Chinese New Year typically means almost a full month of feasting and celebrating. Chinese New Year in 2018 is no exception, stretching from the official start date of February 16 to March 2 with preparations for said celebrations starting as early as February 8. To end the festivities, the lantern festival is held on the night of March 2.
2018 marks the Year of the Dog, and shows that the date of Chinese New Year is not the same because the Lunar calendar determines when. Traditionally, Chinese New Year marks prayer to the gods for a good planting and harvesting season while scaring monsters away with fire crackers. Hence, there is a strong emphasis on fireworks and food to mark the season.
Why year of the dog? In Chinese culture, there are 12 zodiacs and each animal lasts for the entire year. The dog represents the eleventh animal in the zodiac, and is not necessarily liked or favoured in Chinese culture. Still, the more positive traits of the dog are encouraged – honesty, loyalty and reliability. It’s always best to focus on the positive!
People in China travel en masse back home so that they can join family members for this time of festive celebration. But what does this mean for those in Melbourne who aren’t travelling and are vegan?
There are many spots throughout Melbourne where a Chinese New Year can be celebrated in true vegan style. Even the obligatory dish – dumplings – can be found easily throughout Melbourne. Here’s a spread of some of the best.
Gong dè Lin
Tucked away near the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets, this vegetarian Chinese restaurant specialises in banquet style meals typical of Chinese cuisine using mock meats among fresh ingredients. Steamed vegetable dumplings, crispy tofu stuffed with mushroom and mock kung pao chicken are some of the treats to try. A delicious feast can be had here, best served with a pot of oolong tea.
Level 3/264 Swanston Street Melbourne Victoria 3000. Phone: 03 9663 7878
One of 200 locations around the world, Loving Hut is the crown in Melbourne’s Asian cuisine. Those ready for a big meal comprised of many Vietnamese, Malaysian and Chinese favourites in a vegan form. Dumplings, satay skewers, stuffed tofu pockets and one of my favourites – lemongrass tofu – can fill the table to feed guests sufficiently. Even some raw desserts are available for afterwards if the stomach permits.
Shop 10/242 Victoria Street Richmond Victoria 3121. Phone: 03 9427 8916
Shakahari is Hindi for vegetarian, yet their menu extends to Chinese cooking techniques too. Shakahari Restaurant is Melbourne’s first vegetarian restaurant. As the menu attests, it’s a destination where “east meets west”. Nourishing salads and comforting bean curd dishes give guests a filling and fulfilling experience, completed by a round of lovely desserts such as warmed red quinoa or tofu crème caramel. The flavours on offer are delectable and divine.
225 Clarendon Street South Melbourne Victoria 3205. Phone 03 9682 2207
Shu Restaurant is renowned for Chinese Sichuan cooking with a contemporary twist. Vegan nights feature here regularly as degustation nights; a good night of eating best served with best friends and family members. Matched wines are available for those who want to celebrate even more. What is loved about Shu, is its essence. Shu is short for Sichuan, the southwest province from which this style of cooking originates. This area that is known to be the ‘Land of Heaven’, so naturally Shu features key seasonal ingredients to create dishes such as smoked tofu, Chinese garlic chive and preserved mustard greens, tofu skin and fermented black beans or shredded potatoes, pickled chilli and spring onions.
147 Johnston Street, Collingwood Victoria Australia 3066. Phone: 03 9090 7878
Vegie Bowl Restaurant
Assumingly, preparing for Chinese New must be hard work that builds an epic appetite. To feed the hungry hoards, Vegie Bowl Restaurant is where to go for fast, fresh and cheap food fusion food for vegans and vegetarians. Mock meat dishes and share plates feature here, naturally, though a simple steaming plate of nasi goreng or slippery noodles, all flavoured suitably, is the fastest and hunger-easing dishes to order.
382 Springvale Road Forest Hill Victoria 3131. Phone: 03 8822 3873
If you’re keen to map out more vegan food in Melbourne for yourself, you can also check out my contribution to GPSmyCity. This is a destination where you can create your own customised self-guided city walks through their series of user-friendly apps. Just head to this weblink!