I’ve never really been much of a mock meat fan. All that processing and refining of what I’m sure is a huge list of ingredients just doesn’t seem like a wise choice of food to fuel your body with. I am however, guilty of chowing down on some Chicken Nuggets from Lord of the Fries with absolutely no qualms, so it does seem slightly contradictor that I should be so dubious about the quality of the faux meat served at any Vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Melbourne.
So, I’ve tried a couple over the years (literally, 2) one of which recently was Vegie Hut in Box Hill- a specialty Vegetarian Chinese restaurant that caters for Buddhists. This means no onion, shallot, garlic or ginger etc. is used in their food…and you can tell. I’m not sure of the actual reasoning behind this, but I believe it has something to do with these strong flavours being linked to sexual desire (info sourced from Wikipedia, so unsure of its reliability) which apparently is not the Buddhist way. A fellow vegan friend of mine would often rave about how amazing the food is at Vegie Hut- so much variety and absolutely worth the trip all the way over to the other side of Melbourne to experience. I don’t mind a bit of a drive to the opposite end of town if I know food is waiting for me, but it needs to be good food, obviously…could probably have just put this place off a little longer, like, forever.
First positive about this place- you need to make a booking. A food establishment full of people is a pretty good indication the food is awesome, so I was encouraged to see a full restaurant at 5:30pm (the beginning of dinner service) and people being turned away at the door. Second positive- the menu is huge! Lots of entrees and enough fake meat options to sink a ship. It was actually a bit of a spin out reading choices I could eat listed under “Pork” and “Seafood”, but even still I found myself just wanting something with a buttload of tofu in it. This is what we ended up ordering:
- Vegetable Dumpling (pictured)
- Sesame Prawn
- Chicken Satay
- Lemon Chicken (pictured)
- Hot and Spicy Chicken
- Stir fry vegetables
And Chinese Tea.
I’d like to come up with a Third positive, but the only thing I can think of also leads into my first negative- the food comes out quickly; too quickly actually as the Chicken Satay and Sesame Prawn were both only luke warm in temperature.
The entrees were actually the most enjoyable dishes as they had the most flavour. The pan fried dumplings were crispy, however the filling wasn’t overly recognisable. The chicken satay was full of flavour and tasted like the real thing and the prawns were close in texture and taste as well. At this point I was filling up on tea, but I was eager to see if my favourite Chinese take away dish as a kid could be successfully replicated in faux form- Lemon chicken = disappointment.
The sauce tasted like a lemon cordial reduction and was almost fluorescent in colour. I’m not sure whether this was a bad batch of chicken, but it tasted like plastic and started to taste worse as the dish got colder. The batter was nice and crispy, so there doesn’t appear to be an issue with their deep fryer- Bonus. I ate about half of the portion served, but only because I felt bad for leaving so much of it behind. The hot and spicy chicken was better, but it was far from hot and/or spicy. Thankfully, it resembled the above mentioned Chicken Nuggets from LOTF in both texture and flavour. This would have been nicer had there been any kind of hot sauce to go with it…or fresh chilli that was actually hot…so much potential.
As for the Stir-fry vegetables- let’s just say the basic flavours of Asian cuisine were sorely missed with this one. Steamed vegies that taste as though they came out of a ‘Birds Eye’ heat and serve freezer pack are not my idea of a culinary delight. Enough said really.
I almost feel bad for speaking so poorly about this place, because I know there has to be some good things on the menu to warrant it being so popular. I’m just not sure I want to bother trying again to see why.
FYI- You too can enjoy this “Journey of the Tastebuds” for $60.00…Fail.
*pictures of actual dishes sourced from other websites