Eats Meets West

Story Nhon Nguyen
Asian fusion cuisine

An abundance of foods are imported into Vancouver from all over the Pacific Rim. Not only does our city receive plenty of exotic vegetables and fruits but also a variety of cuisines. Popular additions to our West Coast palate are Asian vegetarian dishes. Japan, China, and Vietnam, are among Pacific Rim countries which have had a long tradition of vegetarian cooking.

Many immigrants from these Pacific Rim countries who have settled in Vancouver are Buddhists. Devout Buddhists are either strict vegetarians or eat vegetarian meals on four days each month. Those four days are the first and the last (29th, 30th, or 31st), as well as the 14th and 15th days of the lunar calender.

There are many restaurants in Vancouver that offer authentic Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese vegetarian dishes. One restaurant offering vegetarian Vietnamese food is the Bo De Duyen. Customers come to the Bo De Duyen for the mouthwatering creations of Mr. Nguyen, the manager. Regular patrons crave the tasty hotpots made with soya protein, the tofu bean thread with fried tarot root and roasted rice, the vegetarian ham with steamed rice, the vegetarian curry, the salad rolls and the spring rolls, all of which are cooked in Mr. Nguyen’s authentic Vietnamese style.

While “eating a vegetarian diet” is wholesome and healthy it can also be a creative and delicious experience. Locals seeking gastronomic variety can dine at any one of the lower mainland’s many vegetarian restaurants or perhaps prepare similar Asian-style dishes at home with the following recipes:

Pacific Rim Stir-Fry

1 stalk lemon grass (outer leaves removed)
cut into 3-in lengths (=1 tbsp dried)
1 bag of curry (3 tbsp)
1 tsp granulated sugar
4 tsp salt
5 tbsp vegetable oil
10­15 pieces of fried bean curds (medium-sized)
3 sweet potatoes peeled & cut into 2-in cubes
3 white potatoes peeled & cut into 2-in cubes
1 large onion, cut into wedges
4 large oyster mushrooms
1 cup water
1 large carrot, cut into 2-in pieces
1 28-oz can of coconut milk
1 cup of milk or 1/2 cup of thick cream
Chopped coriander and pepper for garnish
Fry potatoes in 3 tablespoons of oil over high heat until lightly browned. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry onions for 30 seconds; add lemon grass and the rest of the potatoes and vegetables. Add curry, salt and pepper, stir briefly, pour in water and milk (or cream) plus 1/2 of coconut milk. Cover and bring to boil for 2 minutes. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove cover, add fried bean curds and remaining coconut milk. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle top with coriander and pepper. Serve with rice, vermicelli or french bread.

Vegetarian Stir-fry

200g pkg tofu, fried and cubed
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 stalk green onion, cut into 1-in pieces
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted to brown
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup each: bok choi, gai lan, choi sum, cut in 3-in pieces
1 cup each: snow peas (hoh laan dau) and baby corn
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/4 cube vegetarian stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp cornstarch
1/3 cup water chestnut
2 tsp black bean sauce
Optional: ground, dried chili
Heat vegetable oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir-fry until you begin to smell the aroma. Add green onion and black pepper and stir fry for 20 seconds. Add tofu and continue to stir fry for 1-2 minutes. Pour in black bean sauce, soy sauce and ground chili (optional). Mix together constarch and 1/4 cup water, then add to the stir-fry. Add vegetable mixture, stir for 1 minute, and bring to a boil. When sauce thickens, add sesame oil. Mix well, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve immediately.