Kittee made absolutely gorgeous summer rolls, with nasturtiums, lettuce, and mint from her own garden! Plus some other sexxxxxy xgfx ingredients like soy curls and rice noodles. You know you want to make your own and show them off and then devour them. So follow her super-casual, easy-peasy recipe and do it! Make a bunch of them, get a bottle of (vegan) wine, and take someone you want to impress (me) to the park for a dinner picnic. It’s summer! Make the most of the bounty of produce and the post-7 p.m. sunshine!
Two new vegan restaurants in Oakland! Woohoo! »
This is all basically second hand information and I’m no journalist (FOOLED YOU!) so I’m leave it up to you fine people to check it out and let us know what’s up! Deal? Deal!
Okay, lez go:
1) Nature Vegetarian Restaurant, 1116 Franklin (between 11th and 12th), (510) 238-9688. Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It opened sometime in last few weeks and it’s possibly all vegan. Looks like some real competition for Golden Lotus! I wonder if it’s cult-owned? It looks like maybe not. It’s Chinese-gluten style. Tasty!
2) Banana Soy Vegan Restaurant, 416 15th (between Broadway and Franklin), (510) 272-4700. Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday. It’s all vegan (!!!) Vietnamese food (YES!) and isn’t Ching Hai-related (YES!). The menu looks delicious and imma be all up in it later this week. And look, it says vegan on the banner! We have to support them!
Both restaurants are super close to the 12 Street BART station in Oakland, so no excuses! Let’s eat!
Man, this area of Oakland is just pregnant with vegan food, isn’t it? I’m so sorry for that sentence that’s half-disgusting and half-delicious. But really, PREGNANT WITH IT.
SF’s Saigon Sandwiches: NOT vegan (or even vegetarian), but can be made so! »
An AWESOME Vietnamese-speaking friend of Vegansaurus very kindly helped us get the full answer on whether or not Saigon Sandwiches cooks their tofu in meat juice and the crappy answer is: YES, the do. This is major-bummer sadness, but our investigator also reported that the sandwich artists were really nice and super forthcoming with a solution, even though he didn’t even ask for one! Turns out, you can ask for the tofu to be cooked with soy sauce (make sure to specify no fish sauce, just soy sauce!) and BAM! It’s vegan! Without the mayo, of course.
Man, life can be complicated sometimes. But it can also be delicious, and I’m here to report that with all those specifications, this sandwich is THE BOMB. I also just thought of something: we should encourage them to put up a sign by the tofu sandwich that says, “Ask if you want it made vegetarian or vegan” so that people know the tofu isn’t automatically veg. I bet if enough people ask (politely! And get your Vietnamese-speaking friends to ask, too! Or get them to teach you how to ask in Vietnamese and practice a bunch to make sure you don’t embarrass yourself/accidentally ask one of the employees to eat your mom’s penis!), it would happen. I’m currently in the Marty’s vegan dining rules state of mind where I ask about ERRYTHANG but you know, lots of people don’t. And it’s a bummer when your tofu comes covered in blood, for realz.
If you are getting an enormous sandwich for about 10 cents from a hole in the wall that’s crazy crowded and the sandwich artisans are working at crazy fast speed and you don’t speak their language, you’re just gonna have to decide if it’s worth it or not. if it is, you just gotta let go and let god, you feel me? I am OK with eating the tofu banh mi from Saigon Sandwiches (tofu cooked in soy sauce/no mayo, natch) because I am super-poor, I go at slower times of the day so nothing’s rushed, and I want to support their veg options. I also have a stomach of steel and when the apocalypse comes (three days!), I’ll be totally fine eating directly from garbage cans and sewers.* Anyway, I’m off track, the point is, if that makes you uncomfortable—perfectly understandable, you’re a better person than I—then you gotta find another place to get your banh mi fix! I’m not sure where, as I don’t think Banh Mai is still serving, and I haven’t tried Bun Mee yet. Anyone? They have an eggplant banh mi that looks pretty awesome—anyone know if it’s vegan? Or do I have to go do more investigative journalism?
[unappetizing pic of half-eaten tofu banh mi from yelp!]
*And you know what? You will too if you want to defeat that devil army!
Loving Hut in Inner Sunset to open THIS SATURDAY! »
Hey guys! We reported on it going in and now we have word that it’s opening on Saturday, Dec. 18! As in, TOMORROW! Er, or it might be Sunday. EITHER WAY, it’s this weekend.
Who’s going?? Drumsticks for all!
