Let me tell you about this take-out joint inside Empire Centre off No.3 Road in Richmond. My buddy Jacky runs a photo studio there, so I visit this place more frequently than any other heavily-promoted malls in the same stretch. Empire Centre probably has one of the smallest food fair inRichmond but most of the food stalls are gems. I’ve tried the HK style breakfast, the BBQ duck, the Claypot rice there and enjoyed all of them thoroughly.
Amongst these food outlets stands this tiny vegetarian take-out joint, a very ordinary looking stall that I do not pay much attention to, probably because I have no desire to buy take-out vegetarian food, until recently.
The other day, while I was having a tea break there (Hot YinYang Tea with a toasted spreaded with butter and condensed milk) , the constant flow of customer leaving the store with bagfuls of take-out food caught my eye. The next thing I know, I was standing there talking to Ivy Fang, the chef and the wife of the husband and wife team behind Evergreen Vegetarian House, a name notorious to Asian vegetarians and vegans, restaurateurs and chefs who get their vegetarian food supplies, and neighbours who become regular customers, for Evergreen’s home-style, healthy and honest food products.
The first thing I find out was that Evergreen Vegetarian House has already been in business for some 25 years. They used to locate on Main Street(near E.23) which was demolished and replaced by townhomes three years ago, when they moved to where they are now inRichmond. The place is so much smaller that Ivy does a lot of cooking at home. The take-out menu does not offer a long list of items, but those on it are the most sought after classic vegetarian goodies.
On the counter was a tray of Jongzi (sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves) stuffed with mung beans and mushrooms, some still hot and soft to the touch. I saw a few wrapped plates of cooked something placed around the kitchen corner so I asked what they were. “Customer orders,” Ivy explained, “These are braised Kaofu with cloud ear, mushrooms and bamboos. We only make them when the orders come in. Many customers call to order first, they know we have a small kitchen.” meaning that not everything is on sale on a regular basis! “But we make the kaofu, from scratch. They are in the cooler case there, anyone can buy them.” The voice belonged to Mr. Fang who was standing behind Ivy and working on some paper work. He said in a very firm tone. “We have the best! Ivy is so particular, so stringent, she would not compromise for anything less.” He gave me examples of how Ivy insisted on using only the best flour, vinegar, sesame oil and soy sauce (fromJapan). “She tried and tried different products until she found the best one. Anything that comes out not looking good, she throws out!” Mr. Fang continues. No wonder Evergreen Vegetarian House supplies to a lot to Chinese vegetarian restaurants, and many Mandarin restaurants who orders mushroom rolls and Kaofu. Ordern even come from the East and down South.
Soon enough, there is a block of kaofu in front of me. If I don’t tell you, you probably think that these are mini wheat loafs - golden brown, fluffy, and with a shape that look like beautifully risen bread!
So I take a couple jongze and a kaofu loaf home and make a vegetarian dish, and cook a dish with mushroom, carrots and bak-choy with it for dinner. For someone like me who only consumes the required shares of vegetables, legumes and fruits, the kaofu is indeed a pleasant surprise. It has a mild nutty flavour with an al dente texture and surprisingly moist and enticing. Even my meat-indulging family – my husband and 2 sons, love it. I cut the two jongze into 1-inch logs, pan-fry till the outside is crisp and viola, the logs are gone in 3 minutes! Got to buy more next time.
Evergreen Vegetarian House:
Empire Centre Food Court,
4540 No. 3Road, Richmond