Tamaly Shop - Authentic Vegan Options

We love Mexican food, even the not-really-Mexican-food that comes deep fried and covered  with cheese (vegan cheese). Of course, anything authentic is a bonus although I could never presume to be the one to authenticate it. I do know that tamales date back 7,000 to 10,000 years in Mesoamerica (because I am capable of Googling things) and 10,000 years would seem to lend an air of authenticity (compared  as long as the ancient premise is adhered to. The Tamaly Shop serves up what I would consider to be authentic Mexican food, prepared by some folks who are originally from Mexico and we found eating there to be a special experience.

Located on Main just south of Broadway, they have been open for about 7 months. We arrived mid afternoon on a Saturday and were able to order and get seated right away. They started us off (even before ordering) with a little sample of amazing sweet strong coffee that would be worth a return visit all by itself.
Water, hot sauce and some very good pickled jalapenos and carrots to go with our meal were brought to our table before our food arrived. Cool cups and pot!
TS has 4 plant-based tamales on the menu (in addition to a couple of sweet pb tamales) and we tried them all. They don't quite match the menu listing but I think this was Salsa Verde with Oyster Mushroom. I was immediately impressed with the tenderness of the masa dough (they make their own). I have made tamales a few times at home and I can tell you that a few minutes too long in the steamer and you can end up with something that could hurt someone if used as a projectile!
They make their mole in-house as well, and it was spectacular! There can be upwards of 30 ingredients in a mole so it is no small deal. This was chocolatey but savory and rich. I think this was the Mole with Tofu Tamale.
This one came with mole as well which we did not expect, maybe with mashed potato (?) but as I said. The mole was amazing and I would put it on toast if that's what they served.
You can also order your tamale as part of a plant-based Mexican Bento Box which is a pretty cool idea! This was a black bean Tamale with the black bean folded right into the masa! I had no idea that you could do that. It was great. The bb included guac, rice, beans and pico de gallo.
And tacos too! The Azteca Tacos feature cactus with beans and pico. Very Nice!
We even had a dessert tamale! Slightly sweet masa dough with pineapple and a wonderful Mexican chocolate sauce (Mexican chocolate really is rich and strong) with another sweet dark coffee. A perfect conclusion to a cruelty-free meal.
We brought our own plastic containers for leftovers after reading a post on Instagram from a restaurant owner who mentioned how many containers they go through! We intend to do that from now on and suggest that you do the same for the planet and restaurant management. Admittedly, this seemed to confuse our server.
This is a beautiful colorful, bright and welcoming place. You can purchase frozen tamales as well as other Mexican products. Some of the more exotic items run to scorpion salt and tarantula salt (decidedly not vegan). We will definitely be back!
Food                          5 out of 5
Vegan Options           4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 1/2 out of 5

Ojas Blend - Vegan Options

Bowls seem to be something you can count on to be vegan or vegan-friendly. I kind of think of them as boring and have complained in the past but the truth is that a good vegan bowl can be tasty and satisfying! So there will be no more denigrating of bowls on this blog!
Ojas Blend is located on 152nd just south of 16th Ave. in White Rock. They do mainly bowls, wraps and smoothies.
We got a bowl and a wrap to go. We also ordered the Strawberry Zen Smoothie and enjoyed it on the way home. It was a mix of strawberry, peach and zucchini and I'm not sure what else. It didn't hold up like the smoothie from The Yoga Chef (melted quickly into juice) but it was still impressive.
We ordered the only vegan bowl on the menu called Holy Tofu Curl, which features stewed soya curls. Many other bowls can be modified to be vegan but in most cases it seems like a major component is not vegan and there is no replacement that is equivalent. It was a tasty bowl with lots of varied flavours and textures and the tofu curls were quite good. We were drawn to the place partly because there is a Soya Chap (or Soya Chop) bowl on the website menu but that seems to have been replaced by the curls (more familiar?)
For a little variation, we ordered our next bowl as a wrap! It had a lot of the same ingredients (I think there was only one sauce that is vegan) but it was very good all tortillaed up and grilled.
There are four tables and a window bar and this is not an unpleasant place to eat. The choices for vegans seem pretty limited but it is certainly better than fries and a salad like you find at lots of places. We found the staff to be friendly and mostly informed (if a little distracted) and the prices are pretty standard.
Food                              3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options              3 out of 5
Comfort                         4 out of 5
Service                          3 1/2 out of 5 
Value                             3 1/2 out of 5

