We gathered up a posse of veg*n food bloggers (featuring Rachel, Steph, Hayley and The Simple Eater) on Sunday night and headed out to Doncaster for a return trip to the popular mock-meat restaurant Vegie Mum. It's very much a typical suburban Chinese place - plastic tables, plastic plates, friendly staff and a ludicrously long menu. The only difference is that it's all vego. The manager was out and about the night we were there, organising birthday songs, suggesting dishes for us to order and generally being charming. We put our faith in Steph and The Simple Eater to do the ordering, and they put together a very impressive spread for us. A brief warning: not everything on the menu is vegan - eggs pop up in a number of dishes, so keep your wits about you.
They got us started off with a complimentary bowl of this tomato-y broth, which didn't really do a lot for me.
As part of the ordering process, The Simple Eater managed to negotiate this off menu delight - a mixed entree platter (the price is lost to the ages I'm afraid). It was made up of deep fried taro, chicken drumsticks, a fake abalone salad and a surprising batch of scrambled eggs. The taro balls were super starchy and really needed heavy saucing to really work, but the real highlight were the little chicken drumsticks, with crispy 'skin' coating some excellent mock chicken. I was already starting to get full as we finished this platter - good thing we'd ordered 8 more dishes I guess!
We also ordered a couple of roti ($4 a serve) to dip into the saucier dishes - they were thin and flaky and helpfully pre-shredded for sharing purposes.
The first main dish to arrive was the combination fried rice noodle ($10) - thick rice noodles, fried up with broccoli, carrot and a whole bunch of different mock meats (at least char siu pork, prawns and chicken). The sauce was mild and a bit sweet and the noodles fried enough to have just a hint of wok hei.
The lemon chicken ($15) was slightly different than the classic Oz-Chinese dish - rather than the usual soggy, sweet mess, this was a dish of crispy friend 'chicken' pieces with a tangy sauce to pour over. Excellent.
My favourite dish of the day was the assam fish ($18) - battered chunks of fishy tofu served alongside a tangy and slightly sour tamarind-based sauce loaded up with beans, carrots and tomato.
The Sichuan eggplant hotpot ($18) was tender and oily, with lovely sweetness but minus the chilli hit that I'm looking for in my hotpot.
The curry chicken ($15) had a bit more heat to it and had a nice balance of coconut fattiness and fresh veggies as well as plenty of chunks of soy-based chicken. This worked particularly well with the roti.
The mapo tofu ($14) was probably the most disappointing dish of the night - the tofu, veggie and mock-pork combo was ideal, but the sauce was completely lacking in chilli, leaving the whole dish a bit bland.
We ordered a serve of Chinese greens ($15) to break up all the mock meat - just wasted calories as far as I was concerned.
The final dish was the Char Kuey Teow ($10), which had been delayed via the initial inclusion of egg. This remade version was solid - smokiness from the wok the dominant flavour (the side of chillies was good idea to add a bit of punch).
For those of us who could still fit more in, things were wound up with some refreshing orange slices and little jellies.
I'm still stunned that we managed to work our way through most of this food - it was a ridiculously big meal, with lots of highlights. You can see why Vegie Mum is so popular (it was heaving with people the whole time we were there) - the service is friendly and the food is decent. You get more out of it if you go in a group and can order widely - it's definitely worth putting together a gang and paying it a visit.
Read about our first visit to Vegie Mum here. Since then it's been given the thumbs up by vegan about town, melbourne with the rocket, egg tarts and apple pie, The Food Society and The Good Hearted.
27 Village Avenue, Doncaster
entrees $3.00-12.00, mains $9.50-25.00
Accessibility: There are a couple of steps up at the entry, then things are flat and relatively high density inside. We ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. We didn't check out the toilets.