Yours and My Vegan
Salubrity with good taste found at last
By Dan O'Heron 10/06/2011
In order to make room for holiday feasting ahead, my goal was to try and get so thin that the Spandex in my gym suit would sag.
But how does a restaurant writer, accustomed to living the good, gout-producing life, do it? Without enough philosophical or spiritual discipline, I just can’t put on a sheet and not eat.
And, beyond total denial, austerity would seem to be the only choice left. But I can’t see picking at health foods that taste like they came on a tray in a ward. Luckily, a friend who takes good care of himself and watches over me, found the solution at My Vegan restaurant. Located in a nondescript strip-mall, My Vegan turned out to be just what a doctor would order for a restaurant writer: extremely healthy food that tasted good.
The point was made early with skewers of faux chicken sate. In this $6.95 appetizer, tofu chunks were marinated in a blend of Thai spices and coconut milk. It was served with a peanut sauce dip and a side of cold, crunchy cucumbers. The chicken tasted as good as real chicken kebabs I’ve eaten at Zankou, but it was much lighter in texture.
The well-being of chickens — and turkeys, for that matter — had always been low on my pecking order of concerns. But the humane thoughts that went into creating this faux chicken sate helped me clean my conscience and my arteries of Colonel Sanders and all of his wing men. Around the holidays, I can still be merry about wrapping paper but not wishbones.
And, people tell me that I can forget all about sharp cheddars and Kraft singles; the soy cheese here, added for $1 to a dozen kinds of $7.95 “near” burgers, is the best tasting you’ll find anywhere.
While its Thai-flavored preparations are strictly vegan, less restricted vegetarians tell me that they sprout affection for salads like the “Waterfall.” In this, for $8.95, you get four crisp leaves of romaine hearts with a choice of soy chicken — or tofu — with red onions, roasted rice and chili powder, mint leaves, scallion, all unguent in a spicy lime dressing.
The salad that became the magic beanstalk that would take me to my quest was yum woon sen: soy fish and soy shrimp laced with glass noodles and loaded with fresh veggies.
Partner/owner, Teddy Lertvichuhath told me that he goes to the market every morning to pick out only the produce that has ripened to become perfectly ready to eat. He admitted that his dry spice rack, compared to other Thai restaurants, is rather sparse, but that his stocky refrigerator brims with fresh lemon grass, fresh basil, fresh lime leaves and fresh you-name-it.
It was most interesting to watch Teddy in the kitchen wielding a machete to chop the heads of fresh and shave coconuts. Before beheading, he stopped short to leave hinged tops. Outside many diners were seen opening and closing the lids between straw sips of coconut juice and spooned chisels of the meat inside. The good book tells me that electrolytes in coconut juice help athletes recover faster. It’s like Gatorade but without the sugar.
The machete and the coconut juice would symbolize my quest. The men in the room looked as lean and mean as a machete — I could look like that. The women looked as slim and sleek as a sash — my girlfriend could look like that.
633 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena