Looks like lamb, tastes like lamb, but is not lamb! Welcome to the world of Enlightened Cuisine. This Chinese restaurant draws on ancient Buddhist cuisine and serves up a particular speciality: mock meat! The menu lists meat as well as vegetarian dishes. However, the meat dishes are in fact vegetarian. Confused? Using ingredients such as wheat gluten and soy, these vegetarian dishes are created to look like meat. You may be wondering why…
The story is a very old one. It has many versions, but here is the one I’ve been told. Apparently, when Buddhism was spreading from India into China, it ran into a problem. Chinese Buddhism is a vegetarian practice, and there were potential adherents, but they did not wish to give up their meaty bites. So, creative Buddhist chefs designed a mock meat cuisine, and the faithful came!
So, how does it taste you wonder? Actually, pretty good! And you will certainly not be short of dinner conversation, such as ‘Is that meant to be the chicken wing?’ and ‘How did they get the lamb to have the same texture as real lamb?’ Enlightened Cuisine has all manner of conversation starters on the menu. My favourites include the combination clay pot, which has mock BBQ pork ($14.90), the curry lamb ($18.90) and the steam fish with olives ($18.90).
The staff at Enlightened Cuisine are friendly, and the service is quick. The restaurant is open daily for lunch 11.30am – 2.30pm (except on Sunday) and daily for dinner 5.30pm – 10.00pm (if you plan to visit on a Monday, best to call to confirm, as the restaurant is not always open on a Monday). The restaurant has an informative website, which includes more about the food – and a different version of the story of mock meat cuisine!