Ever since the plant-based community began to take root in the Beijing dining scene, the conversation has revolved mainly around obsessive Western restaurants and the fact that the vast majority of those restaurants have menus that cater to all eaters. Recently, however, a restaurant caught the trend. Vegetarian bloom 素食 素食 is a Chinese restaurant and, as the name suggests, vegetarian. However, just three months ago they decided to embrace the alternative meat trend and join Shanghai meat producer Zrou to add a dozen stunning new dishes to the menu.
The Vegetarian Blossom started in 2008 as Bo Wei Tang, a smaller merger focused on indoor-style vegetarian food within the Fourth Ring. Seeing moderate success with that effort, in 2014, executive chef Zhang Caoyou and owner Mr. Li decided to expand their enterprise and moved to the two-story building they currently occupy between Gui Jie and Dongzhimen. Unfortunately, their ambitions to get a much larger space were initially premature. As Zhang explains, the restaurant struggled in the early years given Beijing’s small vegetarian community at the time. Moreover, Blossom’s inclination towards excellent food meant that an even smaller amount of people were looking to brag about plant-based fancy foods.
Coincidentally, those early years coincided with a 2013 anti-corruption initiative introduced by the capital’s government, which included a policy that provided that civil servants could no longer buy expensive food for public money. Inspired by this, restaurants across the city, including Blossom, began looking for ways to operate more affordable. As a result, by 2017, Blossom Vegetarian had an updated menu, improved technology and new talent entering the industry with innovative ideas. Likewise, at this point, plant-based diets were gaining popularity in Beijing, as the city fostered a growing awareness of environmental protection, food safety and personal health.
Today, Blossom is a legacy of the city’s vegetarian scene, even winning a Michelin Plate Award earlier this year for “new vegan food” and “photogenic dishes that feel new and vibrant”. All of this begs the question: If Blossom had already become an award-winning vegetarian restaurant, run by a chef with more than 15 years of experience in cooking plant-based dishes, why would they choose to add alternative meats on their menu?
The answer is quite simple says chef Zhang. “As a vegetarian restaurant, the choices for raw materials are limited – mushrooms, vegetables, fruits – that’s almost all. So Zrou filled the gap and can be integrated into many dishes, so customers can get the taste of meat without and despite the fact that more than a few alternative meat suppliers approached Blossom seeking cooperation, it was Zrou’s commitment to using fresh, locally sourced ingredients such as genetically modified soy, cognac, oil. coconut and shiitake mushrooms signing the agreement.
Over the course of a month, Zhang’s new menu underwent three tests, during which time he worked diligently to address three factors in working with the new product. First, he wanted to get the taste as close as possible to the pork. As he explains, “Zrou has very few additives, so it is quite versatile.” Second, he wanted to understand the product as deeply and radically as he understands the countless other ingredients he works with, embedding his preparation into a science. And finally, in the true way of Vegetarian Flowering, he wanted to make the dishes pray properly.
Now, customers can enjoy a truly iconic spread of traditional Chinese meat dishes, suitable for vegetable flavors, including zhajiang noodles, fried pork with pepper and hemp, fried pancake Fried zrou, bamboo mushrooms with signature soup, boiled meat, dongpo simple elbow, golden melon and sticky rice meatballs, crystal pork, grilled black pork, and sufu xhinxiang torte The ten dishes can be purchased as a set menu for RMB 398 or ordered a la carte.
So what will happen to the Vegetarian Blossom? According to chef Zhang, the restaurant plans to unveil a line of Zrou ready meals including jiaozi and if they can be sent to customers who either do not have the opportunity to have lunch at the restaurant or live far away from it. When those meals start, orders can be placed through the official Blossom WeChat account (ID: huakaisushi-64012228) or the vegan lifestyle WeChat account, taihewanwu.
Vegetarian blossom 素食 素食
Every day, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. 144 Dongzhimen Neidajie, Dongcheng District
14 区 东直门 大街 大街 4 144
CONTINUE READING: Zrou x La Médina: A culinary journey into the promised plant-based lands
The images are courtesy of Zrou