Living on the veg

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First published on 28 Jan 2008.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or in a rabbit warren), you will already be familiar with the atrocious reality of meat production from books like Fast Food Nation and films like Super Size Me. If your piece of steak has already started to lose its appeal, consider joining the millions of vegetarians worldwide. Time Out Singapore has a list of places that should give you an easy and no less delicious entrée into the land of greens. 

Set up by a dietician, a nurse and a teacher, Genesis delivers home-cooked fare without meat, dairy or animal fat. Instead the restaurant uses only wholegrain ingredients, little to no oil and focuses on nourishing the body ‘the right way’ (read: plenty of wholesome greens). Serving Western and Asian dishes, the menu has local favourites like claypot rice and bak kut teh, albeit without meat. Main courses are priced at $4.50, with side dishes from $3. There are weekly specials like a Korean rice set or quinoa salad, and bee hoon ($1) and a range of healthy muffins ($2) are on offer for breakfast. There is also a monthly cooking class where you can learn how to make bread and get a helping of health tips for $40. 

Ling Zhi 
One of the best-known vegetarian eateries in Singapore, Ling Zhi is part of the Tung Lok Group – other restaurants include My Humble Home and Jade – and is the company’s solution for modern, formal, Chinese vegetarian dining. The uninitiated will certainly appreciate the menu’s detailed description of each ingredient’s specific health benefits and how they fit into the Chinese methodology of ‘heaty’ and ‘cooling’ foods. The title of each dish adds an additional clue and some entertainment. For instance, the Healthy Wealthy Spinach Soup ($5.50) is a cooling dish, described to get both your blood and bank balance flowing in a positive way. The Vege Duck ($16), made from freshly fried bean-curd skin, is shaped to resemble its namesake, and the house special, The Spicy Hairy ($16), appears as its name suggests, courtesy of the vitamin-rich monkey-head mushroom with its tuft of snow-white ‘icicles’. In addition to the regular menu, there is also a buffet option (lunch $20.80, dinner $25) and the adjoining store sells snacks (80¢-$2) like mock-meat char siew bao, fried yam croquettes and red bean rolls, (Monkey Head Mushrooms and Sautéed Spinach pictured).

This busy but comfortable establishment offers south and north Indian vegetarian food and even some vegan-friendly dishes. A good all-round choice are the sets ($6-$6.50), which come on stainless-steel platters with little pots containing individual dishes. Each set is made up of five different curries and vegetables and one dessert (often a gulab jamoon, a dough flavoured with cardamom and rosewater; or a mysore pak, a simple sweet from the south) with a choice of breads or rice as the accompanying carbohydrate. The less spicy option is the north Indian thaali set served with chana masala, a chickpea curry and drier dishes like aloo methis, potato and fenugreek herb; while the south Indian set also has drier dishes, such as a raw beetroot poriyal salad or some fried bitter gourd, served with the staple tamarind-flavoured sambar sauce. For those with a smaller stomach, there is a mini set for $5. Afternoon Mumbai chaats (snacks) like the pav bhaji – bread stuffed with veggie curry and papadi ($4) – are sold from 3pm onwards. 

Original Sin
Chef Marissa Bertocchi’s delectable meatless creations have carved a following with both vegetarians and carnivores. The restaurant’s signature dish is its Eggplant Power Stack, which is still on the mostly Mediterranean menu after ten years. The mezze platter includes falafel, hummus and baba ganoush, as well as the less common koresh, a dish of pumpkin and carrot, flavoured with caraway and fennel seeds. Pizzas are freshly baked and topped with kalamata olives, caramelised onions, arugula, mozzarella, parmesan and semi-dried tomatoes. The menu also deserves a mention for its clear, instructive style, differentiating between vegetarians who eat dairy, those who don’t, and even those who avoid garlic and onion. No dairy, however, does not mean no dessert – the vegan brownie with coconut ice cream is scrumptious. That said, a meal at Original Sin is decadent in other ways, too – main courses cost $22-$28. (Bosco Misto pictured)

Raj Restaurant  
This family-owned chain was founded on the premise of luring meat-loving Bengali people away from a diet of chicken and mutton. The extensive menu has vegetable dishes, nuts, pulses, creamy north Indian curries and south Indian cuisine with more than 50 dosai options available, as well as a wide range of breads and pancakes made from rice, wheat and lentil flour. A typical main course is priced at $8, and an accompanying bread, like the stuffed kulcha roti, only costs $3. The masala tea ($2.50) is a must. 

3rd Sister Stall 
Located in an oft-overlooked food court, this Chinese stall provides tasty local dishes, just without meat. Instead of using mock meats made from gluten, the chefs here manipulate tofu skins and soybeans into dishes that look like the real thing. Chicken rice, mee goreng, wanton noodle soup, even sliced ‘fish’ bee hoon are all available and cost only $3.50. If you like to mix-and-match, three dishes with a serving of noodles or rice will also cost $3.50. The curried vegetables, pumpkin with wolfberries, and the gently spiced baked tofu and mushroom dish are popular choices. If you prefer something a little less healthy, there’s the crispy fried bean curd, fried mock fish and mock barbecue pork, which taste unbelivably close to the real McCoy. 

Yogi Hub
With an emphasis on optimising one’s health without the unecessary use of chemicals, the dishes at Yogi Hub are mostly made from organic ingredients using no meat or eggs, MSG, onion or garlic. Instead of turning out mock-meat dishes (often the case with veg restaurants), the focus is on vegetables, with the help of organic liquid aminos (a salt substitute from soya beans), herbs and brown sugar. Popular choices include the fresh vegetable sushi roll plate ($4), laksa made with organic soymilk ($6), and the brown rice set ($6.50), which comes with a hot dish of veggies, leafy greens, fresh salad and a bowl of clear soup. Dairy- and sugar-free desserts (from $4) are also available, and the avocado mousse is surprisingly luxuriant and decadent for something so healthy. The restaurant even sells a small selection of organic pantry staples.

By Time Out Singapore editors
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