The quest for kinder cuisine

Mountain Thai: Not so “v” friendly

13 Comments

I had heard a lot about this restaurant before my first visit a few weeks ago. Not only was it recommended to me by fellow vegans & vegetarians, but it had a 94% like rating on Urban Spoon. I was excited about dining at a local Thai restaurant with so many “vegetarian friendly” dishes on their menu. As lovers of Thai cuisine are aware, Thai food is typically laden with all kinds of hidden animal products; oyster sauce, fish sauce, shrimp paste and chicken stock, to name the usual suspects. Despite having a menu which had the friendly little “V” marked next to so many dishes, this restaurant was no exception to the usual rule. As an extra bonus, this restaurant came with a manager who was condescending, rude and clearly had no clue as to what vegetarianism actually means. Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself here…

I thought I would begin with one of my favourite Thai entrees, Vegetable Tom Yum Soup. Despite seeing that friendly little “V” next to the dish, I thought it best to ask the standard questions;what kind of stock is this soup made with, does it contain fish sauce? etc. The waiter was immediately flummoxed and unsure, so headed to the nearby kitchen to query it with the chef. Turns out the soup stock was made with chicken bones and yes it did contain fish sauce (sigh)…not doing well so far. I then changed my order to the Vegetarian Spring Rolls…oh, these contain oyster sauce (louder sigh)…OK, well how about I just skip to a main and have the Pad Krapow with vegetables….sorry this contains fish sauce (getting hot under the collar now). I then decided to ask the manager who had arrived by our table by this point, why all these menu items were marked vegetarian when they all contained animal products. I was then informed that fish is NOT an animal and what I was looking for was vegan food NOT vegetarian. Last time I checked, fish had a central nervous system so I’m not sure when they suddenly shimmied over to the vegetable category.  As I was dining with a friend who I hadn’t caught up with in ages, I wasn’t going to upset the apple cart by storming out at this point and just wanted to eat something that wasn’t a shrimp dressed in carrot’s clothing!  The waiter who had delivered the bad news initially dashed over when he discovered there was one dish I could eat from the menu being the Tofu Tod and I gratefully accepted his suggestion; I was getting pretty hungry by now. The Tofu Tod was nice and crispy on the edges and the dipping sauce provided a good balance of sour and sweet. As I was not able to order any mains from the menu, the owner suggested he steam some vegetables and serve with a couple of dipping sauces. This was edible but that’s about all I can say here. I thought the days of steamed vegetables for the vegetarian had passed, but clearly not. It was a very frustrating dining experience and I have resolved to do far more research before booking a restaurant for fear of a repeat of this happening again. To add insult to injury, when the bill arrived I noticed I had been charged the price of the main I had originally ordered for a plate of steamed vegetables. Upon querying this, I was told they “weren’t able” to change it on the computer…just wanting to leave, I left it at this and needless to say, no tip was left.

I didn’t take photos of the food on this night – at the time I had no intention of blogging about it however on my arrival home I was feeling quite wired up. You can deal with a restaurant not having vegetarian friendly food but it’s the false claims and rudeness that really get me riled up.

Anyone else had a similar experience to this? If so, how did you deal with it and what was the outcome?

Mountain Thai on Urbanspoon

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Author: Karla

I was a vegetarian years ago when I was much younger, but it didn't stick the first time around. Relationships, apathy, lack of choices all influenced my slide back into eating meat. In early 2011, I heard about a book called "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer and immediately got myself a copy. Reading about the horrendous conditions factory farmed animals are forced to live under for their scarily short lives, really made me question whether I wanted to be a part of this going forward. A quarter of the way into the book my decision was made. I know my vegetarianism isn't going to change the world; my husband is a carnivore through and through and I don't expect that will change any time soon. I do however feel that most people would like to make more ethical choices concerning the food they eat, the coffee they drink, the restaurants they dine at etc. Many just don’t know where to start, which labelling to trust on food packaging, or just find it all too hard. So I'm here to share my own journey and to also learn from others who have made this lifestyle choice. Thanks for stopping by :)

13 thoughts on “Mountain Thai: Not so “v” friendly

  1. I had an experience a few months back of going to a malaysian restaurant at lunchtime that had a long list of vegetarian meals – however there was a strange disclaimer so I questioned them about what was in the dishes and found that all of the dishes had shrimp paste or shrimp powder – I was very frustrated and went elsewhere for lunch! Nothing I hate more than saying I am vegetarian and being asked, but do you eat fish? Why would I want to eat a creature that stares back at me from the dinner plate!