That’s Ching Hai, calling in an order of drumsticks to go for me.
[thanks for the heads-up, Hugh!]
NEW SF VEGAN RESTAURANT ALERT! San Francisco’s third Loving Hut is going in on at 524 Irving St. (at 6th Avenue) in the Inner Sunset. The location used to house Minh Tri, a Vietnamese joint that we’re told was “grody.” Whether you love Ching Hai or hate that crazy, crazy biznatch, more vegan dining is pretty cool. Plus, awesome spring rolls.
We’ll update you as soon as we get word on actual opening date, which involves one of you emailing us that info. Real Journalism.
As previously reported, a Loving Hut is coming to Union Square. Lo and behold, that fucker is in Westfield Mall. One shopping spree at H&M followed by vegan feast at delicious cult restaurant, coming up!
[Thanks for the pic, Tessa!]
Banh Mi by Mai! »
The Mission, already a magical neighborhood where vegans can eat like royalty, has become even better. How can this be so, in the land of soy milk and agave nectar? Fresh, delicious, vegan banh mi made to order and delivered to your door, is how.
Mai of Fashioni.st just launched Banh Mai, a one-woman Vietnamese sandwich operation based in the Mission. She has a vegan, a vegetarian, and a meat version; of course, Vegansaurus sampled the cruelty-free sandwich, delivered to our hot little hands on a Friday evening by Mai on her bicycle. The vegan sandwich contains standard banh mi ingredients—pickled carrot and daikon radish, julienned; jalapenos; and cilantro—on a rice and wheat baguette, but the magic is in the vegan paté, a combination of shitake mushrooms, baked tofu, walnuts, garlic, and green bell pepper. The tofu is baked with sriracha, soy sauce, and garlic. I’ve never had a Vietnamese sandwich like it before, it’s incredible. Mai packed the pickled vegetables separately, to prevent mushiness, and I recommend cramming them all into your sandwich and letting it sit for a few minutes before eating, to allow the good, crusty roll to soak up some of the sweet and tangy pickling juices. You will die of happiness.
It may not be the spiciest, for spicy food connoisseurs; I found it a touch hotter than I would’ve asked for and I’m a huge wimp, so let’s call the heat level medium and exactly right. Everything was so fresh; the vegetables were crispy, the roll was chewy, the tofu paté added this great texture plus moisture so that, unlike your standard banh mi, it didn’t want for lack of mayonnaise. Finally, it sticks with you, but not in a stone-in-your-stomach kind of way; I ate an entire sandwich before going out for the night, spent four hours dancing, and didn’t get hungry at all. Everyone needs to eat a banh mi by Mai, like, yesterday, I haven’t had a better sandwich this year. Real Talk.
Special Interview Section!
Vegansaurus: Why did you start Banh Mai?
Mai: [To be] part of the San Francisco street food movement; [I] wanted to do Vietnamese sandwiches because I miss this aspect of life in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon—a place where I lived last year. also, I used my mom’s recipes for elements of the sandwiches, so these are the type of sandwiches I grew up eating: loads of meat filling/vegan filling, great daikon/carrot pickling, homemade mayo. “Banh Mai” is a a play on the name of the type of bread used/what we in the states call Vietnamese sandwiches, and my first name.
What are the service details?
I started delivering in the Mission last week. Wednesdays and Thursdays [are delivery days], 10-sandwich minimum, might be able to cluster orders for smaller offices. [I require a] two-day preorder (since I cook specifically for orders), or early morning pre-order if you want to pick-up with small orders (6 or less) or for vegan sandwiches.
Follow me on twitter and send me a message I’ll get in touch via direct message. Lunch deliveries will happen between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30p.m.; pick-ups can happen in the Mission, before 11:15 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. My housemate might help me, so we could extend days/ times for pick-up delivery. We might add Mondays; follow @banhmai for changes.
Where are your ingredients from?
The bread is from Bui Phong, a Vietnamese bakery in San Jose that makes as close to the Vietnamese-style baguette of rice/wheat mixture that we have in the West. the wheat/rice baguettes in HCMC have a lot more rice and so it tastes slightly different, but it’s as close as we get in the U.S. Also, it’s the type I grew up eating (in Los Angeles) for Banh Mi sandwiches. I buy most ingredients from Duc Loi supermarket or other markets in the Mission. Whenever I can buy organic, I do, but I’m trying to keep costs relatively low while still making a quality product.
How did you invent the recipe for the vegetarian paté?
