calgary herald

Buddha's Veggie Restaurant

Kathy Richardier, Calgary Herald

Published: Friday, February 19, 2010

S o Buddha's Veggie restaurant has long been a popular spot for vegetarians looking for lots of flavour and texture in their Chinese food without the animal protein. But now this meatless haven is serving animal protein! Is nothing sacred anymore?

While maintaining and promoting its vegetarian menu, Buddha's has added a new menu that takes its influences from such places as Malaysia and Thailand as well as the numerous provinces of China. There are meat, seafood and vegetable dishes. There are rice and noodle dishes. We marvelled at the number and variety of the items now offered--it's as if the kitchen didn't have enough to do with one menu!

But this is not a bad thing. Buddha's has always done such a fine job with textured vegetable protein (TVP), achieving a "meaty" texture and flavour that even carnivores appreciate. But now at Buddha's you can have your real meat and eat it, too. And either way--real or TVP--it's yummy.

The only problem we encountered at Buddha's was deciding what to eat. (If you select from both menus, you have 210 options.) While making our final choices, we ate from the assorted veggie appetizer platter ($14.90). It was, for the most part, a tasty arrangement of veg protein in many styles, some of which we liked better than others, but that is to be expected. The crispy, fried bits were better than the saucy, soft bits. But the flavours were good even if all the textures didn't succeed.

This is not a problem with Buddha's vegetarian ginger beef ($12.90). It is crispier, chewier, tangier and spicier--all the qualities you love in your ginger beef-- than most of the real ginger beef in the city. We don't know how the kitchen does this, but it succeeds very well.

From the new menu, we were happily seduced by a wok-fried combination of green beans, beautifully charred and deliciously smoky from the application of a sambal sauce, and plump, succulent prawns ($13.90). This is OMG food.

We went on Super Bowl Sunday, and our table faced the room's single television set, so we felt chicken was an appropriate choice. There were no chicken wings on offer, so we chose (from the new menu) pieces of chicken marinated in tropical flavours like coconut, then fried to a deep, dark crispness-- not your average wings by any means ($12.90).

Fukin-style (smoky curry-ish) vermicelli and fat noodles tossed with chicken, shrimp and bean sprouts ($12.90) finished us off very nicely. This was one of our favourites.

Buddha's Veggie has always done an amazing job of replicating our favourite Chinese food with TVP. Buddha's also does an amazing job of feeding us the real thing. Have a nosh at Buddha's and you, too, will become an "enlightened one."

Buddha's Veggie Restaurant, 5802 Macleod Tr. S., 403-252-8830.


An Avatar of Meat

The phrase "textured vegetable protein" doesn't exactly evoke mom's home cooking, but TVP is loved by many vegetarians and hikers. The latter like TVP because it's dehydrated and easy to pack into the back country.


© Calgary Herald 2010

Last Updated Feb. 28, 2010