With its abundance of fresh vegetables, noodles, rice and tofu, Chinese cuisine is a reliable option for any vegan who fancies a night off cooking.
For me, though, there is always an underlying discomfort when browsing a standard Chinese restaurant menu, loaded, as they usually are, with chicken, prawns, pork and – a particular gross-out for me – shredded duck. I seek to stay focused on my own food, trying not to think about the inevitable contamination possibilities in a busy kitchen.
It was wonderful, then, to discover Tofu Vegan, which has two branches not far from me in London. I enjoy it so much that I have dined at the Islington branch three times in recent months, trying a wide range of the 40 or so dishes on the menu. I suspect there will be more repeat visits.
As the name suggests, it’s vegan, which means it instantly feels like a place in which I want to eat. The food is amazing. The menu is set out in a traditional style, with colour photos of many of the meals, and the staff are both knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to choosing dishes that suit your palate and will go well together.
I’ve asked for and taken advice before each order and never been disappointed. My favourites include the wontons in special house sauce, Dongbei-style potato, green pepper and aubergine, and the Gong Bau tofu with peanuts, but I’ve not sampled a taste there that I haven’t absolutely enjoyed.
Many of the dishes are made with tofu and mushrooms, or with Asian imitation meats made from bean proteins and other meat-free ingredients. The cooks include chefs from Sichuan, the Cantonese south of China and the north-eastern Dongbei region, so the menu features a range of enticing regional flavours.
It’s not, perhaps, the cheapest dinner option, but the portions are large and the rice is served in a regularly refilled all-you-can-eat bowl.
The owners say Tofu Vegan offers a completely plant-based menu suitable for vegetarians and vegans, but will also delight those who usually eat meat. I can confirm this from my own experience, as on all occasions bar one my companions were omnivores. Without exception they thoroughly enjoyed the food with the delighted astonishment of those who regularly eat meat without any apparent thought as to whether there might be an alternative.