Sugared & Spiced

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[Shanghai] Vegetarian Lifestyle 棗子樹

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Vegetarian Lifestyle 棗子樹

Add*: 848 Huangjincheng Dao, near Shuicheng Nan Lu 黄金城道848号, 近水城南路
Tel: 6275 1798
Hours: 11am-9pm
Price: 70~100 RMB/person
Visited: Mar 2011

Chinese food isn’t usually associated with “healthy” or “light”. The sauteed vegetables are often smothered in a mindless pouring of soy sauce, the pork chops are almost always lined with a thick layer of jiggling fat, and let’s not mention the generous sprinkling of MSG in every dish. To me, home seems to be the only place where “light” Chinese food is gauranteed. But Vegetarian Lifestyle (a.k.a. Jujube Tree), a vegetarian restaurant that has established a loyal following among locals and foreigners alike, proudly proclaims that their cuisine involves “no meat, no eggs, no smoke, no alcohol” and of course no MSG, but is just as tasty. Is that possible?

*Multiple locations, check SmartShanghai.

Upon seated, we were each served a small seasonal fruit bowl and a cup of sweet and sour apple vinegar. Contrary to the typical Chinese practice of eating fruits after a meal, Vegetarian Lifestyle recommends doing the reserve, as the nutrients are more easily absorbed when there’s nothing else in your system. Padding your stomach with some fruits also curbs the hunger and prevents overeating. One stone two birds.

We started with two appetizers, both popular items recommended by our waitress: 麻醬三絲 3 kinds of strips with sesame paste (22 RMB), a cold dish of green bean noodles, carrots, and cucumber slices mixed with sesame peanut dressing, and 香酥腐皮卷 tofu skin rolls (22 RMB), crispy tofu skin wrapping enoki mushrooms, wood ears, and the likes. A good start.

魚香茄子煲 eggplant with sweet and hot sauce (30 RMB) was nicely flavored and I was quite impressed with how “real” the mock meat tasted, but the dish was rather greasy and not particularly healthy-tasting.

東坡竹筍 braised bamboo shoots and vegetarian pork with soy bean sauce (38 RMB) was a nice imitation on pork – they even managed to recreate the fat using some type of jelly.

農家小炒筍 deep-fried millet and bamboo shoots (36 RMB), beautiful in color and intense in flavor, was my favorite dish of the meal. The sour cabbage was so addictively appetizing, I almost finished the whole plate by myself.

The 香菇若燥有機糙米白飯 Taiwanese style vegetarian pork rice (6 RMB) is a healthier and lighter version of the simple Taiwanese comfort food. No, it’s not as good as the original – nothing beats the fatty chopped pork belly – but it’s a valid attempt. Plain white rice with brown rice is also available for order (4 RMB) .

羅勒焗松茸 stir-fried pine mushrooms with basil (78 RMB) was a plate of plump and juicy pine mushrooms (an especially expensive type of mushrooms) dressed in chopped basil. Delicious.

The two dimsum dishes we ordered, 田園豆苗餃 dumplings with mixed pea seedling (16 RMB) and 小奶草奶塔 wheatgrass tart (15 RMB), were both nicely done. The wheatgrass tarts were especially interesting and worthy of a try for those who like tea-flavored desserts.

The verdict? Relatively-speaking, the dishes were less greasy and lighter on the sauces than most Chinese restaurants out there, but don’t expect everything to be ultra healthy either. A great choice for those who want to cut back on their meat intake.

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Written by sugarednspiced

March 13th, 2011 at 11:08 pm