Taste of Zen - International Buddhist Society Vegetarian Restaurant - Vegan Options

The beautiful International Buddhist Society temple and garden is on Steveston Highway in Richmond between Numbers 3 and 4 Roads. It is open to the public to a certain extent but we did not ask about going into the temple and there are other cordoned-off areas. We tried to be respectful and quiet as there were people carrying on their worship and meditation. We noticed that in at least one area, there was a sign asking that no one take videos or photos.  Many Buddhists are lacto -vegetarian as one of their 5 ethical teachings forbids the taking of human or animal lives. Of all the religions on earth, few follow this guideline and I always find that surprising. The principle of Ahisma should be universal.

Looking carefully and after getting some directions, we managed to find Taste of Zen, the small publically open restaurant behind the temple. On this particular day (or maybe it is always available) they offered a French Lunch Combo which included some dairy products, but we were there for Chinese food! We still had to run our choices past our server to ensure that they were vegan but I'm fairly certain that most things are. Chinese food does not usually have a lot of dairy ingredients, but sometimes eggs. Buddhists do not generally eat eggs according to what I've read.
We started with a simple soup which was recommended to us as very good for the stomach! It was a simple broth with some vegetables including corn, carrot, and water chestnut. Simple but tasty.
Next up were some crispy Spring Rolls. With lots of shitake mushrooms, cabbage and carrot, they were again, simple but tasty.
The Mapo Tofu was very good. It could have been spicier and we usually enjoy the Szechuan pepper numbing effect but I have read that some Buddhists avoid spicy food. Even if that is what is going on here that is OK as it was still enjoyable with lots of shitake mushrooms and tofu. Served with rice, of course.
The Buddha's Delight was our favourite dish. A mildly saucy dish on noodles, some of which were crispy around the edges. There was a very nice combination of tofu skin, some sort of seitan (?) mushrooms and vegetables. This I could eat every day. 
The staff seem to be mostly volunteers but were enthusiastic and friendly. They had to search around to find someone with enough English to interpret our vegan talk. The room is a little plain (tile drop ceiling) but with some nice Buddhist artwork and was comfortable enough. The food was a bit on the expensive side ($25 for each of the main dishes) but we don't mind as we assume that the proceeds are going to the temple.
We enjoyed a nice stroll around after lunch to take in the gardens and some representations of the 8-fold path and the first turning of the Dharma Wheel. It was a very nice experience.
Food                              4 out of 5
Vegan Options              4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                         3 1/2 out of 5
Service                          5 out of 5
Value                             3 1/2 out of 5

Vashti Rose In-House Made Ice Cream - Vegan Options

We have been known to drive a long way (or transit is preferable) once in a while for vegan ice cream. Admittedly, vegan ice cream is not such a rarity as it used to be. We have had Haagen-Dazs dairy free ice cream as well as Plant Based Cherry Garcia from Ben & Jerry's. They tend to be expensive (no more than the dairy premium ice cream) but I, being a cheap guy, wait for them to go on sale for $4.99 for a 1/2 litre. Anyway, Ernest Ice Cream aside, there are not too many ice cream parlors which serve vegan ice cream. Vashti Rose is one of those rare places.

It is ever so slightly challenging to find Vashti Rose. Look for Pro Fit Boot Camp on St. Johns near Kyle Street. The owners of the boot camp just decided one day, to start making artisan ice cream and the only sign is in the window rather than on the building. We aren't sure if the ice cream was meant to be a reward for working out or a motivation to work out!
Two Scoops for $8 is reasonable in my mind, especially considering the quality of this stuff! This cone is one scoop of London Fog and Lavender and one scoop of Kalamansi and Ginger! My wife will tell you that I was embarrassing in my gushing praise and joy in eating this!
My wife chose one scoop of Cookies and Cream and one scoop of Strawberry and this too was delicious.  Often, plant-based ice cream starts with a coconut milk base which is great if you love coconut but VR builds these flavours on a base of cashew milk. The taste is a little more pure this way as the cashew milk makes itself noticed less than coconut.
Don't be put off if there seems to be a line outside VR. They deal with one party at a time inside. Of course, this was originally a pandemic measure but it serves to reduce door opening and closing and keeps things cooler inside while using less electricity. So we learned something! Very nice folks running the counter and lots of options make this a great choice for vegans and omnivores!
Food                             5 out of 5
Vegan Options             4 out of 5
Comfort                        4 out of 5
Service                         5 out of 5
Value                            5 out of 5

