Food is one of the great pleasures in life and one of the ways that environmental-types like us can feel a ton of guilt. We are both omnivores, but mostly choose not to eat meat. This stems from a variety of reasons including the treatment of animals in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and their negative environmental impact. CAFOs are subject to Environmental Protection Agency oversight due to their potential to pollute waterways with animal waste. Animals in CAFOs are kept in overcrowded, sometimes unsanitary conditions that can lead to illness and disease in animals that are destined for supermarkets and restaurants around the globe. We disagree with raising animals in this fashion, but buying humanely raised meat is difficult and can be expensive in restaurants. So for these reasons and others I won't get into here, we are generally meat-free and oftentimes our meals at home are vegan as well. So imagine our excitement when a vegan Thai restaurant opened not too far from our house.
Thai Vegan is in the Northeast Heights neighborhood on Osuna. In its previous incarnation it was a Thai place called Blue Lotus. The food at Thai Vegan is phenomenal. What sets it apart are the offerings of faux meats--chicken, steak, fish and even shrimp! These are made from soy or wheat gluten and added great texture and flavor to all of the dishes we've tried. Even the tofu is great--it isn't deep-fried like you find at most places.
We have tried their soups, curries and other dishes and have not been disappointed. Their peanut-sauce is fantastic and their coconut ice cream is made in house! A closed-circuit camera in the kitchen plays in real time so you can watch the chef at work, which I think adds a touch of quirkiness. Most of the times we've been there he has come out and spoken with us and other diners. He grew up in Buddhist monasteries in both Thailand and India and is lovely to speak with.
Eating there inspired me to make this Spicy Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup. It lived up to its name: the red curry imparted a warm heat complimented by the coconut milk and sweet potatoes. This was a cinch to put together--especially because I roasted the sweet potatoes the day before and generally have things like coconut milk, red curry paste and cilantro on hand.
Even if you are an omnivore or think vegans are weird, give Thai Vegan a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed. In fact, I think you'll be surprised at how delicious meat-free can be.