    • I agree Johanna, eating out is getting increasingly frustrating and the fish issue is pretty common especially with Asian restaurants it seems. I ate at my first purely Vegan cafe the other day and it was such a breath of fresh air to be able to eat anything off the menu :)

  2. Arghh, what a disappointment!

  3. That is so frustrating :(

  4. I thought that it was an awesome restaurant with really nice fresh flavours! As you obviously love your food and whilst i commend you on your passion for animal welfare. you and your friend whom may have been irritated by your petty insistences surely would have enjoyed the experience a lot more if you had “sucked it up” and just tried their “vegetarian food” and not milled over petty issues to do with sauces coming from fish. Fair enough if the meal actually contained whole pieces of fish but common it is “thai” food surely you’ve got to expect some animal derived products.

    • Thank you for your comments and while you are entitled to your opinion I strongly disagree. I feel that if a menu labels a dish (in this case many dishes) vegetarian then it should not contain animal ingredients. Some vegetarians may be fine with “sucking it up” but I would not be true to my beliefs if I let things slide whenever the situation became a little incovenient..

  5. Upon researching a suitable eatery that would satisfy my newly acquired vegetarian lifestyle, I stumbled across your blog Karla. What a great read…..and so informative! It seems you have done all the hard work for me. I would like to know any recommendations you might have re vegetarian restaurants or vegan for that matter. Now don’t get cranky, by since i have JUST recently started my vegetarian lifestyle choice, I have to admit that I have, sort have, kept……. fish on the menu. However, JohannaGGG made an excellent point and I am going to have to re-assess my current vegetarian approach. I went vegetarian after all the “brew-ha-ha” over live exports and the animal cruelty side of things. I just did not think fish suffered that much and the “killers” (fishermen), do not appear as traumatised as abattoir workers. Of course, I am just a beginner vegetarian (2 months on the 3rd Aug), so I guess baby steps are better than nothing! Thanks for the honest feedback! (P.S. This is my first ever “blog” participation thingie!)

    • Hi Suzie, baby steps are definitely the way to go and congratulations on taking the first ones! The most important thing is that your lifestyle reflects YOUR choices not what someone else thinks you should be doing. For instance, my husband is not vegetarian nor is it likely he will become one but since I have been vegetarian he has made a point of making more ethical choices in terms of eating only free-range meats/chicken & free range eggs and eating a lot less meat during the week than he used to. So it’s about what you feel comfortable with at whatever stage of your life you are at. For me, after reading “Eating Animals” I completely swore off eating flesh of any kind as the book had such a massive impact on me and I feel a lot happier in myself about the choices I make now. There are so many great resources out there to help you on your journey now – whatever did we do before the internet! I wish you all the best and hope you will let us know how you are going.

  6. If you wanted Vegan food you should have gone somewhere else. I am a regular at Mountain Thai and it is a family run business and they do so with passion. I have never ever heard them being rude and maybe it was your attitude towards them that may have to be questioned??? you can not please every one

    • Maureen, I was not asking for vegan food, only vegetarian which the restaurant claimed to serve. I certainly was not rude, merely just enquiring as to the ingredients used in a dish I was considering ordering, in much the same way anyone on a special diet would do.

      I agree you can not please everyone, but transparency would certainly go a long way in preventing these types of issues.

  7. Surely they can can cook their food without fish sauce? I have a friend who is not able to have gluten as fructose intollerances and our local Thai caters for her very easily. The “stock” is chicken, but the food does not need to be cooked using the “stock”. If the chef really knows what she/he is doing? I know that Tom yum is cooked with shrimp paste, you cannot have tom yum if you are very strict with prawns.

    • I agree, Eden. I have been to another local Thai restaurant, Bangkok Gardens in Boronia, where they were more than accommodating and knew exactly what vegans eat without any prompting. Some places just don’t want to have to deal with modifying their routines, I guess. By the way, Tom Yum can be cooked without the the shrimp paste quite successfully. A vegan Tom Yum paste is available commercially and the flavour is really no different to the traditional variety. Also, soybean paste is a great substitute for adding the pungency you would normally get by adding shrimp paste.

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