The Yoga Chef - Vegan Options

I admit that the name "Yoga Chef" kind of put me off at the beginning. I know that yoga is a legitimate practice, but it sort of invites woo and I get annoyed when people bring the crazy to veganism. Veganism is an ethical position that objects to the mistreatment of animals to the extent possible. It is not a diet or a health practice and does not promote tumeric or superfoods. The health benefits that do exist are a bonus for a vegan but not the main point. People who eschew animal products for their own health are plant-based and not vegan. But that is why you should not judge a book by its cover (or a restaurant by its name). The Yoga Chef turned out to be a woo free zone and have some of the best and most creative vegan eats that we have had in a while.
Located in an industrial area in Port Coquitlam, on Maclean just off Kingsway Avenue, parking was a bit challenging but not like Richmond strip mall challenging. We squeezed in inside the restaurant although there are a couple of shaded tables outside. It is clearly a popular place and was quite busy on Saturday at mid-afternoon.
When we arrived brunch was still being served (actually maybe they don't have specific hours for brunch) so we couldn't resist ordering the Buddha Benny. Built on a base of their chickpea-kale patties, with tofu, spinach and sauteed mushrooms, this was healthy (bonus) and substantial. The thing that really sold us was the beet hollandaise which was earthy and rich! And look how beautiful! The Garlic Corriander Potatoes on the side were impressive as well!
I am more a fan of house-made burger patties than the commercial faux meat things (Downlow Burgers smash Impossible patty notwithstanding) and YG's Plant Based Burger featured an excellent one. I and not sure of the exact makeup but it very much reminded me of a black bean, mushroom and walnut patty that I made at home recently. Everything about this burger was on point. The vegan Gouda, pretzel bun, avocado, pickles and vegan mayo were all very good. I was concerned about the avocado/pickle interaction as I thought there would be some fight between ingredients but somehow even that worked!
Next up was the Katsu Curry. Again, look at the beautiful plate. The katsu was a vegan chicken thing that was nice and crispy but the curry sauce could have used some punch. It didn't need heat as Japanese curry is not spicy but maybe just some salt and more curry flavour. Still, sauce on rice is a wonderful thing and this was served with some very good greens or salad or whatever you want to call it. Another excellent plate!
The Coconut Thai Green Curry Soup was another home run. Rich and full of flavour. This was part of a combo.
As if we hadn't ordered enough already, we wanted to try the Intention Smoothie. This was carrot, turmeric, mango, banana and orange juice which when all blended together was pretty amazing. It was not as sweet as you might guess but just slightly earthy because of the carrot and turmeric. It was a meal unto itself. Our server initially forgot it and then feeling bad, made us a double order. She didn't have to do that but it was a pretty impressive gesture. 
So we collected all our leftovers and waddled out. The Yoga Chef is not a strictly vegan or vegetarian restaurant but has many vegan options. Our server guessed that 75% of people order vegan so that is impressive. There is so much more here for us to try in the future. Call this a hidden gem, we were more than a little impressed and will definitely be back.
Food                             5 out of 5
Vegan Options             4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                       4 out of 5
Service                         4 1/2 out of 5
Value                            4 1/2 out of 5

Firecrust Pizza - Vegan Options

Well, we've been to Firecrust Pizza before but in my pre-vegan days. We liked their wood-burning oven pizza. So when I figured out they had some vegan options, we decided to give that a try.

