Vegetarian CNY Dinner @ Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant

3184702477_5ebcc12367.jpg invited some bloggers and I to dinner to try a Vegetarian Shark's Fin Soup as part of their pro bono campaign for shark conservation. Their intent was to change the local (well, its mostly the Chinese) mindset about consuming Shark's Fin as a prized delicacy through education and presenting alternatives.

I love Shark's Fin Soup but as a diver, I feel peer pressure to refrain from consuming Shark's Fin. I decided to go with an open mind as it was an interesting cause that has been subject to much controversy. Some say that only the fins are harvested and the shark is thrown back into the water (leaving the bleeding, finless animal to die a slow and painful death) while others say that the whole shark is used.

I guess they decided not to hurt any animals by opting for a vegetarian meal. Hmm, I may love vegetables but I also love to eat meat so I wasn't sure how I would enjoy a vegetarian soup dish that is meant to emulate the robust flavours found in good quality shark's fin soups. Admittedly, the flavour comes from the rich stock as shark's fins are inherently flavourless. Then again, the point of the dinner was about learning to "love" live sharks and not shark's fins.

Set Menu

9 Course Vegetarian Set Menu for 10 pax @ S$358++

Dinner was hosted at Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant. The Herbal Soup in the menu above was replaced by "Vegetarian Shark's Fin Soup" or "Mock Fin Soup" as Camemberu calls it.

Vegetarian Salmon Yu Sheng Prosperity Yu Sheng (Imitation Salmon)

As Chinese New Year is around the corner, we kicked off the meal with a Vegetarian Yu Sheng.
Drizzling oil over our Yu Sheng
Pardon the jaundiced appearance of my pictures as I am still struggling with the white balance.

My portion of Yu Sheng

The Yu Sheng was fairly tasty and the imitation salmon was interesting. It reminded me of Japanese fishcakes albeit a little saltier in flavour.

Vegetarian Sharks Fin Soup Vegetarian Shark Fin Soup

The next dish was the Vegetarian Shark Fin Soup, the raison d'être (meaning: purpose) for this meal.

Ladling our Vegetarian Sharks Fin Soup

The texture of the imitation fin was firm but did not have the bite that real shark's fin has. The soup was extremely bland. I added black vinegar, soy sauce and pepper to make it more palatable.

It's a pity that the soup didn't turn out the way the organizer, Jaki, expected. She had tasted the soup here with her family before booking the place and had found that it tasted pretty close to the real McCoy. Perhaps the restaurant was overwhelmed that night as it was packed when we were there. The Vegetarian buffet seemed to be really popular. However, Jaki can take heart as people who currently eat shark's fins are not vegetarians, so they can consume other alternatives instead such as Fish Maw Soup, Bamboo Pith Soup, Thick Seafood Soup or Spaghetti Squash aka Shark Fin Melon Soup.

Caltrops with Hairy Mushroom Caltrops with Hairy Mushroom

The next dish was Caltrops (a horned version of Water Chestnuts) with Hairy Mushroom (aka Monkey Head Mushroom) served with a dollop of imitation fins.

Caltrops with Hairy Mushroom (spot the sharks fin)

Here's a closer look at the imitation fin. I had placed the gravy on my porcelain spoon because I am generally not too thrilled about having food swimming in gravy on my plate. The other bloggers teased me for my "fine dining" presentation. Well, it's a precautionary measure case I don't like the gravy. This dish isn't too bad, I liked the chopped spinach bits in the gravy. As Southernnoise pointed out, the Caltrops did have a slightly fermented flavour to it. It was crunchy like regular water chestnuts just with a slightly yeastier flavour.

Spicy Pan-Fried Vegetarian Cod Spicy Pan-Fried Vegetarian Fish (Mock Cod)

This dish was so brilliantly red that we all struggled with the white balance on our cameras. It looked like regular chili (ie. the large ones) but the waitress told us that they were actually red peppers.

