This is no ordinary Chinese food. It's from a new local all-vegetarian (and I think all-vegan) restaurant in Richmond, Virginia. It's called Panda Veg. I got carry-out so I could take pictures without seeming weird, because the little restaurant on the corner was really busy tonight - although I think Peter, the nice guy that runs the place would have been flattered.
Anyhow, I got Mock General Tso's Chicken, Vegan Crab Rangoons, and steamed white rice. jeez, it was good.
If any of you live in Richmond, Virginia, you may have been familiar with Panda Garden, a run-down hole in the wall on West Grace Street sandwiched between a Chinese restaurant (which is strange, because Panda Garden was itself a Chinese Restaurant), and a sketchy-looking place that I think sells lottery tickets. You couldn't even really see the sign that read, "Panda Garden" because of an unruly tree out front. Inside, Panda Garden was nothing to get excited about. The place was just plain ugly, let's be honest. But when you get over your hesitation and pick up the menus, you think to yourself, "hmm... why are there two menus?" There was a regular menu, and another with vegan versions of the same meaty Chinese favorites - beef with broccoli, sesame chicken, wonton soup, chicken fried rice, and even seafood that I was always too frightened to try, including mock lobster. On the weekends at dinnertime, the tiny restaurant was packed, because Panda Garden provided an all you can eat all-vegetarian buffet for a really good price! Then, last summer, tragedy struck - there was a fire which put Panda Garden out of business for months. But a few days ago, right across the street, a phoenix has risen from the ashes - Panda Veg! It's an all-vegetarian reincarnation of Panda Garden, with new menu items like Mock Crab Rangoons, Peter's Pepper Salt Potatoes, fried lotus roots, and a multitude of other things that I can't wait to try. I was definitely not disappointed.
Here's a close-up of the mock General Tso's chicken. It was sweet and the "chicken" was typical of Panda Garden - slightly crunchy on the outside, very tasty. The mock beef looks much more realistic than the mock chicken... to the point where long-time vegetarians might poke at their dinner with a chopstick and whisper to the server, "This IS vegetarian... right?"
My vegan crab rangoon! These were really, really good. From what I can tell, it's a wonton wrapped stuffed with vegan cream cheese and deep-fried. I didn't see or taste any mock crab, but didn't miss the crab-ness at all. They tasted pretty much like what I remember crab rangoons tasting like Plus, it's deep-fried vegan cream cheese, how can it be bad?
A larger picture of the first. You can even kinda see the crazy paint-job on our coffee table, which is where we eat, sitting on the floor. We like to imagine we're a Japanese family dining in the traditional manner, but the truth is we just don't have a dining room table. Or a dining room.