Good Eats

The World in One Leaf 一叶一世界 @ Shanghai

When you think of hotpot, you would think of fresh ingredients like meat and seafood, and a boiling pot of broth made from pork bones or other animal carcasses. What about vegetarian hotpot? Would that stir up your appetite?

《华严经》

一花一世界,一木一浮生,
一草一天堂,一叶一如来。
一砂一极乐,一方一净土,
一笑一尘缘,一念一清静。

The name of the restaurant is adapted from Buddha’s saying. Interestingly, William Blake has a similar poem – “Auguries of Innocence”.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

So the restaurant wants you to discover the world in a single leaf. They specialise in vegetarian hotpot, highlighting lighter broth with fresh vegetables and soy products.

Chinese Vegetarian Cuisine

Living with a pure heart and few desires, Buddhist monks abide by the Buddhist vegetarian diet to live a simple life and calm the spirit. They also consider it a healthy lifestyle to avoid certain diseases like high blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Also, out of mercy and compassion, Buddhist monks and believers refuse to kill animals for food.

Of course, not all Buddhism believers follow a strict, monastic vegetarian diet every day. Many observe it only on certain fasting days and they often frequent traditional vegetarian restaurants.

The Buddhist diet that originated in monasteries keeps food light in its original flavor and avoids pungent ingredients like garlic, leeks and onions. Monks and nuns not only avoid meat, but also eggs and dairy.

A lot of traditional Chinese vegetarian restaurants specialise in creating meat-like dishes with plant sourced ingredients. That actually came from the emperor’s court. Since Buddhism was practiced by royals in history, they must fast on certain days. Catering to their preference for rich and bold meat dishes, imperial chefs thought of recipes that would imitate meat dishes with vegetables.

The trick is to find the corresponding vegetarian texture of a meat protein and imitating the flavor with sauces and seasonings. Since a lot of the meat dishes have a softer bite, wheat gluten, soy products and mushrooms are in common use. Using ingredients with little flavor of their own enables the seasonings to work their magic and mimic meat very well.

For vegetarians or vegans, mock meat dishes are actually not as healthy as simple plant-based dishes. A large amount of vegetable oil is required to make the vegetables taste more meat-like, and ingredients such as mushrooms and soy products are often deep-fried first to achieve their meaty texture.

And some people think that eating mock meat dishes is self-deceiving because subconsciously there’s still the will of eating meat. But it’s a great transition for people who are new to the vegetarian lifestyle and can encourage more people to try cutting out meat.

Vegetarian hotpot

L2M-CN-1706-YIYEYI-5
川味凉粉 Sichuan bean noodles

First we started with a spicy and delectable Sichuan bean noodles. It is interesting because there’s no garlic in this version, so we thought it would be missing something. But no, it was as good as the original.

The main attraction is the use of natural herbs and vegetables for the stock. Very light, and that did not help with the ingredients being very light on taste too.

One has to depend on the condiments to add tastes if you are used to the normal hotpot. Or else, you should just treat this a detox exercise.

爱情扎萨 lover’s zhasha (pita pockets)

L2M-CN-1706-YIYEYI-13
爱情扎萨 lover’s zhasha (pita pockets)

There’s a nice little back story behind this lover’s pita pockets, about a Tibetan lady and a colonial Englishman in India. It is a story of class and caste, about interracial prejudices. I am not sure how much of this is real, but the ending was the man finally found this lady back in Tibet and they made this pita pockets.

L2M-CN-1706-YIYEYI-14
爱情扎萨

It is simply a wheat pita pocket with lettuce and faux ham.  Underwhelming.

Overall, it was an interesting meal, very light and simple, very purifying session. Service is very good, the ingredients are really fresh, and you can still get very filled with just vegetables. Worth a visit once in a while to let your digestive system have a cleansing meal.

一叶一世界藏茶蔬食火锅(818广场店)
南京西路818广场5楼509号商铺
Tel : 021-33530335

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