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As a student with healthy ambitions unbefitting of her impecunious condition, I have to take extra care in the rare occasion that I can indulge in eating out. Before the beginning of school, I decided to take my chances and try out the vegan/vegetarian cuisine that seems to be the latest trend these days here in Vancouver. My self-challenge led me and my friend to Panz Veggie, a restaurant that claims to feature “ethnically-cooked cuisine with local fresh produce”.

It was clear from the menu (as well as from the accent of the staff) that the dishes, though Chinese in general, it had Taiwanese influences. My friend commented how he would have preferred a little more details in the English description as he could not read Chinese very well and I noticed there were some discrepancies in the names, but this did not distract me too much.

Our culinary journey went in the following order:

  • 三鮮湯 A sea of three vegetables

-We were pleased to find that this soup was made only after ordering, unlike some other restaurants that would make a large batch in the morning and keep reheating it throughout the day until it loses its flavor and nutritional value. The vegetables were still crunchy – a testimony to its freshness.

  • 三菌圓子豆腐Romance of three mushroom w broccoli, jade tofu & carrots

-The dish was light and non-greasy, with a flavorful sauce to boast. My friend was no epicurean, but even he took notice and was impressed how they were able to keep the jade tofu intact without reducing it to a purred mess during the cooking process.

  • 羅漢菜Buddha’s Feast

-Apparently this was one of the most popular dishes on the menu. It truly lived its name and did not disappoint. We enjoyed the natural sweetness of the root vegetables and its delicate flavours. It went very well with the steamed five-grain rice.

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Both dishes came with starch coatings to make the vegetables look shiny and pretty. I detected a hint of umami (うま味) in both dishes that resemble food with added MSG; however, as the restaurant is a strong proponent of naturally-cooked cuisine with no artificial flavours, I suspect that the umami was attributed to the shitake (or other mushroom-derived) flavouring agents common to Asian cuisine. There was only one server on duty, but she was able to top up our tea faultlessly throughout our meal. And after ordering, the food did come rather fast, so no complaints there. I believe she was the owner, and I found her reserved but friendly. The meal was made all the more enjoyable by the lovely décor. It appeared that the owner had taken to heart to make everything fit the Buddhist-theme, which gave a peaceful aura to the ambiance.

The bill came to $32 in total. Overall, while the food was certainly no haute cuisine, it did win us over with its healthy, home-style dishes. I look forward to revisiting in the future, should the goddess of fortune happen to chance me or a kind friend is able to treat again.