If you are gluten intolerant, look away. This restaurant is not for you unless you want to see God faster.
I am carnivore. All my vegan friends have tried in vain to convert met. Even a quad-bypass did not get me away from consuming meat. But once (or twice) a year, I would go and have a vegetarian meal. This year, I decided to do my annual pilgrimage after I was released from my quarantine in Shanghai. Hallelujah! I survived the quarantine unscathed!
Chinese Vegetarian Cuisine
Enough of the philosophical stuff, it is not going to fly if the food is rubbish. Chinese vegetarian cuisine is very heavy on use of non-animal proteins. Remember this was before Impossible Meat, most of the vegetarian dishes would “look like” than “taste like” the real thing. For example, you have fake goose, fake chicken, fake fish all made with gluten and Lianhua in Chaozhou is a good example of this style. But I usually only order the “vegetarian” ones, i.e. they use natural non-meat ingredients like vegetables, mushrooms and tofu, and very little of the processed ones.
清炒蟹粉 Stir-fry “Crab Meat”
There are three main ingredients to replicate the “crab meat” – tofu, carrot and matsutake mushroom. These are finely chopped and then cooked together with butter and flavourings are added. I am quite convinced one of them is MSG (which technically comes from seaweed), but the end result can almost be as good as the crab meat version. However, the amount of butter used means that it can be quite a heavy dish, and you would need some rice to go with it.
十八罗汉 Eighteen Arhats
十八罗汉 Eighteen Arhats refer to the eighteen types of vegetables and fungi used to create this dish. Let’s count the ingredients – 3 types of mushrooms (button, straw and shiitake), white and black wood fungi, broccoli, bamboo shoot, ginkgo nut, carrot, lotus root. OK, 10 ingredients were used, but that was definitely not oyster sauce. There’s a vegetarian version made with mushroom. This was a really tasty vegetarian dish without any of the gluten.
佛跳墙 Buddha over the Wall
If this is the non-veg version, it would include quail egg, sea cucumber, chicken, dried scallops, abalone, deer tendons, etc. and would cost 20x more. Thankfully this is the vegetarian version – straw mushroom, bamboo fungus, shiitake, morel, black wood fungus, and one piece of abalone made with gluten.
This was totally unnecessary, as the rest of the ingredients have made a very tasty soup. It does not taste like the non-veg version in anyway, but it has umami from the copious amount of mushroom and fungi.
金牌素菜包 Vegetarian Bun
And to round up dinner, I opted for some steamed vegetarian bun.
This is one of their bestsellers, and many would buy them cold to steam at home for breakfast next day.
Godly Vegetarian Restaurant 功德林
This restaurant has nothing to do with the Shanghainese vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong, even though I knew Kung Tek Lam in Causeway Bay longer than I knew this one. I had wrongly assumed that this one is a branch. It seemed that Godly was much more famous and older than Hong Kong one.
This institution of Shanghainese vegan cooking has been serving plant-based dishes in disguise since 1922. Its annexed shop now sells cake and snacks freshly made in-house, such as the tasty mugwort rice dumplings. Now, it has been nationalised and belong to the same group as Deda and others.
Longhua Temple 龙华寺 is the oldest and largest temple in the Shanghai metropolitan area. It was built during the Three Kingdoms Wu King Sun Quan era (238-251). The pagoda in the temple showed the year of completion to be 247, so it would be at least 1770 years old. So the Abbot of such old temple would be one of high status. He wrote this calligraphy for Godly, which basically reiterate the key idea of veganism and Buddhism.
“Opening a vegetarian restaurant is like building a freedom pond (for animals). Having a vegetarian meal is equivalent to killing one less living thing.”
I looked with amusement the neon signboard along the side of the restaurant – Godly since 1922. So what were they before then – ungodly?
Gong De Lin (Huangpu) 功德林
445 West Nanjing Road, Shanghai, China
Tel : +86 21 6327 0218
Date Visited : Jun 2021
Michelin Shanghai Guide Bib Gourmand 2017-2021