It is high irony that I didn’t find out that their was a mock meat vegetarian restaurant in Doncaster until after I’d moved away from the eastern suburbs. I assumed that the only way I would ever get to Vegie Mum would be hoodwinking my family into a dinner by ‘forgetting’ to tell them that none of the meat was real during a visit home, but that was without me counting on the ingenuity of food bloggers. So there I found myself, zooming along to Eastern Freeway in the company of Steph, The Simple Eater, Cindy and Michael for a Sunday night of serious soy eating.
Vegie Mum is situated in a strip of shops off of Doncaster’s main drag, but it seems that Vegie Mum’s presence means that it is anything but a quiet enclave. Sunday night or no, the place was heaving at the seams, with the manager helming the floor like a circus ringmaster, which culminated twice in leading rousing renditions of ‘Happy Birthday’ to various patrons where EVERYONE was encouraged to sing, much to my inward glee.
The menu is huge, so I was pleased to hand over ordering duties to Steph and The Simple Eater, knowledgeable as they are after many Vegie Mum visits.
First up was a complimentary tiny bowl of tomato broth – not at all flavourful, but clearly acting as a palate cleanser.
The Simple Eater had done her research and wrangled for us an off-menu entree platter consisting of taro fritters, mock chicken drumsticks, mock jellyfish salad, and an Asian-leaning mound of scrambled egg. The mock jellyfish was an interesting melange of soy textures, and who doesn’t like a bit of scrambled egg? (Well, vegans don’t.) I, of course, gravitated naturally towards the fried starches, and devoured a few of the taro fritters, generously dunked into what was most likely a sweet plum sauce. The out and out winners of the platter were the drumsticks, which were dead-on in terms of mimicking chicken texture while also being crispy on the outside and madly flavourful.
My favourite dish of the night came out early in the form of the combination flat rice noodles. This consisted of lots of vegies (primarily broccoli, carrot and bok choy) with ample examples of a variety of mock meats, from chicken to pork and little mock prawns in the shape of actual prawns, all wok-fried together with a light, sweet sauce and flat rice noodles, which are my very favourite type of noodles yes please thank you very much.
We had to honour the Chinese take out cuisine of our childhoods by ordering a plate of the lemon chicken. The crispy soy strips were hot and juicy, and once smothered in the accompanying bowl of sweet-tart lemon sauce became enormously agreeable vegie versions of a classic.
A plate of handily pre-cut roti arrived at this point, which was handy as a lot of saucy dishes followed which required mopping up, which the thinly cut, lovely roti did very well.
I was never fussed with seafood even when I ate meat, so I wasn’t as keen on the idea of the Assam soy fish as some others were. I was pleasantly surprised, however, by the battered batons of tofu wrapped with skeins of seaweed served alongside a vegie-packed tamarind stew. While I don’t think I’ll ever reconcile myself fully to tamarind, fishy mock meats definitely warrant more exploration.
The Sichuan eggplant hot pot was far more my bag, with great big chunks of eggplant that had been simmering in stew juices so that the eggplant flesh had become achingly soft and just melted in your mouth. Gorgeous stuff.
Clearly someone had felt a little guilty about our endless feast of soy, and leavened up proceedings by ordering some steamed greens, consisting of lightly dressed bok choy. I certainly took full advantage of a chance to cleanse the palate with some fresh greens.
The mapo tofu was the only true disappointment of the evening. This was not mapo tofu is any real recognisable form as there was no chilli factor at all, and while tofu, mock beef and vegies is nice and all, without chilli it ain’t mapo tofu.
The final dish was a plate of char kway teow, which had been delayed due to a vegan snafu where it had originally been made with egg after being requested without. While char kway teow is ordinarily one of my very favourite dishes, I actually ended up preferring the flat rice noodles from earlier, it had a greater variety of content, and this char kway teow wasn’t as smoky as I generally prefer.
There was also a chicken curry floating around, but I didn’t get a taste of it, which I wasn’t mourning terribly as I wasn’t in the mood for curry that evening.
If you had room for them (which I did because I cannot be stopped) there was also a complimentary plate of orange slices and jelly for dessert.
While there were some dishes that didn’t meet our high expectations, Vegie Mum is still a very fine purveyor of mock meat goodness that is well worth making the traveling effort to get to, for where else will you get the chance to serenade someone happy birthday over a plate of mock meats and rice noodles?
To read Cindy and Michael’s account of our visit, head to Where’s the Beef?
27 Village Avenue, Doncaster
Ph: 9816 3222