaurant experience. One of them had never really had Indian food before so I needed to make a good first impression! I contacted a local friend/former co-worker who runs her own communications firm in town and asked for a recommendation of a nice place that had a good variety of vegetarian options (plus non-veg for my travel companions). She not only gave us a recommendation, but she also offered to join us, which made the evening even lovelier. She was a gracious hostess and gave us great personal insight into life in Singapore during our meal.

She recommended Vintage India, which was close to Orchard Road at 10 Dempsey Road, #01-21 Dempsey Hill. Dempsey Hill itself was a unique location. The area used to be the Central Manpower Base of Singapore and former British army barracks. You would never know it now! It had been converted to a charming campus of dining and shopping establishments, tucked into a lush tropical setting that made you feel like you weren’t in a modern city at all.

Vintage India is what I’d call a “concept restaurant.” It’s themed around “the traditions of pre-independent India.” Upon our arrival, the hostess placed a string of Jasmine flowers in our hair.

Vintage India jasmine

Apparently this is an old Indian tradition, and one that has distinguished Vintage India enough that the bellman at our hotel could tell where we went to dinner when we returned later that evening. We dined outside on their covered patio during a light rain shower, which created the perfect casual but picturesque ambiance for the evening.

After we were seated, we were given rolled papadum, which were tasty but given the humidity, became soft/almost soggy pretty quickly.

Vintage India papadum

The mint sauce that came with the papadum looked like it contained yoghurt so I avoided it, but the red chutney was nice and light. We were also presented with a complementary appetizer which was basically a small lightly fried ball of mashed potatoes and veggies on a toothpick (sorry, I didn’t catch the name of the item or remember to take a picture). It was a tasty bite-sized treat.

The Vintage India menu was full of vegetarian options. To get us started, we ordered Onion Bhajia and Chingree Samosas, which were both vegetarian, and both deep-fried foods. Lucky for us, Vintage India has a knack for making fried food that isn’t too heavy or greasy. The Onion Bhajia was browned to perfection and had a nice blend of onions and coriander.

Vintage India onion bhajia

The tamarind sauce served with it was a little sweeter than I’m used to, but it was a good contrast with the strong onion flavor.

The samosas had a nice light, flaky crust.

Vintage India vegetarian samosas

They were filled with the standard potatoes and veggies, plus cashews, but were spiced with a mild and fragrant heat. I could have filled up on both, but since I knew we had exciting entrées coming up, I kept to one of each.

I couldn’t decide between two vegetarian curries so I ordered both, under the guise of ordering enough vegetable items to share with the table so they could order non-veg dishes (of which, the curried chicken was once again declared the winner):

Kadhai Subzi – “A mélange of fresh vegetables cooked with onion, ginger and garlic.”

Vintage India Kadhai Subzi

Dal Churchuree – “Yellow lentils tempered with garlic, cumin seeds and tomato. A simple and light dish to go along with any meal.”

Vintage India Dal Churchuree

I noticed that when we ordered our entrées, the waiter did not ask for our requested “spice level” – which was an early indication to me that they actually knew what they were doing in the kitchen. Both dishes were seasoned and spiced in a way that each flavor in the dish owned its own zone in your mouth. While the rich red curry of the Kadhai Subzi was dynamic and vibrant, the heat did not overwhelm the spice and flavor. Instead it emphasized the variety of delicate tastes and fragrances.

The Dal was more on the mellow side, but after having so many Dal dishes that were too salty, too full of random heat and too bland, it was like finally knowing what the dish could really be if prepared by the right chef. Needless to say, I ate too much. I suspect that both dishes used ghee, but since I was in a business setting I didn’t want to be a “fussy vegan.” Instead just enjoyed the experience for what it was – a delightful meal rich in flavor, great ambiance and good company.

We passed on desert, but in keeping with what I assume is another Indian tradition, we were presented with a four-draw chest of spices and herbs to cleanse our palates.

Vintage India palate cleansers

I have no idea what all was in each drawer, but we tried them all and it made for a nice touch to end our night.

I have to say this was quite possibly the best Indian food meal of my life so far! I’ve had so many badly-prepared, “hot for hot’s sake,” greasy, gut-churning Indian meals that Vintage India’s curries, which were both uniquely flavored and prepared with care, was a real treat. I’d feel better if I knew the curries were vegan, but I’ll just live in denial about that until someone tells me they weren’t.

Next up, I try a “Western” vegetarian restaurant and very interesting vegan Chinese food.

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Pomegranate Café: I’ll be spending more time in Ahwatukee

Pomegranate Cafe

Quite possibly my biggest fail among many this year is not having learned about Pomegranate Café until recently. Apparently this amazing vegetarian and vegan restaurant opened seven months ago in Ahwatukee and I didn’t have a clue. I may have read about it and thought it was just a juice bar, or maybe it hasn’t received enough glowing recognition from the traditional press in town yet. Or it could be that Ahwatukee isn’t on my radar as Greater Phoenix’s emerging vegan dining destination. Either way, I’m making up for it now and will probably go there every weekend I can for the foreseeable future.

Pomegranate Café is a casual, order-at-the-counter restaurant, coffee shop and juice bar tucked into a strip mall west of I-10 on Chandler Blvd. at 40th St. It’s currently only open for breakfast and lunch, Tuesday through Sunday, which will make it predominantly a weekend-only option for me unfortunately. On first glance, the menu offers fairly straight-forward health-food-oriented vegetarian fare. Breakfast includes granola, egg and tofu scrambles, and some interesting looking sandwiches and tacos. The lunch menu features salads, sandwiches, wraps and bowls, all of which are either vegan, or can be made vegan, and many are gluten-free. They also offer a variety of daily specials.

Pomegranate Cafe daily specials

However, what the menu doesn’t communicate is how well-prepared the food is at Pomegranate Café. Owner and chef Cassie Tolman is a gourmet vegetarian chef who knows how to take what could be written off as just bland health food and give it the TLC needed to make it compelling and exciting to vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free diners and omnivores alike. She clearly uses fresh organic ingredients that are selected for both their health characteristics and their flavor. In short, this restaurant offers the closest thing to Millennium-quality food I’ve had in the Phoenix area (aside from what my husband makes at home, of course).

Pomegranate Cafe overview

On our first visit, I ordered the breakfast burrito with tofu and vegan cheese, which was a special for the day. I expected it to be the typical tofu scramble stuffed in a tortilla with some potatoes and beans. I couldn’t have been more surprised and pleased with what I was served.

Pomegranate Cafe vegan breakfast burrito

The ingredients included tofu pieces (not a scramble), black beans, a potato “hash” which included sweet and golden potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, red peppers, and yes, Daiya vegan cheese.  The predominant seasoning was rosemary, but there was also a touch of garlic as well. The burrito also came with a side of fresh and flavorful salsa. With my first bite of the burrito I was in love. It was unique, savory, and perfectly prepared. Adding the salsa gave it a hint of spice as well. My husband kept stealing bites, to the point where I started to get a little nervous that it would be gone too soon.

My husband tried the Smoking BLT, because it’s his standard non-adventurous “trying a new vegan restaurant” choice.

Pomegranate Cafe vegan Smoking BLT

While not as heavenly and unique as the breakfast burrito, it was also a high-quality vegan item. It came with smoke-flavored tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado on multi-grain bread. It was served with a side of vegan smoky miso mayo, veggie chips and a green salad that included sprouts, bell peppers, and cucumbers, topped with a light pomegranate vinaigrette dressing. After trying my burrito, he was a little disappointed that he hadn’t ordered something more ambitious, such as the vegan Philly Melt that was on special for the day.

An even more pleasant surprise was Pomegranate Café’s treats, which are apparently made by Cassie’s mother, Marlene Tolman.

Pomegranate Cafe vegan cookes and cake

We saw a variety of cookies, cakes and macaroons on display, and were thrilled that when we asked, “Are any of your treats vegan?” the response was a big smile and, “All of our deserts are vegan!” We promptly ordered two “Cowgirl Cookies” and a slice of coconut-lime cake to-go. The cookies were an oatmeal-based chocolate chip, with a touch of cinnamon/spice and coconut added for flavor. They were perfect, and one cookie was more than I could eat. As fate would have it, we didn’t check the cake box before leaving and were given a slice of chocolate pomegranate cake instead of the coconut cake. No complaints here! It was moist and rich, with a slight fruit flavor from the pomegranates in the frosting. I still want to try the coconut cake though!

Beyond groaning about the at least 30-minute drive it takes us to get there, Pomegranate Café gets a slight ding for being pretty pricey ($10.50 for a BLT?). But, I know quality organic ingredients cost real money, and I don’t mind paying more if it’s good. Based on the long line at the counter when we arrived, we’re not the only ones with the opinion that Pomegranate Café is worth the money. It also took awhile for our food to be served, but we did go during lunch hour on a holiday weekend, so they’ll get a pass on the wait time for our first visit.

At the end of the meal, my husband and I exchanged sad glances that we had been missing out on eating at Pomegranate Café for months. We’ll be back soon to try more!

Note: you can “like” Pomegranate Cafe on Facebook to find out what’s new at the restaurant, but I couldn’t find a Twitter account.

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That’s A Wrap is on the move

Downtown Phoenix’s loss is my gain. My favorite vegan-friendly lunchtime spot, That’s a Wrap, is moving this weekend from a “just a bit too far to go to often” location of 7th St. and Thomas/McDowell, to an “it’s so to my office close I can go there every day” spot of 8th St. and Camelback Rd.! And hopefully the parking will be better! I’ve also heard that they will be open for dinner hours, and may possibly serve adult beverages!

Maybe now I’ll dare to order something on the menu other than what I get every single time I go there: the Ken and Barbie-Que wrap with tofu. The Ken and Barbie-Que combines BBQ sauce-covered tofu with black beans, rice and veggies. It’s a bit messy, but always finger-licking good!

