By Chris Dwyer
Mar 8, 2021
GLISTENING CHA SIU PORK, decadent roast goose or freshly steamed fish are all rightly icons of the Hong Kong restaurant scene, but the +852 has exploded in recent months with a new wave of vegetarian and vegan cuisine, across the global culinary spectrum. Whether for health reasons, Veganuary, animal welfare, environmental consciousness or just a plain question of taste, plant-based menus have surged in popularity, even in dining destinations hitherto famed for serving meat and seafood.
Here are seven spots, running the gamut from raw vegan to carnivore-haven, now serving up a plant-based storm:
Bombay Dreams have been a mainstay of Hong Kong’s south Asian dining scene for almost 20 years and the popular spot on buzzing Wyndham Street recently created a new 100-percent vegan à la carte menu. Highlights include a fabulous beetroot kebab (see recipe here), creamy baingan bharta made with eggplants roasted in the tandoor, and aromatic spinach. Head Chef Devi Singh has compiled dishes from across India for a fabulous reflection of why the country’s cuisine is arguably the world’s richest for plant-based eating.
If you’re a fan of creative vegan takes on classic meat dishes — and puns — then you should be, er, rooting for Ma…and The Seeds of Life. Its ‘conscious fine dining’ by French Chef Tina Barrat makes you realize that ‘raw vegan’ are not words to be feared. On the contrary, starting with a watermelon tartare, which is vibrant, refreshing and beautifully plated, like all her dishes. ‘Faux gras’ is crafted from cashew nuts, porcini mushrooms and rosemary into a clever texture. Staying pun-tastic, there’s also ‘shamembert’ from their vegan cheese board and ‘chiaviar’ (see recipe here), their take on caviar made from chia seeds.
Excellent renditions of classics from Shanghai, Beijing and Sichuan have made Crystal Jade a firm favorite in Hong Kong, and also seen them pick up a Michelin Bib Gourmand for high quality cuisine at budget-friendly prices. Their latest menu additions are ‘green selections,’ a cross-pollination, if you will, with Green Monday, a local plant-based lifestyle platform. Meat alternatives including OmniPork, Beyond Beef and non-GMO soy enable them to make very convincing takes on their signatures including xiao long bao (see recipe here) and wonton soup, while OmniPork balls with shichimi and cumin are fabulous. The menu is also set to launch in Singapore and Guangdong in the coming months.
K11 MUSEA on the Kowloon waterfront is a veritable hotbed of innovative dining and design, so the Korean vegetarian cuisine at Soil to Soul feels right at home. Their chef, Gu Jin Kwang, is a protege of one of the world’s finest vegan chefs, the renowned Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwan — of Netflix’s Chef’s Table fame. The temple food on offer celebrates Korean vegetarian recipes using organic and plant-based ingredients, while pungent garlic, onion and leek are all avoided. A gluten-free Korean turnip dumpling is much lighter than its name suggests, while the braised tofu and burdock (see recipe here) is a textural delight.
T+L Tip: If you’re spending big, book one of the private dining rooms for cracking views of Victoria Harbour.
Down in the Ovolo Hotel on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Spanish chef Raul Tronco at Komune is a vegetarian who knows how to extract full flavor from his creations. All Ovolo Hotels worldwide cut out meat when they launched ‘Year of the Veg’ last October (read about it and pilfer some recipes here), so Tronco is in his element, kicking off with a vegetarian à la carte menu and seasonal dishes. His chickpea and coconut curry (see recipe here) is a lovely soothing bowl but creations are globally inspired such as charred guacamole on a tomato waffle, or delicious smoked purple cauliflower with eggplant. Save room for a sinful Basque burnt cheesecake.
Restaurant group Maximal Concepts walks the walk like few others in Hong Kong when it comes to sustainability, so it’s no surprise that a plant-based menu of their classic dishes at Mott 32 ticks all the right boxes. The funky and cavernous underground spot in Central could easily have tricked this diner into thinking the dishes were in fact meat or fish based, reflecting the months spent perfecting them. Crispy ‘eel’ was insanely good, a sweet, sticky and crunchy number. Then stir-fried ‘beef’ with okra and bamboo shoots also had us scratching our heads as to how they did it. They’ve also got a plant-powered Peking ‘duck.’ Overall, a menu so strong that it could easily convince flexitarians to go full veg.
Finally to Miss Lee, serving up modern Chinese vegetarian in cute surrounds on the fringes of the Soho and Sheung Wan neighborhoods. Their take on the Sichuan classic mapo dofu is a winner, with pork swapped for finely-diced soy pulp known as okara. Sweet-and-sour mixed mushrooms (see recipe here) have all the bite and sweetness you’d hope for, but it’s dishes like the umami-rich mushroom dumplings with fermented beancurd sauce that show the hand of consultant Chef Siu Hin Chi from Michelin-two-starred Ying Jee Club.