Monday, July 12, 2010

Buddha Bodai

Buddha Bodai - 5 Mott Street (Vegetarian Chinese)
AKA: Faux General Tso...Take Two!

You can never have enough General Tso Chicken (veggie style).

In NYC, there's more than one place to get the goods - especially if you happen to be walking down Mott Street. Of course, there's House of Vegetarian. But keeping walking south and you'll find Buddha Bodai - specializing in vegetarian/vegan/kosher cuisine. In vegetarian circles, BB is known for frighteningly realistic mock meat dishes, including Kung Pao Chicken, Abalone, Vegetarian Lobster, and yes, General Tso's - a dish which earns rave reviews from BB's many devout fans.

Recovered from the unfortunate events at House of Vegetarian, I was ready to try again, and reach for the holy General Tso's grail (done up in Tofu, Seitan, or even Tempeh.) With dish in hand, I walked to the park and popped the lid, the dish steaming in the cold January night air.

The appearance of the dish looked good - the breading just right in color and shape. The texture mushy for classic General Tso (a little too yielding in the crust, and definitely too soft in the center. ) The portions were large and filling - perhaps too filling (leaving a feeling of heaviness which lasted for hours afterward.) Though not sweet enough to pass for the real thing, the flavor was fine - and close to true. Certainly the best veggie version I have seen to date. Not a masterpiece, nor was it worth the high price tag of $14.00....but a good dish nonetheless, and worthy of some praise.

Given its high prices, Budda Bodai will never be a regular haunt - though maybe good for the occasional craving. As I walked to the subway, I reflected upon my recent veggie travels...again and again seeking good faux meat dishes, each time meeting with (at least partial) disappointment. Perhaps the state of the art just isn't there. Or perhaps the mission itself is wrong - instead of looking for fake meat substitutes, why not glory in the flavor of true, honest veggies? Grab a good steamed broccoli, or garlic sauce veggie platter and you can't go wrong. It's tasty, it's yummy - and darn it, it's the real thing.

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