Thursday, July 9, 2009

Going vegetarian

A visit to Kechara Oasis Restaurant shows that a vegetarian way of life can be flavourful a nd interesting.

SOMEONE had once remarked, “If I don’t eat meat, what is there left except for vegetables?”

Spoilt for choice: Enjoying a vegetarian spread are Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, founder of Kechara House, and Irene Lim, director of Kechara Oasis Restaurant.

For a fact, a vegetarian diet can have its own variety.

A recent food tasting session at the Kechara Oasis Restaurant in Petaling Jaya was an example of how a vegetarian way of life can also be as flavourful and interesting.

Of note was the deep fried Vietnamese spring rolls. This is mushrooms wrapped in rice paper. Crispy on the outside and soft and luxurious inside, they came with crunchy, vinegar-pickled sticks of carrot and radish.

These rolls of delight are then wrapped in lettuce leaves with the pickle and dipped in a clear, light, sweet and sour sauce. The effect to the palate? Crisp. Clear. Natural.

Then, one must not forget to sing odes to the ‘lo sang’, which boasts a formidable combination of macadamia and cashew nuts; pine, sunflower and pumpkin seeds; and julienne strips of yam crunchies.

Delightful: The Vietnamese spring rolls which were crispy on the outside but soft inside.

The nuts imparted a special taste with their woody and smoky notes and coupled with the seaweed, it served to remind the palate of the fishy element within this festive and colourful salad.

Of course, there were many who spoke well of the stir-fried vegetables of celery, lotus root slices, white fungus and mushrooms.

One diner was heard to opine that the slight pungent taste of celery had done a good job in helping the palate to identify the subtle flavours of the lotus root and fungi.

Thankfully, this simple dish would come with no pretensions as the accompanying sauce neither overpowered nor flooded the vegetables in a thick goo – a typical practice in most restaurants.

Instead the vegetables were left to stand on their own for the diner to enjoy their natural sweetnesss and to savour the goodness of their subtle but distinctive flavours.

Herein, one must note that the chef, whom the restaurant had declined to name for fear that he would be head hunted to work elsewehere, had opted to use two types of mushrooms in the dish – enoki and shitake.

Like the real thing: The mock sambal fish curry really had the taste of something that once swum in the ocean.

Also, throughout lunch, a guest (we will not name him for reasons of privacy but suffice to say that he was quite an eminent VIP) had revealed to all and sunder that he was trying very hard to slim down.

Perhaps, it should be noted that mushrooms are very good for slimming as they contain virtually no fat, sugar or salt and are a valuable source of dietary fibre. In addition, they are also a good source of antioxidants.

At the Kechara Oasis, they have this wonderful sweetmeat which comes wrapped in a translucent pastry made using mung bean flour.

It is the very same kind that glass noodles are made from.

Within these crystal-like marbles is a creamy filling of lotus paste which has been incorporated with small amounts of finely mashed red beans.

To give it a rich feel, this lovely, ‘beany’ combination has a touch of butter and cheese in it. The result is a heavenly sensation of soft, sweet but slightly savoury effect which creates a lasting impression on the diner’s tastebuds.

These delicious crystal globes had come with a cold dessert of longan and sea coconut and they complimented each other very well.

The gentle bite of the sea coconut and the longan fruits made for a pleasant contrast between the mushy texture of the crystal delights and the balance of sugar was wonderfully harmonised.

And speaking of harmony, let’s not forget that this restaurant also has something for those who must have their ‘meat’.

Very interesting are the skewers of barbecued satay which really did taste like roasted pieces of char siew and the sweet and sour ‘fish’, which is actually a piece of compressed soya sheets, had the flavour of a creature who had swum around in an ocean somewhere.

Suffice to say, that at last, a vegetarian will find these dishes a novel but safe and acceptable way for his tastebuds to embark on a gourmet adventure.

  • Kechara Oasis is situated at D19, Block D, Jaya One, 72A, Jalan University, 46200, Petaling Jaya. Tel: 03-7968 1818.

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