Hai Shin Lou is one of those places I don’t mind making that long trip to Makati for.
Some of my old time favorites there are roasted goose, Peking duck, Peking prawns, dried olive leaves fried rice, lechon Macau fried rice, salt and pepper mantis
Of late, I have been feasting on Hai Shin Lou’s homemade bean curd, which is always fantastic (silky, soft, smooth melt in your mouth) and its seafood fried rice with egg white.
You should not miss its steamed pampano, very delicate, very fresh. The soy-based sauce is very tasty. Eating it with rice is nirvana—perfect for a light lunch. I ate two bowls of rice, in fact, drowned with the steamed fish sauce and lots of cilantro.
The restaurant is one of the country’s most consistent; it’s a silent yet strong player along the Pasay Road strip.
During one of my visits, I asked the ever reliable Ben Chong, Hai Shin Lou’s restaurant manager, about its new offerings.
He said that they have a new vegetarian menu, since more and more people are asking for vegetarian dishes.
According to him, Hai Shin Lou’s vegan offerings are prepared in a stringent fashion. What goes in it and the outcome are decided by the customers themselves.
No eggs, no garlic, no oyster sauce, as you wish: The chefs will prepare the dishes just as the vegan asks for it. Quite nifty to have your own chef do your Chinese lauriat as you fancy!
I was given a copy of the menu and I decided to come by with a group of girl friends and have a vegan hen lunch.
I left the picking up to Ben, except that I had to ask for one non-vegan dish, perhaps to calm the mind and not force it to stray and rebel, obsessing with the thought that the only option was “vegetables!”
Since it was a hen lunch, I opted for Hong Kong Fried Chicken. Delicious.
For me, fried chicken skin should be seasoned with enough salt. Don’t get me wrong, not salty but tinged. It should whet the buds, as Hai Shin Lou’s surely did.
I noticed how the skin gently separated itself from the meat (a good sign for a well-done Hong Kong Style Fried Chicken), which meant the skin would be delicately crisp— which it was. Yummy! Reminiscent of duck skin.
The meat was very soft, succulent and tasty. Again, I would have been happy with just chicken and rice, but we came precisely to sample its vegetarian menu.
Menu: Steamed Vegetarian Siopao; Steamed Vegetarian Siomai; Deep-Fried Mashed Taro with Bean Curd; Vegetarian Hot and Sour Soup; Fried Home-Made Bean Curd with Spinach Sauce; Stir-Fried Vegetarian Scallops with Fresh Asparagus and Cashew; Vegetarian Peking Duck; Stir-Fried Minced Mixed Vegetables with Lettuce Cups; Mixed Vegetable Fried Rice with Dried Olive Leaves and Egg; Stir-Fried Misua with Mixed Vegetables.
The dishes that stood out were the vegetarian hot and sour soup, which I thought very good, it was clean tasting, very fresh.
The vegetarian Peking duck was a novelty. Though nothing at all like the real thing except for the concept of wrapping the crisp fried bean curd then serving it the exact same condiments, it was nonetheless a joy to eat, a nice appetizer.
However, the Stir-Fried Minced Mixed Vegetables with Lettuce Cups was a totally different story. Yummy, considering there was no minced duck meat. Nice, light, beautiful bite, nice crunch.
The Stir-Fried Vegetarian Scallops, Fresh Asparagus with Sweet Walnuts was another dish to rave about. Chicken mushrooms cut into discs to resemble scallops, lightly sauteed. Even the bite of the mushrooms was somehow scallop-like.
The homemade bean curd with spinach sauce was also good. As I said, anything made of fresh bean curd at Hai Shin Lou is always delectable, done whichever way.
The stir-fried misua, considering that no meat stock nor MSG was added, was impressive. It had a unique tastiness, an aseptic linamnam to it that you seem to keep chasing after. Before I knew it, I had consumed the tiny bowl.
At the end of day, the vegan lunch was good. If you asked me though, I’d order all that I fancied from the vegetarian menu as part of my other personal favorites to which I would include other viands—meat and fish and shellfish…
Considering though that all the dishes were cooked without the liberties the chefs have with their standard fare, it was not bad at all. Some dishes, like the ones I mentioned in fact, were delicious.
It is nice to know, that should you decide to turn vegan, Hai Shin Lou, can prepare quite a spread for you!