Being a vegan isn’t as dull as it sounds to your average meat/seafood lover. At least not if you refuel at Bangkok’s most popular vegan restaurant chain aka Veganerie (4th fl. Mercury Ville; Soi 24; G. fl. EmQuartier; G. fl. Siam Paragon).
Au contraire, the fare is quite as creative and colourful as the mainstream and lacks little if anything in flavour, at least once you’ve recalibrated your palate. If there’s nothing in the oeuvre of the haute cuisine ilk, it’s a reasonable trade-off for achieving your ultimate BMI and feeling altogether lighter about life.
Indeed, if your experience is anything like that of John (lost 12kg in his first year), one of the brains behind the burgeoning brand, you’ll find it quite a giggle.
Make no mistake, the reason for forgoing all animal products and by-products is more ethical than epicurean.
“We can choose not to kill animals or treat them like machines: plant-based foods offer a better diet.” I paraphrase.
But being pro-life is also about enjoying life more and for longer.
One flick through the luscious looking menu should convince you, if you allow that the snacks, dishes and drinks are as delish as they look (and they are!).
Vegans don’t eat animal flesh or by-products, including fish, dairy, eggs. Everything Veganerie serves is 100% from plants, 0% cholesterol and trans-fat, low (Demerara) sugar, and calorie. Gluten-free and nut-free selections are offered. Organic “is not our priority”. But hygiene and “heart” are.
It’s not hippy cheap, though. Many of the raw ingredients are imported. Crushed cashew nuts, for instance, tweaked by John’s sister, Natapassorn, the culinary whizz, substitute for “cheese” etc. Moreover, two of the branches are in eye-wateringly high-rental mega-mall territory. So despite their popularity, they remain low margin. “Before us, there was no vegan eatery at Paragon so we wanted to be here for posh shoppers to experience,” explains John.
I asked him how he would ease a novice into veganism and he suggested Soy Carbonara Spaghetti (260); spaghetti noodle mixed with soy carbonara sauce, champignon, soy bacon, nut Parmesan, olive oil. It was delicious. Not as umami as with cream and eggs but far from bland and the crispy slices looking like streaky bacon did indeed taste remarkably bacony.
Pesto Quinoa Fusilli (290) – fusilli pasta made from organic quinoa, pesto, pistachio, mushrooms etc. – requiring none of the “reverse engineering” of mainstream dishes that Natapassorn does when not going the whole vegan hog, sounds good, too.
The Vegan Caesar Wrap (180), was a very nice crumbly pastry-contained sandwich of romaine lettuce, tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, soy caesar salad dressing, cashew nut Parmesan.
For a deep vegan experience, John suggested raw pat Thai veggie with delicious sounding creamy-roasted peanut-coconut sauce. But instead I saved room for cashew nut Cheesecake which, given that it had nothing to answer to my arteries, was yummy.
For a beverage I chose one of the wicked looking – and indeed tasting – smoothies: Soy Caramel Crunch (140) with coconut whipped cream and granola. It made me wonder why bother dicing with deadly carbs at all. Meanwhile, multiple ice creams are made with 100% banana instead of milk, not that you’d know it.
So I ate and drank quite a lot but I somehow felt lifted rather than stuffed or pooped.
Don’t worry if you’re not a vegan. Everyone’s welcome. And if it convinces you to convert, so much the better for your arteries, waistline and descendants.