473 Cedar Ln, Teaneck, NJ
631 Valley Rd, Montclair, NJ
1119 US Highway 46, Parsippany, NJ
“Vegetarian Restaurants” are not usually the sort of fodder for this blog. I mean, I’m a meat eater, and I rarely make a meal of 100 percent vegetable protein (although the occasional Felafel sandwich and Eggplant Parmigiana or Indian vegetable curry or dhosa has been known to cross my bow). When I have vegetables, its usually as a compliment to some sort of preparation of tasty animals. So when I pass a “vegetarian” restaurant, the idea of eating some new-age, raw food, tree-hugger vegan garbage usually causes me to go running and screaming.
However, sometimes I don’t want to eat meat, and I guess because I am trying to eat healthier — but I don’t like the idea of eating some kind of weird, contrived and tasteless vegetable dish. So for people like me, there’s vegetarian Chinese food, also referred to as Buddhist Chinese food.
In Northern NJ, we have a small chain of expertly-run vegetarian (actually vegan) Chinese restaurants, called Veggie Heaven. They use a combination of textured vegetable protein (TVP) made of soy, tempeh, wheat gluten as well as fresh vegetables and vegan-certified condiments to make vegan representations of classic Chinese dishes that mimic their meat counterparts. What they are able to achieve is something rather remarkable, and you certainly don’t walk away hungry or feeling deprived.
We went to two of the Veggie Heaven restaurants to see how they compare. While all of them are vegan, only one of the restaurants, the Teaneck location, is actually under Kosher supervision. However many of their cooking condiments and sauces either are made in the US and are kosher certified or come from Israel. In order to be truly vegan, no eggs are used in any of the preparations, including the noodles.
Veggie Heaven Storefront on Valley Road in Montclair.
1234567, all the veggies go to heaven. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more!
The Veggie Heaven placemat, which introduces you to the cuisine.
Montclair restaurant interior.
Specials board. If you had walked into this restaurant not knowing it was a vegetarian chinese place, there’d be really no indication this was vegetarian cuisine.
Complimentary pickled cabbage appetizer.
Hot and Sour Soup
Wonton Soup. The broth appeared to have a strong mushroom flavor which I liked. The wontons were filled with a vegetable mixture that mimicked the filling of pork wontons.
Watermelon juice, nice and refreshing.
This is the “Spicy Girl” from the specials board. We loved the sauce that went with this. Although this is supposed to mimic beef, it was more like a very well executed noodle dish.
This is the “Garden Walnuts” dish, which uses honey candied walnuts, vegetarian chicken (TVP) and fresh string beans. We thought this was the best of the vegetarian dishes we ordered. The TVP has a nice texture and when sauced properly, it actually does kind of taste like chicken.
“Pork” chow mei fun noodles. We didn’t think this one worked as well, was more or less flavorless.
General Tso’s Chicken, made again with TVP. This was a successful dish, although it was more like sliced chicken with broccoli in a sweet and spicy sauce than the classic General Tso, which is deep fried.
Preparing Peking Duck
Vegetarian Peking duck, on the plate.
Peking duck, plated. We thought this tasted a lot like the real thing.
Carrot Cake, which we thought was really good.
“Cheesecake” made with tofu, which tasted amazingly like real cheesecake. A must try.
The fortune cookies are Kosher certified and use no eggs in its preparation.
Funny, isn’t it?
The Veggie Heaven storefront on Cedar Lane in Teaneck.
Looks like I might want to do a Biodiesel conversion on one of my cars!
Teaneck location interior
Wheat Grass, being grown on the windowsill. It takes about a week for each pan to reach maturity.
“Deluxe” scallion pancake.
Scallion pancake with vegetarian ham, vegetarian duck, lettuce, tomato.
Vegetarian Appetizer Sampler with roast pork, chicken drumsticks, chicken roll
Chicken Roll closeup.
Chicken Drumsticks. I really liked these.
Roast Pork, which I thought was cleverly done.
Basil Roll interior. We thought these were kind of like Vietnamese summer rolls but more peanuty.
Claypot with Okra, Beef, and Curry Sauce.
Claypot portion closeup. The “Beef” is derived from mushrooms.
A shot of wheat grass, which Rachel made me try. Suffice to say, it tastes like grass.