In Langley, Firecrust is located in the strip mall at the southeast corner of 200th and the Bypass. We ordered to go but this is a very nice restaurant with a nice patio that would have been perfect on this warm Sunday afternoon.
We started with a Veganeze Salad. This was definitely a salad I would order again. Spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, dried cranberries, pecans and other salad stuff. There was also some pretty good vegan Italian sausage and a sesame tahini dressing. To be honest, this is the only thing that I would return to Firecrust for.
We started with a Vegan Margherita. This used to be my measuring standard for a pizza joint and Firecrust didn't do too badly historically (and omnivorously). While this time, the crust was pretty good with decent leoparding and the tomato sauce and basil were good, the cashew based cheese was a bit of a disaster. It's not that it tastes bad but it has some pretty sad melting quality. Calling it a Margherita is maybe the mistake as it invites comparison.
The BBQ Chicken is the other "We Build" vegan pizza on the menu. Same strengths as the Margherita as in decent crust, well cooked this time with red onion and barbeque sauce. We couldn't actually identify the vegan chicken and aren't sure if it was forgotten or just was the same as the cashew cheese. Admittedly, we asked for pineapple (my wife misses Hawaiian pizza) but that seemed to blend with the sweet barbeque sauce. Again, the cashew mozzarella was not thrilling. If it weren't for the fact that there is so much good vegan cheese available now, this would not be a big deal and the pizza was tasty overall.
Firecrust has a nice dinning area and very good service. I know from past experience that they crank out very good omnivorous pizza. It is hard to criticize a place if they are at least making an effort to offer plant-based options but they definitely need to make the small step up to better cheese. If it is strictly a cost issue, vegan are used to paying a couple of extra bucks.
Food                                  2 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options                  3 out of 5
Comfort                             4 out of 5
Service                              4 out of 5
Value                                 3 out of 5


Dilli Heights Café and Bistro - Vegan Options / 2023 Pride Parade

We loved the cozy downstairs location of Dilli Heights Café and Bistro! We've always been partial to the older buildings in Vancouver with the brick and stone construction, the old wood doors and windows and the beautiful architectural details. Just a few steps off the beaten tracks, DH is located just off West Pender on Richards. It's still an easy walk from Waterfront Station and we decided to grab a bite before trying to see the 2023 Pride Parade with the crowds in Yaletown.
We arrived just before noon on Saturday and had our choice of seating. Our front counter guy was quite helpful in navigating the menu to determine what was or could be vegan but it would not have been hard for DH to give us a few clues right on the menu.
We started with Gol Gappe which is a reliably vegan Indian snack. Crispy little balls get filled with potato and garbanzo bits and then a minty tamarind liquid. The liquid is served on the side and could have been mistaken for a cold soup or beverage if this was the first time we had tried this! You add the liquid to the balls yourself so they stay crispy! Always tasty and refreshing!
I always have assumed that Bhel Puri is full-on unhealthy but a closer investigation reveals that other than the noodles and crackers, there is nothing deep fried and there is actually quite a bit of veggie in this tasty snack! Kept moist with chutneys there is a nice contrast of textures and flavours and I feel better about it now that I have read a recipe!
The Soya Chaap Sandwich (which is actually a wrap) was also quite amazing. This came with a bit of spice, just enough to get me sweating mildly! Soya Chaap is an interesting soy-based product a little like seitan. It is tasty and healthy (we have tried using it at home) and as part of a wrap is a pretty good meat alternative and substantial food.
We loved the Aloo Tikki Burger. On the menu, it said that we could add noodles for a dollar! Who could pass on that? In my photo, I separated the noodles enough so that we could see the aloo tikki patty. It was a crispy and potatoey croquette on an excellent burger bun, some condiments and drowned in noodles! Excellent!
The low-ceilinged charming room has some comfy couches and what appears to be a setup for a singer or poet to entertain. Friendly folks and great food and reasonably priced. We are happy with DHCB!
Food                             4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options              3 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                        4 1/2 out of 5
Service                          4 1/2 out of 5
Value                             4 1/2 out of 5

After eating way too much (although we did take some of our Bhel Puri to go), we made the easy skytrain hop to Yaletown where we joined the enthusiastic crowd of onlookers for the 2023 Vancouver Pride Parade.
How can you not love Queer Vegans?
Many sectors and groups were represented and showed their support either as part of or in support of the local 2SLGBTIQA+ community.
We did our best not to get too much sun and had a great time. Thanks, Vancouver Pride Society for a great parade!