It’s a remodeled recipe from a restaurant I used to work for. I used shitake instead of those white mushrooms, put in more garlic, [and] left out the parmesan [cheese]. The baked tofu recipe is my mom’s.
I’d like people to know that the recipes for my sandwiches come from my Mom. I’m not sure how this will pan out for the long haul, but right now I’m happy sharing my Mom’s awesome cooking with San Francisco. (And as my friend Alicia has pointed out, I don’t skimp with amounts; moms never skimp with amounts to keep prices low.) Also, I’m biking as fast as I can, but that isn’t very fast right now.
Thanks, Mai! Go eat a sandwich, everyone.
Le Colonial: a place for compromise! »
Unless you live in a magical family of non-meat-eaters, who raised you meat-free (it happens! I know one such family, eating at their house is THE BEST), you are probably related to omnivores. And unless you are a horrible person who never learned to grow up and stop having a fit every time a family member ate something that offended your vegan sensibilities (which, come on guys, are we still 18?), then you are going, from time to time, have to choose a restaurant that allows your family to eat animals and that provides enough vegan food that you won’t have to be little lord/lady picky-picky vegan, all asking for the whatever dish without half its ingredients and can the salad come with extra nuts maybe please? Because that can get embarrassing, too, when you’re just trying to have a nice, quiet family dinner, maybe celebrate a nice occasion, show your parents you’re a grown-up person who can conduct herself like an adult now, and you have to demand that the chef rearrange half the whole menu so your parents can pay too much for what will undoubtedly be three courses of vegetables with sauce.
Lucky for us, there is Le Colonial, a glorious mix of unabashed orientalism—the cuisine is “French Vietnamese”—and (mostly) unpretentious food. We were there the other night (note: open Mondays! Family-friendly!) for Joel’s parents anniversary; it is a very nice restaurant for an anniversary or similar, grown-up celebrations. I noted a fairly high number of older-dude/younger-lady couples, though maybe it wasn’t so high considering we were in a nice restaurant in the Theater District. As I am not involved with a peer of my father’s, I cannot tell you just where such couples spend time, but I believe Le Colonial is one such place.
There are a few explicitly vegetarian items on the menu [pdf], which by dint of their Vietnamese inspiration are vegan. Joel and I split four of them: the Cha Gio Chay and Bo Bia Chay appetizers, Dau Hu Chay entree, and Cai Bi Trang side. This proved to be plenty of food, and also taught me some Vietnamese, in that I believe that Chay means “roll” or perhaps “rolls,” plural. Yes we ate a lot of rolled food last night.
First, and best, were the Cha Gio Chay, fried “buddha rolls” made of taro, tofu, jicama, and shiitake mushrooms. They’re served with some big leaves of lettuce, and some sprigs of mint and cilantro. You roll up the little hot crispy rolls in the big lettuce leaves, with some mint and cilantro, and dip the whole package in some ponzu sauce, and then you eat it and die of happiness. Tragically, only five come on a plate and they cost $11.
Next we ate the Bo Bia Chay, cold spring rolls filled with tofu, portobello, cucumber, basil, crushed peanuts, and chayote. The best thing about these rolls were the peanut sauce that came with them; it was more savory than the average peanut sauce, and was a little spicy, too, which gave the rolls a teeny kick that they quite needed. I also found the wrappers much chewier than they should’ve been, like, unpleasantly rubbery and chewy, though Joel did not.
Le Colonial is a “nice” restaurant, so after our first courses we had a nice break before they brought our entree and vegetable. Dau Hu Chay was “pan-roasted” tofu rolls made layers of seaweed (nori), shiitake, and tofu skin, served over kale and mushrooms in a thick, sweet “soy sauce.” I put “soy sauce” in “quotation marks” because the sauce did not, as far as I could tell, taste anything like shoyu. It had the consistency of tonkatsu sauce, really thick, though significantly sweeter. It was good, just not the most delicious thing I’ve ever had. Paradoxically, while the rolls could’ve used a ladleful less sauce, their vegetable bed majorly benefitted from it all. Oh, they were delicious, better than the rolls, and they rolls were pretty tasty.
Cai Bi Trang, our extra side dish, was also good. When given the choice I do not generally choose baby bok choi, especially when one of the other options is asparagus, but these little bastards were surprisingly appetizing. They were really lightly cooked in soy sauce, with some sliced oyster mushrooms thrown in for extra flavor. They were absolutely the best baby bok choi I’ve ever eaten.
