Road Trip: Ding How in Davis!  »

Public service announcement: Davis, Calif.—Sacramento’s hippie cousin, home of Aggies and bike lanes—has some great vegan eats. We’ve yet to review any of it here on the ‘saurus, but that changes RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, bitches, with a visit to Ding How.

Don’t be fooled by the sign outside: Ding How is not a cleaners. Praise be, because if it were I would not have been able to fill my belly with vegan Chinese food.

The atmosphere of this spot is pretty standard strip-mall Chinese (guess what, I’m the year of the dog!). But things start to get crazy as soon as they bring you a menu.

Note the words “Vegetarian Cuisine” on the cover. That’s right folks, they have a whole separate vegetarian menu, a parallel universe to the meat they also serve. This means you get to pretend you’re eating at a vegetarian restaurant even though you’re not, and you don’t even have to LOOK at the meat options. If you’ve got cranky carnivore friends with you, maybe try to slip them the veggie menu—they might not even know the difference! We’re so sneaky, that’s totally the way to change the world, right? Lies lies lies!

Do be careful though: plenty on the menu isn’t vegan, and the Vegetarian Bowl soup has fish balls in it. The good news is that the chef and wait staff (woo, Kathleen!) are good at answering questions and know that “vegan” doesn’t mean you’re from some sci-fi planet or whatever.

We started off with a large order of the hot and sour soup (vegan if you ask). Not only was the soup thick, pungent, and ass-kicking, it also had little strips of chewy protein in it. The large was enough for probably five or six people as an appetizer. Win!

Then, being solid gluttons, we got three entrees for three people. I hear the Mandarian fried shrimp are like crack, but due to a supplier snafu they were not available during our visit. You should probably order them though.

Instead, we settled for General Tso’s Chicken, Ginger Beef, and one of the house specialities, Oyster Mushrooms with Soft Tofu.

Chicken = must-have winner. Not too saucy, the perfect amount of chewy in each bite.

Ginger beef was also good, with jerky-like little strips and strips of real ginger.

The only disappointment of the evening was the mushroom dish. Though it looked sexy, the soft tofu was flavorless and the fried coating slimed off the outside. Don’t order that one unless you’re obsessed with mushroom, ok?

All that awesome food and the total only came to $35. There’s a lunch menu with even more value-filled specials. Conclusion: If you be in Davis, eat these foods. 

Ding How!


Review: Angkor Borei!  »

Angkor Borei is a Cambodian restaurant in the Mission on the edge of Bernal Heights. Its location has no bearing on this review, except that I would probably not have patronized it as many times as I have were it not so close to my homes, past and present. It’s really lucky the Mission has such a wide variety of restaurants, because I have to tell you, most all of the decisions I make are location-based. Being extremely lazy means if a place is not within walking distance, I may never go to it. Shameful, but true. Maybe if I were employed again and my employer were buying my Fast Pass, I would have reasons to be out every day in different neighborhoods with the means to get wherever I wanted, and the occasional cab wouldn’t feel so much like hemorrhaging money. TOO BAD.

Thankfully, there’s Angkor Borei, within walking and delivery distance (depending on the time, weather, and your ability to leave the house for comestibles). Every time we eat here, or order from here, all I want is the peanut mock duck, in curry with tons of lightly cooked spinach, and made of heaven. C’est si bon, the peanut mock duck. Usually curry, be it subcontinental Indian or or Thai, riles my vengeful stomach into a day-long rage, but not the peanut mock duck’s curry sauce; it is perfect in every way, and I love it so.

Of course there are loads of other tasty Cambodian dishes for you to love, especially the appetizer that involves you filling raw spinach leaves with combinations of ginger, peanuts, toasted coconut, red onions, chili, lime juice, and a mysterious but vegan Chef’s sauce. Make sure to ask for the vegetarian version, otherwise it comes with dried shrimp, bleh. You can ask for a demonstration if you fail to understand the concept of putting some small pieces of food and sauce inside a larger, flatter food item, and eating it as though it were a tiny taco.

The last time I was there, as part of a Vegansaurus eating occasion, we ordered the seasonal special pumpkin curry with tofu and asparagus, which was the best pumpkin curry I’ve had anywhere, and here is why: instead of making a regular curry with pumpkin chunks, they added pumpkin to the curry base, and then served the whole thing inside a big piece of pumpkin, which acted like a bowl that held (and spilled) the delicious curry over a larger china plate.

As soon as we realized that the entire dish—as in, the curry and the pumpkin shell—was edible, there was a great flashing of spoons and stuffing of faces and suddenly the pumpkin curry plate was entirely empty. If you want this dish—which you should, because it is so, so tasty—you ought to call ahead to see if they’re serving it, as it was on the specials menu.

I suppose other people order other things, but mostly I like the peanut mock duck, the spinach leaves, and the (vegetarian, obvs) crispy crepe. Oh, that crispy crepe is a delight as well. Yesterday I tried the hot and sour soup with mock chicken for the first time, and everyone else seemed to like it very much but it was not really to my taste, especially because of the huge, pyramid-shaped chunks of tomatoes that came in it. I really dislike tomatoes in this form and they put me off the entire soup. Also there were a few roots I could not identify as being in/edible, yes my ignorance is my responsibility but acknowledging that doesn’t make me suddenly find them appealing. Mostly, though, the tomatoes, which of course are not traditional Cambodian produce and in my opinion had no business grossing up this fine soup. By “fine” I mean “how children describe their school days to their parents,” because as I said it wasn’t really to my liking. Also, everyone else seemed to really enjoy the dried bean curd (tofu skin, I believe) in turmeric sauce, and the mock chicken in a red curry with bamboo shoots and green beans, but the tofu skin did not make me happy so much as make me think, Goodness, this is slimy, and I was too full to eat any of the red curry, so at the end of that meal, my favorites are still my favorites. They’ve won awards for the peanut mock duck, though, so even if you think my tastes are limited, at least they are pedestrian so you don’t have to be afraid of them. HAR HAR.

Regardless, go to Angkor Borei, eat delicious vegan Cambodian food, feel a weigh lifted from your shoulders because you do not once have to say NO FISH SAUCE, let alone loudly enunciate each syllable and/or actually learn how to say and write NO FISH SAUCE in the language of every country whose cuisine uses fish sauce, because sometimes you can say it a million times with a million pleases and still your food will  arrive stinking of a million carcasses and you know you have been betrayed. This has never happened at Angkor Borei, though, because they understand what “vegetarian” means, so we are all safe. Really.

The staff is very friendly and attentive, and they never let your water glass go empty. The little candies that come with the check are tamarind-flavored. Their most recent health inspection score is 93. If I weren’t full now, I’d wish I had leftover peanut mock duck to mix up with rice and devour as a late-night why-aren’t-I-asleep-dear-god-what’s-wrong-with-me snack.

[spinach photo via yelp; pumpkin curry photo by Laura]

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