When I made the decision to go vegan, I was as mentally prepared as possible to sacrifice milk and dairy, but there were a few favorite items that made the choice more challenging.
Namely, cheese, Wet Willie's Bahama Mamas, and boba milk tea.
For anyone not lucky enough to have experienced the wonder of boba (AKA bubble tea), it's an indulgent, tea-based drink of Taiwanese origin that's served with black tapioca pearls (the "bubbles"). It comes in flavors such as taro, red bean, and lychee in various incarnations -- some with milk, some without, but my favorite are the milk-blended slushies.
Given my unhappiness at forgoing these treats, I was pretty stoked to learn that North Miami's Shing Wang Cafe offers vegan bubble tea options. It also features a menu with a veritable cornucopia of vegan-friendly Chinese food. I checked out the joint last week. Pictures and info after the jump.
See also: Trader Joe's Ten Best Vegan Products
Shing Wang is easy to miss. The little strip-mall spot has been in operation since 2008 and even scored New Times' Best Vegetarian Restaurant honors in 2009.
Though the menu has evolved (it used to be all vegetarian but now is not so much), the current incarnation offers standard Chinese items plus a long list of dishes using meat replacements and vegan options. They include appetizers such as veggie chicken nuggets ($6.95) and veggie dumplings ($6.50); entrées like smoking soy duck ($12.25) and sweet 'n' sour crispy soy chicken ($11.25); and noodles and rice such as vegetable lo mein ($8.25) and veggie ham fried rice ($9.25).
I ordered a couple of appetizers: the steamed veggie bun ($2.75) and veggie barbecued "pork" ($4.95). I was stoked to see the veggie bun on the menu. It used to be one of my fave Asian options, but it's next to impossible to find any sans meat. It was stuffed with cabbage and carrots, and the bun was the fluffy consistency I'm accustomed to. The barbecued faux pork was chewy, slightly sweet, and had the mouthfeel of meat. It's a nice substitute for the meatless eater who misses the real thing.
Vegan pork in all its glory.
As far as boba tea, not all options are vegan, because some of the flavors come premixed with dairy. Those that are are marked with a "V" include cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwi, lychee, mango, passionfruit, peach, and strawberry. I went with honeydew, blended with soy milk to produce a smoothie. The result was a thick, sweet dessert with all the flavor of the original I remember.
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Places such as Shing Wang make me happier than ever to be a vegan, knowing I can still have my favorite eats -- just made meatless. Whether you're looking for some meat-free Chinese fare or a slushie treat on a sizzling day, this is a spot worth trying.
Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.