Spicy Pan-Fried Vegetarian Cod (single serve)

The tofu substitute had been fashioned to look like cod. It was pretty good, had a nice tofu-ey texture and I enjoyed the spicy topping. It was too spicy for some of the other diners at the table but I'm generally a chili freak so it didn't bother me.

Fresh Mushrooms with Asparagus & Bamboo Shoots Fresh Mushrooms with Asparagus

This dish was pretty innovatively presented. I took a nibble of the hard and sweet ice-cream cone and decided to save my calories for the filling. The mushrooms were supposed to resemble beef or squid. I'm not sure which but either way, they resembled over-cooked beef/squid...terribly tough and I didn't like the spicy sauce that they were cooked with because of the weirdly bitter aftertaste. The shards of asparagus and bamboo shoots (behind the cones) were a welcome reprieve.

Fruity Almond Rolls & Vegetarian Otah Fruity Almond Rolls & Vegetarian Otah

The Vegetarian Otah in this dish was pretty interesting as it tasted rather close to the real thing. I liked the Fruity Rolls because it contains some of my favourite ingredients such as almonds, bananas and jackfruit (local name: nangka). Unfortunately, it was soaked with oil which is a pity because the dish would have done so much better if flash-fried with oil heated to a high enough temperature. I wasn't too hot on the imitation crab stick in the roll but it was probably stuck in there to give the roll some structure and a range of textures.

Stewed Golden Fungus with Vegetarian Tenderloin Stewed Golden Fungus with Vegetarian Tenderloin

This had to be one of the highlights of the evening. The stewed Black Fungus, Gold Fungus, Carrot, Hairy Mushroom and Radish had absorbed the flavours of the gravy well. The pieces of Konnyaku-like substance added an firm element to the dish but I would gladly give it up for more radish. I love stewed radish.

Fragrant Rice Served with Steamed Soya Chicken (ie. Vegetarian Chicken Rice) Fragrant Rice Served with Steamed Soya Chicken

Then came the Vegetarian Chicken Rice Balls.

Fragrant Rice Served with Steamed Soya Chicken (ie. Vegetarian Chicken Rice) - my portion

The chicken rice balls were delicious and tasted close to the real thing. The chili sauce was not to be outdone either but the "chicken" was way too salty. Considering I like savoury food, that just tells you how salty the "chicken" was. Though the chicken rice tasted close to the real thing, I was starting to miss regular ole chicken rice. The Manager came to ask if we thought the set meal was substantial enough. Hmm...I can eat quite alot so I was still a little hungry and found myself craving Bak Kut Teh down the street. However, everyone else seemed to be doing fine so I figured that I should rein in my appetite.

Osmanthus Pudding with Snow Fungus Osmanthus Pudding with Snow Fungus

The dessert was delicious! I love the flavour and fragrance of Osmanthus flowers and sometimes order Osmanthus Tea, which has a beautiful golden hue. The pudding was infused with the floral qualities of Osmanthus whilst the reddish stuff (which I thought tasted a little like Roselle) that was drizzled over the ice and crunchy snow fungus added a fruity sweetness to the dessert.

I wished my command of Mandarin was better so I can fully understand what the China-born waitress was trying to explain to us in the barrage of mandarin words that overwhelmed me at every course. From what little I gathered, she seemed to do a pretty good job of explaining stuff that left us piecing together clues after her explanation was over. Apparently the snow fungus is harvested from a famous mountain in China and is historically (seems to be linked to some martial arts stories) reputed to have great restorative abilities. Sounds good to me.

I was glad to have had the fun company of other bloggers at this event: Camemberu, ladyironchef, Singapura Daily Makan Photo and southernoise gluttony.

It was also a pleasure to meet Jaki and her like-minded friends, who are so committed to saving sharks. A representative from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was supposed to tell us more about the campaign but he was taken ill and had to miss the dinner.

If you are keen to find out more about the campaign to conserve sharks, please visit this website for more information:

Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant Level 2, Quality Hotel, 201 Balestier Road, Singapore 329926 Telephone: +65 6254-0090 / 6254-0091

Operating Hours: Daily: 11.30am to 3.00pm & 6.00pm to 10.00pm