Most of us go through life revising our opinions. At 25 I thought I would die happy if I could have sex with Gigi Wong just once. At 60 I’m glad I didn’t. At 53 I thought Obama must be the greatest US president ever. At 63 my heart broke when I realized he was – and still is – a very charismatic man and a great orator but probably nothing very much more than that. At 33, I thought the young man from Malaysia working with me would one day turn out to be a successful senior corporate executive, a member of the C-suite. At 63, I finally accepted the fact that he’s nothing but a pathological liar, a con and a douche bag. In other words, just another retard. (I have lots to tell you about this douche bag, but that’s for another time.)
To have our beliefs knocked sideways by sturdier arguments, additional experiences, contrary evidence, maturating judgment, etc is how we become wiser. The alternative is intellectual stagnation, puerility, and arrogant stubbornness.
I used to think that vegetarian food is tasteless and bland and totally pointless, well, except for Indian vegetarian which I enjoy once in a while. But drenching rice with various types of curry gravy would make any plate of rice palatable, no? My convictions may change as time goes by.
What I thought of Chinese vegetarian food certainly did changed recently.
For everyday vegetarian, it’s salads I make at home, with the help of the wife, of course.
Here are the salad lunches I’ve just had on Monday and Tuesday; granted, they may not look pretty, but hey, I’m not an aspiring Instagram star okay:
I enjoy a plate of greens such as long beans stir-fried with minced pork in soy bean paste and sprinkled with shredded dried prawns; French beans stir-fried this way is also nice. Instead of soy bean paste, you could use a small dash of fish sauce too. There’s something very enjoyable eating tasty vegetables that give a nice mouth feel that invite you to eat more and more. The almost crispy feel when you bite into these greens feels simply divine! If all you eat for a meal is this plate of beans, I can guarantee you that you’ll feel very guilt-free.
Before I go on, let me just say that I’m not going vegetarian. I still agree with the view that in times past, the term “vegetarian” means “failed hunter.”
I’m eating less carbs to enjoy the benefits of more greens, and hopefully, do a bit of weight management along the way.
LingZhi, the vegetarian restaurant owned by my acquaintance Andrew Tjioe (who owns the Tung Lok group of restaurants) is to me, high-end fine-dining type of place, the type of restaurant I will take Jack Ma to before adjourning to a lounge with him for our Behikes, or a place I would invite the Dalai Lama to the next time he visits me.
I rather eat at hoi polloi places.
At Flavours By Saute, I must say their vegetarian oyster omelet is really like regular oyster omelet, an old favorite. It is crispy, with just the right amount of sweet potato flour so that it doesn’t overwhelm and drown out the taste and aroma of the eggs; the burned oil smell and taste is minimal, yet a tinge of “wok hei” is present and the entire dish delivers a great taste sensation. As you bite, you can almost hear the crunch that comes from eggs fried just perfect. And you won’t miss the oysters that are not there. This is because these days, with the regular or real oyster omelet, one can hardly find any oysters anyway.
However, I am a weirdo who believes that if one wants to eat vegetarian, it defeats the purpose eating fake meat. It’s akin to masturbating to a picture of Odette Annable or Marisa Tomei or Gal Gadot and believing that you’ve actually slept with them.
I once attended a ten-course wedding dinner at the Shangri-La that was 100% vegetarian, complete with fake – they call it “mock” here – suckling pig, duck, chicken, etc. I normally try to find an excuse to avoid lengthy Chinese wedding banquets – I suffer from social anxiety disorder and it is a torture to sit down with a table of strangers for an extended three-hour meal – but I accepted the invitation that time because it was my dear cousin’s wedding and when I got married 36 years ago, she was my flower girl. However – hope she’s not reading this – I think it is an unfair imposition on your guests to inflict upon them a long-drawn vegetarian meal of mock meat just because you are vegetarian yourself. I almost gave her a mock ang pow!