Of course I wanted dessert, but Le Colonial’s dessert menu was not at all vegan-friendly. Joel’s parents enjoyed their flourless chocolate cake, brought by our waiter for their anniversary. His parents also very much liked their meals, though I will not describe them because who cares about meaty meat dishes we are never going to eat? The point is, you can have a nice dinner here with your family, and everyone can order something, and you can eat without starving or requesting special treatment. It is not the most adventurous cuisine, but it is good, and given the chance I would eat two plates of the buddha rolls all by myself, so if you go, order enough so that you don’t have to share with your family; you know they’re going to want the obviously delicious dishes you’re eating, and oops! they can’t share theirs with you, HA HA. Besides, they are paying for it.
Review: Loving Hut! »
Loving Hut. Yes, it has the grossest name around. Loving Hut. It reminds me of somewhere a girl would go to lose her virginity to an elder. And I mean ELDERLY elder. I’m Gonna Puke Hut.
Other than that, this place is delightful. I am reviewing the SF location today but there are two others that just opened in Palo Alto and Milpitas. It’s apparently part of a huge chain that’s all over Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. It’s a Ching Hai Enterprise and so is filled with cult-like awesomeness, including a large television that plays Supreme Master TV on loop. I don’t get to watch much TV and I love it/hate it/want to marry it so when I’m in a room with one, my eyes immediately wander towards it. However, since SMTV is basically unwatchable insanity, it was both a blessing (to my friends who enjoy my company SO MUCH) and a curse (to ME, can we get some Gossip Girl up in here?!).
The menu is available to view and download on their website, but don’t expect to find the exact same menu at the restaurant you go to. The prices are also totally different. But the weird thing is, they’re cheaper at the restaurant than on the site. I don’t know what that’s about, some sort of reverse bait and switch?! Mama like! Most of the food is Chinese with some Vietnamese influences and a slight touch of crazy town. They also have a section of the menu titled “Western Food,” which is basically burgers, club sandwiches and spaghetti. See above about crazy town. So far, the standouts have been the Triple Happiness, pictured below—it’s like these deep-fried layers of gluten, taro and bread. Kinda like a savory gluten baklava. I think. Just try it. I think. Basically, you’ll either love it or think it’s kinda funky. Russian Roulette!; the Ocean Platter, above—basically a big platter of delicious fried foods and yummy dipping sauces, a huge hit with everyone; Spicy Cha Cha—yam crescents that are deep-fried to look and taste like shrimp HOW DO THEY DO IT; and the Won Ton Noodle Soup with fake pork! SO GOOD! The Guru’s Curry and the Veggie Stew are also delicious, basically just big pots filled with potatoes, carrots, and soy protein chunks—beef-esque. also, that’s a great fake word—in a yellow curry/gravy mixture. They have white and brown rice available and lots of drinks—NO ALCOHOL! Ching Hai does NOT imbibe!—ranging from the tasty vegan Thai iced tea to the insanely foul to adults/insanely delicious to kids, e.g. some sort of tropical drink mixture with vegan gelatin in it. I don’t know, I think I’m 10 sometimes and so I ordered it and then it came out and it was like drinking warm liquefied jello. Raunchy.
They have desserts too. Stay away from the cakes (sub-par Black China) and go for the fried bananas and ice cream! Soon they’re supposed to have fried ice cream (!!!) but they haven’t perfected it at the SF location and so we wait. Eagerly. I want that g-d fried ice cream. It’s available in Palo Alto currently so strongly considering making the drive in five minutes, JOB BE DAMNED! WHAT HAVE YOU EVER DONE FOR ME! BESIDES GIVE ME MONEY AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE! I say, nuts to THAT! I need fried ice cream like I’ve never needed anything! Actually, to be real, I need fried ice cream like I need a hole in the head. I just really want it. Really, really, very badly. I mean doesn’t that sound amazing? Also, I almost accidentally typed “friend” instead of “fried” 90 times in the above paragraph. What that says about me, I do not want to know. Probably that I’m really cute and fun.
Okay, also, two more quick awesome things. According to Loving Hut, SF is located in Canada. I feel like if this election doesn’t go well, this map will be called foreshadowing as half of SF is likely to move there. SNAP! Kind of! Also, the interior of the SF Loving Hut is like eating in the Taiwanese future. It’s all super-bright and clean with floating hearts and shit. You sort of expect your waitress to be one of the Jetsons. Love it. This place is good for dinner with a few friends but not going to be great for large groups and not at all romantical. Unless you think Clockwork Orange is sexy and then, eat here and after that, check yourself into the psych ward, you sick fuck! Alternately, CALL ME!