Hong Kong is a city full of surprises. My friend Richard has been a vegetarian for decades and I remember how little there is to choose from when dining out with him. This trip, a few of us got together and gathered at Grassroots Pantry, a vegan eatery located in the antique district of Hong Kong on Hollywood Road. Chef Peggy Chan is doing some amazing things here, and educating locals on plant-based cuisine which has seen a surge here in California.
Before Richard arrives, we are already munching on local spring vegetables such as baby carrots, heirloom purple and yellow potatoes, cherry tomatoes, kale, etc, dipped in a fermented tofu cashew dip reminiscent of Bagna Cauda (HK$80/US$10.25) but without the anchovies and butter. The fu yu or fermented tofu, recreates the umami from the anchovies, and entices the palate for what’s about to come.
Popcorn “Chicken” (HK$85/US$10.90) uses lion’s mane mushroom, aka hedgehog mushrooms. These little bites are crispy on the outside and texturally sound on the inside. A coconut kefir sour cream dipping sauce accompanies. Richard was skeptical as they looked and tasted like chicken, but relented and absolutely loved it.
Fans of dumplings will love these Sichuan-inspired Pan-Fried Gyoza (HK$70/US$9) filled with a concoction of cabbage, Chinese celery, shiitake, and carrot pulp left over from the cold-press juices the restaurant offers. These delicious pockets are drizzled in a Sichuan peppercorn vinaigrette, topped with fried shallots, and a perfect alternative to the usually meat-laden offerings in Asian cuisine.
Indian Tikka Flatbread (HK$115/US$14.75) is seasoned with tikka spice rub and topped with hedgehog mushroom, curry pine nut cream, mango chutney, and a cilantro mint pesto. Fresh arugula covers the top, lending freshness and texture to the finish.
For a low carb alternative, try Kelp & Mung Bean Noodle Salad (HK$158/US$20.25) a cold dish comprising zucchini spirals, julienned cucumber, tahini dressing, Chikiang (dark Chinese vinegar) vinaigrette, pickled cloud ear mushrooms, blanched hedgehog mushrooms, fresh cilantro, and sprouted almonds. It is refreshing and super light, but possesses a rich mouth-feel.
I am a huge fan of curries, and Thai Green Curry (HK$118/US$15) is not only flavorful, but super healthy as well. The green curry sauce is lovely, dotted with cubes of fried firm tofu, seasonal vegetables such as bell peppers and mushrooms, and served with steamed organic short grain brown rice. I’m planning to recreate this at home very soon!
We wanted one more item, and I was intrigued by Teff Injera & Dal Makhani (HK$58/US$7.45) a marriage between Indian and Ethiopian cuisines. The injera was solid, with that perfectly spongey texture, and the accompanying dal pairs extremely well together. Impressive indeed.
We rounded off the meal with two desserts. Rum Raisin Cannoli (HK$85/US$ ) incorporates coconut sugar, tuille, El Dorado rum raisin coconut whip, ‘Raiz-the Bar’ raw chocolate, and a scoop of ‘Happy Cow’ salted caramel ice cream.
However, my favorite was Stone Fruit Almond Cobbler (HK$95/US$ ) a warm dessert with ECO Farm plums and peaches, almond vanilla custard, and a scoop of home-made oat mylk bay leaf ice cream. The varying textures and tart flavors appeal greatly to my senses.
I am tickled to find something of Grassroots Pantry’s caliber in Hong Kong. This plant-based movement has been taking off in the US and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It’s about time a progressive city such as Hong Kong embraces this concept and takes it to a whole new level.
108 Hollywood Road
Tel: +852 2873 3353
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