Snapshots from Hong Kong: Vegetarian Lunch at Po Lin Monastery
If you're visiting Hong Kong for the first time and want to see all the major attractions, you might take the cable car from Tung Chung to Ngong Ping. This 25-minute, picturesque ride over Tung Chung Bay and Lantau Island's verdant hills will drop you off in the ultra-touristy and contrived Ngong Ping Village. Food options in this entertainment and shopping area include Subway and Starbucks. This isn't where you want to eat.
Keep walking through the "village" to the main attraction—Po Lin Monastery and the Big Buddha—and grab a meal from the monastery's vegetarian kitchen after you visit the Buddha.
Depending on how hungry you are, you can buy a ticket for a general meal (HK$78), a deluxe meal (HK$118), or a snack (HK$30) by the dining area or at the ticket office near the base of the stairs to the Big Buddha. The number of dishes you get depends on how large your group is. Here's what my group of four got from the deluxe meal.
Mixed mushroom soup: A thick, clear soup with bean noodles, assorted mushrooms (including crisp black fungus and white fungus), and wispy strands of tofu skin.
Deep fried bean curd sheets with lemon sauce: The sauce was surprisingly sweet, veering on dessert territory, but in a satisfying way.
Asparagus with mixed mushrooms and cashews: Aside from the asparagus, assorted mushrooms, and cashews, this also contained chopped celery, red, yellow, and green peppers, snap peas, and peanuts. A nice mix of crunchy nuts and crisp, lightly cooked vegetables.
Black mushroom with vegetables: Meaty black mushrooms and a light leafy green.
Fresh lotus with potato paste: Lotus root "sandwiches" made of two crisp slices of lotus root filled with what the menu calls potato paste (I thought it was mashed rice before I looked at the menu), battered and fried, and coated in a sauce of corn and chopped peppers. My favorite dish of the meal.
Deep fried spring rolls: The filling wasn't anything special, but these spring rolls were satisfyingly light, crisp, and not too oily.
Most of the dishes were covered in clear, thickened sauces that, aside from the bean curd's lemon sauce, didn't have much flavor. But despite the lack of seasoning, I wouldn't say anything tasted bland. The vegetables, mushrooms, and other non-sauce ingredients were flavorful enough on their own.
For a look at the snack and dessert section (which I didn't try), check out this post at Messy Witchen.
Po Lin Monastery isn't a destination meal, but it's perfectly good and reasonably priced for a major tourist attraction. Another plus: eating there supports the monastery. It was actually one of my favorite meals of my trip, a welcome feast of non-animal-derived food during an otherwise vegetable-deprived week. There's a limit to how many roast goose legs and pork fat sandwiches I can eat.
Po Lin Monastery
About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats. She'll also doodle cute stuff when necessary. Read more from Robyn at her personal food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.