When I think about vegetarian cuisine, I typically go to a place in my
mind that features down-home American-style fare with a lentil-tofu twist,
served to me by someone with dreadlocks and wearing clothes made out of hemp.
The reality is that Edmonton actually offers several vegetarian restaurants
that cater to all your ethnic needs. Oriental Veggie House is one of them and
their specialty is vegetarian Chinese food.
The restaurant is located north of downtown near Chinatown and the outside of
the place sure doesn’t look like anything special. In fact, neither does the
inside. Luckily, my desire for ambiance was trumped by my curiosty to find
out what their food was all about.
We strolled in during the dinner hour on a Saturday night, and to my dismay,
no one else was in there—not a single customer. Just an older man who
served as a host, waiter and probably also owns the place. He was very
friendly though, told us to sit wherever we wanted and brought us menus. It
was a little strange being in a restaurant all alone. My date and I kept
finding ourselves whispering to each other for no reason. The room is
medium-sized and isn’t anything fancy. There are Chinese decorations and
Buddhas all over the walls, and the table cloths are cute with vegetables all
over them, but other than that it’s a brightly lit room and there are several
deep freezes along one of the walls. Let’s just say that you wouldn’t come
here for the scenery.
We ordered a pot of green tea ($3) which was warm, soothing and perfectly
The menu is a few pages long and covers such courses as appetizers, main
courses, hot pots, soups and so on. The word on the street is that even
though the menu mentions animals like chicken, beef, duck and seafood, none
of it is actually meat—even though, in some cases, you would never be
able to tell.
We settled on the veggie crab roll ($6.95) as an appetizer. Of course the
service was very prompt—they were only cooking for the two of us. On
the bright side, all of our food came out hot and fast. The crab rolls were a
wonderful and pleasant surprise. Quite similar to your typical spring roll,
they were piping hot and came with a plum sauce to dip in. The best parts
were the juicy chunks of “crab” that were to be found inside. I would never
have guessed in a million years that I wasn’t actually eating seafood.
For our main course, we decided on a few items to share. The spicy egg plant
and veggie chicken ball hot pot ($11.95), fried taro root duck ($12.95) and
the Singapore vermicelli ($8.95). The hot pot arrived with a lid on top which
our server removed to reveal a bubbling pot of saucy vegetables and chicken.
This was my favourite dish—it had the most deliciously sweet, spicy and
just a little smokey flavour. The egg plant was savoury and coated with
specks of dried chili peppers, and the “chicken” balls were a pretty
convincing substitute for real chicken. I recommend this dish and am already
experiencing cravings for it.
The vermicelli was a really nice accompaniment. It had a strong flavour of
yellow curry yet somehow managed to be fairly mild at the same time, and the
bits of “chicken” within the dish were very good as well. And lastly, the
taro root duck, which was probably our least favourite. It was only lagging
behind because it was the least what we expected it to be. We figured that it
would resemble fake “duck” just like the other meats. Instead it was a
deep-fried taro-root paste, and really had nothing to do with duck at all.
It’s possible that it was prepared in the same style as one would prepare
duck, but I’m not sure. It came with a nice dipping sauce and it certainly
wasn’t bad, it was just different and not what we had had in mind.
Despite some of the downsides, I would still recommend this place for
carnivores and vegetarians alike; the delicious and interesting food is
certainly worth a try. V
Mon – Sat (11 am – 9:30 pm)
Oriental Veggie House
10586 – 100 St, 780.424.0463