There was Fast Food Nation in 2002. Then the movie version of the book came out 2006, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma in the same year. Food, Inc. was released in 2008 and is still being screened at events across the country and was recently shown on PBS. The movement toward eating local, organic and ethically produced food has driven more Americans to think about where their food comes from and their purchasing choices.
For some, that food consciousness has included cutting out more meat from their diets, whether going vegetarian or vegan completely or for just a few meals a week. Eating vegan isn’t just for self-righteous dread-heads anymore. Even if you profess yourself to be a non-animal lover, maybe the environmental impact or cruel labor practices of corporate meat, seafood and dairy production is starting to weigh on your conscience. Still trying to figure out where you can grub on the days you’re too tired to create some culinary magic with the produce from your weekly CSA box? Here are some recommendations.
A macrobiotic diet isn’t all vegan, as there are some fish dishes allowed. But given that there is no dairy and meat, it isn’t hard to go vegan while eating macrobiotic. Enjoy an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seaweed and soy. Hale Macrobiotic, or more lovingly referred to as Hale Macro or just Hale, opened its doors in 2009 and is often one of the first eateries mentioned in conversations about vegan options in Honolulu. With a largely Japanese menu, and some sandwiches and pita-hummus offerings, Hale also has a decent dessert selection that includes mochi waffles and pumpkin pudding. Some complain about a little blandness at times, but many meat-eaters have expressed pleasant surprise over the satisfying tastes, not to mention polite staff.
Legends Vegetarian Restaurant
Those familiar with Chinese cuisines know that Chinese Buddhist monk food is mostly vegan. With that, the uses of soy products seem endless, whether used in a bean curd wrap or pressed into various fake meat shapes–all bursting with flavor. At the Legends restaurant vegetarian side (not to be confused with the seafood restaurant side), there’s an array of this sort of food in dim sum form and other Chinese dishes. Have dumplings stuffed with mushrooms, taro and water chestnuts, “char-siu” bao, spicy eggplant, stuffed tofu and stir-fried noodle dishes heaping with veggies. If you do have meat-eating companions who can’t go one meal without the cloven-hooved delights, you’re able to order from the sister restaurant just across the walkway.
Although not even a month old, this all-vegan café nestled between Diego’s Taco Shop and Holy Smokes has had a mostly warm reception. The café’s strengths are the freshness of the food, the friendly staff and cute interior with furnishings mostly fashioned from recycled material. With a somewhat small menu of sandwiches and salads, the eatery’s offerings of drinks and desserts are more expansive. Veggie sandwiches loaded with sprouts aren’t new, but the kinako latte or tofu cream with granola and tofu rum-raisin “cheesecake” are perhaps worth a try. With the recent closure of The Well Bento, it’s nice to have another eatery with vegan options.
Govindaji’s Vegetarian Restaurant
Many downtowners are familiar with the Hare Krishna-run “Govinda’s,” be it for the various juice concoctions or the dense, sweet halawa dessert. Vegans would avoid the lasagna, enchilada and eggplant parmesan dishes, but the rest of the daily specials usually include a chickpea or vegetable curry. Combine that with a green salad, the halawa and your choice of various dressings at the condiment bar and you’ve got a balanced lunch.
Right to your kitchen
This raw-vegan-food delivery service lets you subscribe to three or five meals a week, with menu offerings ranging from spicy almond Thai collard wraps to seed pizza crusts with tomato and pesto. The venture into a raw food diet is an extreme one for many people, but Licious Dishes makes it a tasty venture. If you’re not ready to take the full dive into the regular meal delivery service, you can also go down to the shop at Dole Cannery and choose from various grab-and-go dishes.
Vegan macrobiotic chef Leslie Ashburn has been previously featured in the Weekly for her vegan macrobiotic community dinners (“Macrocosm,” 7/5/09). While the community dinners have unfortunately ceased, Ashburn is still spreading the gospel of her craft with a variety of cooking classes and personal chef services. Have a consultation session with her about your taste preferences, possible food allergies and longterm dietary goals, then Ashburn will arrive at your residence with fresh ingredients and cook up a storm right in your kitchen. Ashburn’s former community dinner partner, Kathy Maddux, also provides vegan macrobiotic chef services and can be reached at 988-7374.
If you’re still feeling lost or want to make your veggie dietary transition permanent, The Vegetarian Society of Hawaii ([veghawaii.org]) and local site [tastyandmeatless.com] can also guide you, along with providing recipes and instructions on how to order at various restaurants. Have a great time vegging out.