Despite being Americans (or perhaps because we are?), Chinese food is a bit nostalgic for us. Growing up in New York and California, and both living in New York City, these places have large Chinese populations. For us, Chinese culture is a part of the American experience, part of the melting pot of the United States.
So when we heard about a Glaswegian vegetarian Chinese restaurant going full vegan right during our two weeks house sitting there, we knew we had to check it out. We beelined over to Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant when we found out about their amazing lunch deal: 6.95 for a two-course meal, with lots of green tea.
Our first courses were vegetarian spring rolls perfectly crisped and a savory corn and chicken soup.
The kung pao chick’n was bready and chewy, tossed with cashews and carrots in a spicy tangy sauce. The braised tofu had water chestnuts, napa cabbage in a savory brown sauce.
All the food was delicious and super fresh with crunchy veggies and bright flavored sauces. The textures were crispy and you could tell everything had been recently made, not just reheated.
The owner/our server was amicable and eager to conversate. We struck up lots of conversation and learned about his struggles as an immigrant from Hong Kong. He also shared his story about being denied a U.S. visitor visa despite a desire to be a tourist and spend money there.
He was incredibly sweet and super friendly. Over continually refilled cups of steaming green tea, he spoke at length about his experience immigrating to Scotland. He lit up when talking about his adopted country. His favorite thing to see were castles, and he shared some pictures from his phone of the places he’s seen and visited. He even gave us enthusiastic recommendations of other places we needed to see in Scotland.
Our biggest connection was both of us coming from huge, cramped, expensive cities and a desire to improve our quality of life.
He spoke of coming here through a connection with a temple in Glasgow. Makes sense, considering that most East Asian food doesn’t have dairy, so if you’re a vegetarian, you effectively eat vegan. Especially the case with Buddhism, which opts to forgo the whole diet based on animal suffering.
While the food was delicious, it was our conversation with the owner that made our experience there so memorable. Arguments against eating vegan while traveling often cry, “but how are you going to have an authentic food experience?” The discussion of what even is authentic will have to wait for another post. But we’ve found that we connect and converse more with locals now that we search out specific restaurants instead of just plopping down at the nearest restaurant because we’re hungry. On our adventures in the vegan playground that is Berlin, we met the Momo Master, a Nepalese man who had been all over the world.
Meeting and talking with local restaurant owners isn’t unique to vegan places. But it is just one more connection that sparks conversations and leads to interesting discussions. This may not have been a traditional Scottish experience (again – what is traditional?), but it was a human one, a connection and insight into the world of someone who is different yet the same. And isn’t that what travel is all about?
Related to Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant:
Our review of Soy Division, a vegan cafe in Glasgow – also with a lovely owner!
Stay tuned for our full vegan Glasgow vegan guide, coming soon!