There are many great meals to be had in Hong Kong, but one unexpectedly amazing dinner, or rather banquet, which we had was when a local took us to try out a Buddhist vegetarian place. Veggie Palace (貴德宮) is actually a private kitchen in a random apartment block in Wan Chai. You have to book ahead, and ring a doorbell to be let in, before taking the steps or the lift to the upper ground floor.
|The entrance to Veggie Palace just looks like any apartment block. Usually Security would be minding it too.|
|A warm welcome behind a scary looking door.|
|Serene dining room decorated with paintings, calligraphy, lanterns and plants, soft music in the background.|
Everything is vegetarian (you can also ask for a vegan meal), which is hugely liberating for the vegetarians out there. What is more astounding than the variety of dishes is that they are so delicious, while not having been prepared with onion, garlic, or any of the "fetid vegetables", in adherence to su (素) vegetarianism.
Here's a rundown of what we had to eat, beginning with lavender tea and coated peanuts while we waited for our dinner.
|Coated peanuts, tea and hot water|
|First course: cold appetiser|
|Second course: dumpling soup|
|Third course: wontons and deep fried eggplant slices served on cabbage and carrot slices|
|Fourth course: sweet and sour pork dish with mock meat|
|Fifth course: stuffed eggs topped with choose, served on a square of nori|
|Sixth course: fried stuffed eggplant|
|Seventh course: sea coconut soup with pumpkin, sweetcorn and carrots|
|Eight course: curry with beef ball and fish ball analogues, tofu, tomatoes, potato and cauliflower, served with rice and toasted baguette slices|
|Ninth course: fuzzy melon stuffed with fake pork, garnished with snow pea sprouts|
|Tenth course: emperor vegetable, with shiitake mushrooms|
|First dessert course: osmanthus jelly|
|Second dessert course: sweet walnut soup|
I was excited to be able to taste vegetables that I have not had before, like the sea coconut and the emperor vegetable, though I was also impressed by how close the meat substitutes were to the real thing, particularly the beef balls. I would dearly love to know how they produced that meaty flavour without actually using some form of meat. The use of a pumpkin base for several dishes was also a novelty, because it just seemed to provide a neutral savouriness without tasting of pumpkin. This meal was a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds, not to mention great value for money, and I would happily return to Veggie Palace, fully prepared next time for the number of dishes which would be served.
Closest Auckland Equivalents
* Loving Hut (formerly known as the Golden Age Vegan Restaurant)
61 Victoria Street West, Auckland Central
(09) 303 2531
You won't get a banquet-style set menu at this eatery, located diagonally opposite the Sky Tower, but you can get your mock meat in a wide variety of delicious Asian vegetarian delights, from Chinese roast duck to Malaysian laksas and curry puffs. [Added 29 November 2013: Unfortunately, this eatery has now closed.]
* Water Drop Vege Cafe at Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Temple (佛光山滴水坊)
16 Stancombe Road, Flat Bush, Manukau
(09) 274 4880
The sleekly decorated Water Drop Vege Cafe is inside the impressive Buddhist temple out by East Tamaki, and proceeds go towards the maintenance of the temple. With plenty of parking and open to the public, you will have to walk through a mini souvenir shop before getting to the food, which includes Asian favourites as well as such dishes as "vegie patty with chips and salad". Also a good spot for a cake and a coffee.
Veggie Palace (貴德宮)
UG3, Block B, Kwong Sang Hong Building, 6 Heard Street, Wan Chai, Hong Kong (香港灣仔克街6號廣生行大廈B座閣樓3室)
+852 2838 6506
Mondays to Sundays 12 - 3pm, 6 - 10pm
|You would never guess that there was Buddhist vegetarian dining in here|