Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

Sharks fin… oh my. I still remember my first bowl of premium full sized fin in a piping hot personal claypot courtesy of a VERY rich contractor many many many moons back (when I could still fit into size 30 jeans!) @ a Chinese Thai restaurant at Jalan Legundi, Sembawang. It was delicious! Was it the fin or the starchy superior soup? Or was it the “prestige” of having a full sized fin in a personal claypot?

Then I had oodles more “inferior” ones and some occasional decent ones down the road served in many Chinese wedding dinners. Relatives, colleagues and friends. Almost every wedding dinner banquet will serve this. Some as bland as cornstarch thickened tap water with loaded with MSG.

Then I watched a documentary on TV showing fishermen hauling up sharks, cutting up their fins and throwing them back into the sea. The sharks were still alive when they threw them in mind you. Disgusting.

Then I swore not to eat sharks fin anymore. It’s just not worth it. TV propaganda + 1. Ah Seng – 0. Ok not really… but I realised it was that starchy SOUP that gave me the umami kick and not the fins.

However, I do like shark meat though. Teochew economical rice stalls would normally have something like baby sharks chopped up and cooked together with salted vegetables, tomatoes and chilli. Hypocritical maybe, but what’s worse? Kill the little babies before letting them grow up full size to be finned alive. I don’t know how to justify myself when it comes down to the nitty gritty. However, my tastebuds tell me that REAL shark’s fin is NOT necessary to make a good bowl of “sharks fin” soup. Period.

All I know is if you’re gonna kill an animal for food, make good use of it. That’s why I love teh pig. *snort*

Ok enough of rambling. I was pretty excited when a group of us were invited by lovesharks.sg to dine @ Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant, Quality Hotel for their Chinese New Year set dinner featuring vegetarian sharks fin soup. I was looking forward to see if a vegetarian based soup stock would give me that umami punch that a meat based superior stock of jinhua ham, dried scallops and chicken would give.

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The first dish prosperity yu sheng. The mock fish meat if coloured more intense deep maroon would look like tuna! Ha…. Not a big fan of yu sheng but I do enjoy tossing it up mumbling nonsensical lucky phrases that wouldn’t make a difference in life if the person is lazy and won’t work hard and smart for their own future. Bleah…

I tried shooting a few shots using my semi retired DSLR but wised up to put it back into bag. The Panasonic LX3 did a much better job. Yeah I know, it’s so easy to blame the gear rather than the skills of a photographer.

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The much anticipated vegetarian sharks fin soup.

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I’ll have to say, ho hum. Lacks the umami and complexity of a superior stock used in the regular sharks fin. The mock fins were pretty decent but would be better if it had a bit more bite.

IMHO, to convince a shark’s fin soup enthusiast to abstain from sharks fin, keep the soup as is (non vegetarian superior soup stock) and scrap the fins. Use alternatives such as mock fins made from mung bean and I believe that there’s another version out there that’s even more “authentic” but I can’t find any reference to it yet. You can substitute the fins with sharks fin melon if you’re not so discerning about the mouth feel. Fish maw would make me more than happy though.

Caltrops with hairy mushroom
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This I like. I’ve always like the texture of hairy mushrooms aka monkey head mushrooms. Caltrops look like mini buffalo horns when unpeeled. Its teh DEVIL!

Spicy pan-fried vegetarian fish
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Cod fish! Ha…. I like it for what it is… TOFU. The bell pepper sauce was a wee bit too sourish, probably from rice vinegar. Cut back a bit on the vinegar and I’ll eat it again.

Fresh mushroom with asparagus.
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This dish itself is decent and nice but keep that ready made store bought ice cream cones to the general consumer grade ice cream. Store bought ice cream cones has got no place in a dish like this. The flavours clashed. It would have scored if the cones were freshly made, thin and crispy.

Fruity almond rolls with otah
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This one reminds me of banana fritters. I didn’t like the pairing of fruity almond rolls with the otah. No harmony when eaten together-gether.
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The otah looks strangely like real fish otah of the Muar variety!

Stewed chestnuts with golden fungus
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I think we all agreed that this was the best tasting dish of the night. Funny, it was the accompanying ingredients like monkey head mushrooms, radish and mock tendons that stole the show from the featured chestnuts and golden fungus. Never been a big fan of chestnuts. The monkey head mushrooms and radish were stewed to perfection. Very nice!

I like this so much that I rushed out the next day to buy a pack of monkey head mushroom! I'll try to attempt this for the coming Chinese New Year reunion dinner as my eldest bro is a full time vegetarian.

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DOG MEAT?!?!?!?!?! damn wrong!
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Ok... back to the food!

Chicken rice balls...
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...and mock chicken
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I can’t say I really like this. I’d prefer the regular MSG laden vegetarian soy “chicken” rice from vegetarian stalls at hawker centres. Nevertheless +1 for the effort and staying current with the chicken rice ball trend if there is one to start with…. Note: Malacca chicken rice balls are over rated. It tastes like… chicken rice.

Osmanthus pudding with xue lian
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Normally when I see any jelly like dish as a dessert, I’m already half expecting the jelly to be soft, insipid and tasteless. However this dish proved me wrong. It was firm and refreshing with nice bits stuff to chew on that is quite foreign to me plus the sweet/sour berry like puree.

Check out what the rest of my fellow bloggers thought of the food and their views on shark conservation.

Keropokman
Camemberu
Ladyironchef
Superfinefeline

Kudos to lovesharks.sg for hosting this event and more importantly for taking the initiative and effort to raise awareness for shark conservation. Please visit lovesharks.sg to find out more about shark conservation.

Its an uphill climb with all the naysayers, the ignorant ones, the ones living in denial that the WHOLE shark is used and of course the one who chooose to order and consume sharksfin. Also the constant bickering amongst those militant activists who are supposed to be for the cause but being militants as they are their cause is way more benevolent than others. Get a life, get a grip. The world is so full of hate, every little bit counts. Let those who can only afford to do that little bit of positivity do what they can and those who can do more do more. Its not a race, its not a competition.

*Reading the comments on my fellow bloggers only shows the tunnel vision of some anonymous losers who are just around to troll blogs.

Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant
2nd level, Quality Hotel
201 Balestier Road
Singapore 329926

Hours: Open daily, Lunch: 1130hrs - 1500hrs, Dinner: 1800hrs - 2200hrs
Tel: 6254 0090

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6 comments:

brad said...

dude u finally updated! hahaha. so busy with work eh? eat more, write more :))

southernoise said...

haha... yeah man. busy and also was away in Bali for a short getaway.

Bali posts coming up.... I hope.... :P

MikeTheWaiterDotCom said...

well, busy with work or not, you really took the time to do some great photos.... looks delicious!
mTW

Tan.wiratchada said...

Oh...my buddha...very beautiful pics posted. You make it everything more delicious and I want to be there...yum..yum..;)

CRIZ LAI said...

I love this! Vegetarian food had evolved right? Haha. Looked at the shapes and looks. They looked almost like real ones. :) Hmm.. I think I should pop out some new vegetarian dishes after this CNY hectic kitchen woes. :P

Happy "Niu" Year to you and all in the family. May this year be a healthy, wealthy and prosperous year for everyone. :)

http://crizfood.com/

southernoise said...

Mike: thanks!

Tan: Thanks, do drop me an email when you're back in Singapore. We can bring you around for food!

Criz: Yeah, vegetarian food has evolved a long way, some very unique and delicious!

A very happy new year to you and your family as well!