Elemen is not bad too. Okay it’s not Chinese food but their black truffle porcini pasta is great comfort food. Done al dente, with just the correct amount of good quality olive oil and of course truffle oil, which doesn’t really exist, by the way. (All truffle oil is artificially created. Originally, truffle oil was high-quality olive oil infused with black or white truffles, but today, most of the stuff is made synthetically with ingredients like 2,4-dithiapentane, an aromatic molecule that gives truffles their distinctive smell. So you suckers out there, it’s about time to stop ordering expensive truffle fries, one of the biggest scams in the food industry.) Anyway, Elemen’s black truffle porcini pasta, at S$18.80 before tax, service charge and all the rest of it, is too pricey for my budget, especially when it’s something I can do at home.
That said, I must take my hat off to LingZhi, Flavours by Saute and Elemen – they have all made vegetarian food sexy. Just take a look at their websites and you’ll be salivating. That’s a good thing. Too many of us are not eating healthily enough.
Nearer to where I live is a branch of a more down-to-earth (translation: affordable, for paupers like me, that is) vegetarian eatery known as Greendot, whose co-founder is only 30 years old this year, if I’m not wrong.
Greendot’s laksa can put any real laksa to shame.
First of all, the laksa soup is lemak, hearty and robust, not thin and watery. It is supposedly made from scratch with blue ginger, yellow ginger, chillies and laksa leaves. Also in the bowl you’ll find straw mushrooms, konnyaku prawn, konnyaku balls, tau poks and beansprouts and it costs only a very reasonably-priced S$7.50. Of course, you can get laksa elsewhere for three bucks less, but this is a proper eatery, not a dingy stall in a crowded food court. I was more than happy to pay S$7.50 because, trust me, their laksa is so satisfying; okay, for those into fake or mock meat, it’s hard to tell that the prawns are not real prawns, the QQ texture and the color is simply very pleasing to the eye and extremely delicious – the temptation confronting me always, is to have two bowls, but since I am a strong man full of self-control, I have resisted so far.
Their bento sets are a bargain – you choose a type of rice (fragrance white rice, sesame rice or something called “beauty brown rice”), add one “main” (four choices: braised mushroom and taukwa, sambal konnyaku, sweet and sour soya nuggets or Taiwanese QQ tofu), then add two greens and it’s only S$7.90.
If you’re a student or a senior citizen, you only pay S$5.90. I have no idea what they mean by senior citizen because there is no standard definition but I had no issue paying S$7.90. I am not the type who scour the universe for cheap restaurant deals; I mean, at times like this, let people make some money lah. Don’t take advantage and pig out just because COVID-19 is making restaurants suffer and forcing them to launch all kinds of deals to attract customers. Anyway, at Greendot, if you want better mains, pay a dollar more and you get to choose from three “special” mains – Gong Bao mixed mushrooms, mixed mushrooms with lotus roots and basil or Lion Mane mushroom rendang.
Although I have my views about eating “mock” stuff, I must admit that their Lion Mane mushroom (also known as Monkey Head mushroom) rendang is a real winner; for those “blur” people, they would think that the rendang is really beef rendang! The flavor is amazingly rendang-like, and the texture of the mushroom is like that of meat. Oh boy, I could eat this every day although I am also happy to eat my laksa without the fake prawns and my bento without the fake rendang.
A word of caution here though: if you’re hoping to lose weight by eating vegetarian, just bear in mind that fried gluten is a lot of carbs, and dishes like vegetarian laksa and rendang are cooked with copious amount of coconut milk which has lots of calories. (Tip: when cooking at home, substitute coconut milk with milk.) So, level-set or manage your expectations. A cousin of mine once went vegetarian for a year and actually became fatter!
Remember losing weight is all about calories – less input and more output – that is, eat less and burn more.
And one other thing (just to make you feel hopeless because I am a sadist): cows eat grass but are still fat.
Ahem, did I just spoil your day?