The food culture in most Asian countries consists of three main components — rice, meat and vegetables. Going to a typical mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant, you’re presented with a menu bound with meat-based dishes, paired with your choice of vegetables (maybe bok choy or mustard greens) and a complimentary pot of white rice. In taking these dishes and transforming them into vegan-friendly options, it is rarely difficult to find a restaurant that lacks meat, dairy and egg free choices. Listed below are my favorite restaurants in Orange County that are either entirely vegan, or serve vegan options.
Taiwanese: Din Tai Fung
Founded in Taipei, Taiwan and specializing in their handmade soup dumplings and noodles, Din Tai Fung has a plethora of vegan options, those which are marked with a little green leaf next to their menu items (but be careful – some might be vegetarian).
My go-to is their soy noodle salad as an appetizer, vegetarian dumplings as a main and the red bean sticky rice wrap for dessert.
Korean: BCD Tofu House
BCD was founded by first generation Korean immigrants who had a passion for cooking and developed a love for soon tofu, due to its taste and amazing health benefits. From tofu salads to spicy tofu soup and rice-based dishes, the vegan experience will not deprive you from the wonders of Korean cuisine. This restaurant serves both vegan and non-vegan options, so order with care.
My go-to is their hot stone bibimbap without the egg (the sauce that they provide is also vegan).
Japanese: HiroNori Craft Ramen
Hiro Igarashi and Tadanori Akasaka are the geniuses behind this restaurant, as they pride themselves in serving fresh-cut noodles and hand-made broth. There is only one vegan ramen option, but there are two vegan sides to choose from (edamame and green salad).
My go-to is their vegan ramen, which consists of a sesame miso broth, broccolini, tofu, cauliflower, corn, bean sprouts, soy meat, baby kale and chili oil.
Vietnamese: Thuyền Viên
I have been to a vast number of vegetarian Vietnamese establishments in Orange County, and have deemed this to be the best. Their broth is made without MSG, the prices are reasonable (college budget friendly) and it has been approved by many of my meat-eating Vietnamese friends. Additionally, all of their menu items are 100 percent vegan.
My go-to is their chả giò (“egg” rolls) as an appetizer and phở as an entree.
Indian: Rasoi Curry Point
This establishment offers a variety of options, dishes that originate from Northern and Southern India prepared with customizable levels of spiciness and flavored with natural spices and fresh ingredients. Additionally, they do serve non-vegan options, but they are very aware of what vegan options they offer. If you simply mention you are vegan, they will happily point out which ones you can order. My go-to is offered during lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 2p.m., which is a lunch thali platter that includes appetizers, raita, plain naan, basmati rice, five entrees, two chutneys and dessert.
Thai: Bodhi Tree Cafe
With incredibly healthy and affordable options without MSG or cholesterol, this restaurant’s range of both Thai and American-inspired dishes can impress anyone, vegan or not.
My go-to is their pad thai. By the way, I have tried multiple vegan versions all around Orange County, and this location has got to be the best in all aspects — flavor, noodle texture and portion.
Even though there are only six restaurants listed above, it was actually extremely difficult to narrow down which restaurants were my favorites. There are myriad establishments popping up in Orange County, from Au Lac (Vietnamese) to Urban Seoul (Korean), and their options are still amazing. Hopefully, if you have ever eaten Asian food and are considering veganism, but are scared about the culturally-based options, there’s no need to worry. Vegetarian restaurants are becoming extremely common nowadays, and there is no sacrifice of the authenticity or flavor of these meals.