Kula Foods - Afro-Vegan Products

I've been wanting to try Kula Foods products since learning about them some time ago, maybe on Instagram? The problem has been that the opening hours for this commissary kitchen business are unfriendly to Fraser Valley 'working for a living type people' (sort of like Workshop Vegetarian Cafe which I will probably never visit). Also, we happen to be outside the delivery boundaries. Oh, I know there is probably a way, but I'm a little on the lazy side and as I have said, so many restaurants, so little time! So I hadn't tried too hard and just made an effort to get over it. More recently though, I decided to try and visit their retail partners starting with London Drugs. After a couple of misses, I did find their Pili Pili Sauce which was great and I ended up practically drinking it from the bottle. Then, after engaging the friendly and helpful KF people in a messaging back and forth, we made a trip to Vegan Supply in South Surrey.

At VS we were happy to find 2 of the 4 prepared entrees that KF makes and bought one of each. Now right up front, I have to admit that I was a little blasé about following preparation instructions and resorted to the microwave oven. This is not the recommended method. Not only that, on their website, there are recipes which start with their products as the basis for a more complete and probably authentic taste of Africa.
Despite my lazy-assed approach (well, we did make some rice) both of these turned out to be pretty tasty. We tried the G.O.A.T Curry first of all. It is a mild curry with hints of cumin and I'm not sure what. The texture was maybe a little on the spongy side but not unpleasant or off putting. We are not expecting (or even wanting) it to feel or taste so much like meat that we can't tell the difference! Still, next time we will follow the instructions.
We had the same feelings about the Chick-Un which was more of a barbeque flavour entrée.  At $10.99 per portion, the products are kind of where you would expect them to be priced. Vegan entrees do not tend to be mass produced and certainly KF does not occupy a factory. We feel like it was probably made with care, and is very unique. We would gladly have a couple of these in the freezer for the convenience and just because they were satisfying and tasty. As the company grows (if that is their goal) finding their products will likely become less challenging.
Food                         4 out of 5
Vegan Options         5 out of 5
Comfort                    NA
Service                     4 1/2 out of 5
Value                        4 1/2 out of 5

Downlow Burgers at the American - Vegan Options

The last time we visited The American was in the middle of the pandemic and in the midst of our omnivore years. As we munched on pretty good meat hamburgers, we were blissfully unaware that Downlow also offered cruelty-free eats. Obviously, that is why we are back.

Just a short walk from Main Street Skytrain stations, we arrived mid-afternoon on Saturday and were seated right away.
They have 3 items on their plant-based menu so this was pretty easy for us. We just ordered them all! We started with the Falafel which were amazing. They were fluffy inside and crispy on the outside and came with perfect tzatziki. They desperately needed salt. For some reason, we didn't ask for any. 
The Vegan Fried Chicken was also pretty good. Admittedly it didn't look like much but it was crispy and had good interior texture. I think it tasted like chicken but now that I've been religiously vegan for a year, I'm starting to forget! Let's just say it tasted pretty good. The Onion Rings were also pretty impressive. A little on the greasy side but big and solidly crispy. We loved the big slices of onion.
The real rockstar of this show was called, The Vegan. Double Impossible smashed patties and Chau Veggie Cheese were the basis for what might just be the best vegan burger that we have ever had!
Seriously, this should not be missed by vegans or omnivores. The CV is some of the best plant-based cheese around and I found myself picking melted bits of it off the wrapper rather than allow it to be thrown away. Nice pickles, a very good bun and a little lettuce for crunch made this very impressive. Well done DLB!
This is a nice big comfortable room with games and good music. The staff are top-notch and very friendly and didn't even mock me when I couldn't find the bathrooms (huge sign). A great place!
Food                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options           4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 1/2 out of 5

Oh yeah...there were fireworks later. I can't seem to load my video onto Blogger but I will post something on Insta. The Philippines was up for the last show this year and they did pretty well. Aren't all fireworks shows basically the same though? We walk and skytrain every year but this year felt pretty challenging as far as getting to and from. I'm not getting any younger.

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...