There was a time when the only vegetarian restaurants around were Udipi joints, Swati Snacks and Shiv Sagar chains. Then there was the ever popular New Yorker and Cream Centre that came galloping into the food scene with their pure vegetarian take on international cuisines. It became such a rage that they triggered a trend of Mexican and Italian themed pure vegetarian restaurants.
While Chinese food has always been the leading favourite international cuisine in the city (at least the Indo-Chinese), strangely it never had any dedicated stand-alone vegetarian based restaurant. People probably thought it wouldn't be a sound business to alienate meat lovers since the cuisine has plenty of meat/poultry and fish options. Today things have drastically changed. It's become a trend to open a vegetarian restaurant and while the first preference is Oriental food, it's extended to all things Asian.
The first bold move towards the all vegetarian Asian restaurant was when the popular chain 5 Spice decided to make one of its branch strictly vegetarian to appease its clients. It worked and soon there were more to follow.
Take for example Asian Street Kitchen, which is relatively close to the vegetarian 5 Spice restaurant. It offers a number of dishes from the Far East but all in their vegetarian form. Dim sum, Thai curry, miso soup, soba noodles, you name it, they serve it. So much that they even have their own vegetarian Ramen Bowls.
The newly christened 38 Bangkok Street is the newest Asian vegetarian kid on the block. While the name suggests it's allegiance to Thai cuisine, this is another crowd pleaser with dishes from all over South East Asia. The emphasis isn't on whether it's fantastic food, but the availability, the choice and the freedom to order without having to ask your server twenty times "is it vegetarian?”
While most take the easy way out and serve a mix of everything, a typical Indian restaurant trait (haven't you noticed almost every menu has pizza, pasta, burger options), some dare to be different. Take for instance Burma Burma, a restaurant that proudly serves vegetarian Burmese cuisine without the occasional Chinese or Thai dish. A gutsy move for a cuisine predominantly based on meat and fish but it stuck to its guns and attracts waves of diners on a daily basis.
No matter which restaurant or the type of food, it's safe to say that restaurateurs are no longer cautious to venture out and dedicate entire menus to vegetarian food that isn't Indian anymore. Step aside Italian, Mexican and the occasional hummus and falafel, it's time for Asian vegetarian food to have its moment.
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Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.