Earlier this year (in March) I lived in Luang Prabang (LPB), Laos for about four weeks, on account of career stuff. While walking up the peninsula formed by the Khan and Mekong rivers, I came upon a large sign with lots of food pictures for a restaurant that promoted itself as a completely vegetarian restaurant in a food culture that is heavily meat-based (despite being Buddhist). It was shocking. And delightful. And closed. (BOO!) So, I took a photo of the pictorial menu to decide what to get when I returned the next day. And Oasis definitely lived up to its name.
The menu cover:
You've got love the grammar mistakes people when writing in something other than their native tongue. (I know my mistakes can be atrocious.) The message still gets across in their menu cover, though. However, since I was there on English teaching business, I just had
to write it in a more grammatically correct way: "All foods
are either vegetarian or vegan. T
he vegetarian meat is made from corn, soya, or other substitute." But, this attempt is pretty good, all things considered.Yellow Noodle with Soy Protein
: This was the first dish I had there, mostly because on that day I really wanted some noodles. Overall, it was okay; not fabulous, but redeemed by the fresh herbs (i.e. Thai purple basil) used to season. I did not like the crunchy soy protein on top. It was just strange. I wanted tofu as I had known it.Curried tofu
: And tofu I had! Boy, did I ever chomp down on these giant hunks. I love tofu--I don't care what any of those "nofu" people say. Also, this sauce was somehow very good, even if it was nowhere near as thick as curry sauce usually is.Vegetarian pork
: It was interesting. Fairly tasty. A little dry. Maybe needed a sauce to absorb into the "pork." There were noodles and Mung bean sprouts beneath, and crushed peanuts sprinkled on top.
Little 'close up' for you:
My absolute FAVORITE: Mock Duck in five spice sauce
--I had it twice, despite the fact that I knew I should order something different each time, in order to sample as widely as possible during my limited time frame. Also, because of my five spice "duck" lust, I didn't get to try the veggie version of a local dish, laap
(i.e. minced meat salad, served cold), which apparently was made out of lots of mushrooms (my favorite). But, I just couldn't stop thinking of this dish after I ate it, so...
Have a look at the texture up close. It was astoundingly meat-like. Very impressive. I had to poke it with a fork and take some reassurance breaths before digging in. And, coupled with that sauce? Glorious! ...I miss it so. *pout*
Unfortunately, the next couple of times I returned to that end of the peninsula for lunch, the shop had boarded up and chained its tables together, ostensibly closing down at the end of the high tourist season. I sadly had to continue on for a few more weeks without my veg restaurant.
But, on the bright side, there were three
Indian restaurants in the city (all run by actual Indians) who had some marvelous food. I ate way too many samosas.
Anyways, my point is that even in (urban, increasingly touristy) Laos you can eat pretty well as a vegan. And, as a general rule of thumb, if you are in an Asian country and can find Chinese immigrants you can usually get some vegetarian options on their menus since they have dietary restrictions during their New Year.