That' sa Wrap's KenandBarbie-Que vegan wrap with tofu

At That’s a Wrap, almost everything on the menu can be vegan-ized by substituting tofu for meat. I think I’ll try the Teriyaki 90210 with tofu to break the new location in!

What I love the most about That’s a Wrap is their soups, which are made from scratch, always interesting and almost always vegan. I managed to sneak one last visit in to the old location this week, and was rewarded with an amazing creamy vegan white beet soup. I am not typically an enthusiastic beet eater, having been raised on awful canned red beets. But since becoming vegan, I’ve learned that a good beet in the hands of a real chef can be a delightful thing. The soup was slightly sweet, very herbal and had a mellow cashew-based broth that added thickness without being heavy. The beets were mostly blended in, but there were also a few sizable chunks left in to remind me that I really was eating beets, and loving it.

And, all hope is not lost for downtown vegans because word from the Chicos and Beans blog is that Green Vegetarian is going to open a second restaurant in That’s a Wrap’s old location. I guess I won’t escape the occasional lunchtime drive to downtown for great vegan food after all! I really hope the part about adding more parking comes true though…

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Vegan Food Adventures in Singapore: Part Two

This is the second part in a recap of my vegan and vegetarian dining adventures in Singapore. View part one here.

For my next two main meals in Singapore, I was accompanied by my fellow business travelers. We didn’t have dinner plans for our first night in town but were pretty tired after the long flight, so I thought we’d give the Orchard Road hawkers another shot. We ventured down to Lucky Plaza to try to find “Fancy Vegetarian,” which  was listed on the Vegetarian Society Singapore website so I assumed it was legit. After wandering around for awhile in the basement lost, we finally found it – closed. As a result, we came close to bailing on local food all together and going to California Pizza Kitchen like good Americans, but thought better of it when the wait was too long.

Out of pure exhaustion at this point, we opted to go to the nearby Pan Pacific Hotel restaurant, called 10 at Claymore. The restaurant offered a dinner buffet that seemed to include many vegetarian and vegan options.  I didn’t have a big appetite so I reviewed the menu for something less ambitious. I assumed I’d end up with pasta with red sauce, which is my standard vegan hotel food default order. However, since they weren’t busy, I took a chance and asked if the chef could make anything vegetarian that wasn’t on the menu. I was offered fried rice, and asked how I’d like it prepared. I asked for no egg/dairy/animal-based stock, and with tofu.

Much to my delight, I was presented with a gorgeous dish of lightly fried (not greasy) rice with mixed vegetables, plenty of perfectly prepared fried tofu, mini samosas and mock prawns that I believe were vegan.

10 at Claymore - vegan fried rice

It was quite good and exactly what I wanted – to the point where I asked the waiter to please thank the chef for me. I did add extra soy sauce because, well, I’m American, but the as-is flavor was delightful – slightly sweet, but with the samosas providing a hint of spice on the side. Mock/vegetarian fish products make me queasy as a rule, but since I was tickled with the overall presentation I was a big girl and tried one. There was no fishy flavor (especially since I drenched it in soy sauce) but the texture was a bit like artichoke. I didn’t care for it, but at least I tried it!

Dinner the next night was an extension of our meeting that day. Our hosts took us to Thanying Restaurant at the Amara Hotel, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road, which was a nice Thai restaurant. The idea of eating Thai food filled me with both excitement and fear because I love Thai food, but I didn’t know if I was healthy enough to be able to tolerate Thai spices yet.

While my dinner companions experienced a wide variety of interesting dishes that looked beautiful (the red curry with chicken was declared the winner by the table), I tried two items that I thought would be vegan and not too spicy – the tofu satay with peanut sauce and tofu Panang curry, which the waiter told me could be made mild and with no fish sauce. The tofu satay was prepared in two different ways – the typical blocks of fried tofu, plus what I would call “fried bundles of tofu skins” – tight rolls of thin, crispy tofu that soaked up the peanut sauce well. The peanut sauce was more sweet than spicy, and good enough that I ate far more fried tofu than I should have!

Thanying Restaurant's tofu satay

The Panang with tofu was hands-down the best Thai curry I’ve ever had.

Thanying Restaurant's vegan Panang tofu curry

While the chef’s definition of “mild” and mine differ quite a bit, the chili heat was perfectly balanced with the lemongrass, galangal and coconut milk. The flavors leapt from the dish. I can still taste the curry in my mind. I hope that someday I’m able to find a Panang curry that tastes as spectacular in Phoenix so I can stop obsessing over it! I also felt very comfortable that both dishes were vegan, and have added Thanying Restaurant to my personal list of “best bets” for international vegan travelers.

Both of these meals left me feeling like I was in great shape for the rest of the trip, and I got a lot more adventurous for dinner the next day. Stay tuned for my next post in this series, on a fantastic Indian restaurant in Singapore!

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