Eating in restaurants was something I avoided for quite a while after becoming vegan and discovering my food allergies. I spent most of my life in New Brunswick and at the time, there were no vegan or vegetarian restaurants in my city. I ate at a couple of places where I knew I could make changes to a dish to make it vegan (mainly one Mexican place near my home), but other than that, it was a struggle to find something to eat in a restaurant.
When I moved to Toronto, suddenly there was a whole new world of vegan food to discover. There are so many vegan restaurants in Toronto and I was thrilled to try them out.
It was only recently that I started trying to eat out in non-vegan restaurants. I often feel bad about all of the questions I have to ask before I order, but in the end, it’s usually very worthwhile. I had tried Chinese food a few times recently, and enjoyed that, so when I saw a place near Yonge and Finch called Shanghai Korean Chinese Restaurant, I thought I would check it out.
In Toronto I have been seeing a lot of restaurants that have a combination of different Asian cuisines on their menu. I will admit that it made me nervous at first (how can a chef be great at making food from so many countries?). But as it turns out, a varied menu is actually better for me with my dietary restrictions, so I’ve learned to embrace it.
Shanghai Korean Chinese Restaurant
I went to the Shanghai Korean Chinese Restaurant for an early dinner on a weekday with a friend. There weren’t a lot of people there when we arrived, but it filled up not long after we ordered. It is a small restaurant that has a nice atmosphere.
We sat down and reviewed the menu, hoping to find a variety of delicious vegan dishes to sample. There is a “vegetable” section of the menu, which is encouraging, and although one of those dishes has oyster sauce, I believe that most of the other dishes in that section are vegan.
The menu doesn’t give a lot of description of the dishes. It will list the name of the dish in Korean, Chinese, and English, and then sometimes gives a very short description of the main ingredients, and sometimes doesn’t give any description at all. So, we had some guessing to do, and a lot of questions to ask.
The service here was great. The waitresses were quick and attentive, and when I listed all of the things I can’t eat before ordering, they were patient and attentive. I told them what I wanted to order, and they explained several items I should remove from my order, because they are made with wheat. I asked questions in English, but my friend sometimes clarified for me in Korean.
The vegetable section of the menu is the best place to look if you’re vegan or vegetarian. They have a variety of tofu, bean curd, and vegetable options. I think that all of the options except for the boy choy in oyster sauce would be vegan.
We asked our servers questions about the soups, and they said I could have the corn and egg soup, so I reminded them that my long list of things I can’t eat includes eggs, and they said I couldn’t have any soup. I did ask if the steamed dumpling soup (삼선 누룽지, rice crisp soup) could be made vegan, since I really like 누룽지, but they said that it is supposed to have beef, and without the beef, it’s no longer 삼선 누룽지. I was grateful for their explanations, and finally made my order.
We ended up ordering 3 dishes. If you are a vegan without the other restrictions that I have (wheat is my allergy that generally is an issue when ordering Korean food), there should be several additional dishes for you to try.
Our first dish came so quickly that we were quite surprised by it. The next dishes came out soon after. It was served with banchan (반찬, side dishes) of pickled radish, raw onion, black bean sauce, and kimchi (킴치, spicy fermented cabbage), but this was not vegan, and we were also served some egg soup that my non-vegan friend took, but she sent mine back before they could put it on the table (so be prepared to turn down the soup if you’ve vegan).
Fried Tofu and Veggies
The fried tofu and veggies (가상 두부, fried tofu with stir-fried vegetables) was my favourite dish, and I would definitely go back for this. It was served without steamed rice (the other two dishes included rice), and I liked eating it with rice, but there was plenty of rice to go around from our other dishes.
The tofu was delicious. It was a nice, chewy texture, and the sauce of the dish was delicious. There was quite a variety of vegetables in the dish, including green pepper, red pepper, baby bok choy, mushrooms, celery, zucchini, and onion. The vegetables were perfectly cooked, in my opinion, just a bit crunchy.
Japchae is my go-to, so it’s no surprise that it was one of the dishes I was able to order here. This japchae and rice dish (잪채 밥, a sweet potato noodle dish with vegetables and rice) was in a slightly more Chinese style than the usual japchae, although the differences were pretty subtle, in my opinion. I didn’t notice any hint of sesame oil, which was the major difference for me. The japchae had lots of vegetables, including mushrooms, carrots, onion.
Chili Oil Tofu and Rice
We ordered the stir fried beef and tofu with rice (마파두부정식, beef and tofu in a chili oil sauce, served with rice), minus the beef, of course. This was a dish I hadn’t planned to order, but after all of my other ideas were ruled out, my friend said we should try to get this without the beef, and the server agreed that it could be done!
This dish was our least favourite of the three, but was still not bad. The tofu was cubed and probably a firmer silken tofu. The vegetables were diced quite small, so it wasn’t super obvious which vegetables were included, but I noticed some mushrooms, carrot, and peppers. The sauce had an interesting flavour that wasn’t really the chili taste that I had been expecting. It wasn’t spicy, and tasted a bit sweet and sour. The sauce wasn’t my favourite, but wasn’t bad, and I think the main reason I didn’t love this dish is because I prefer a firmer, fried tofu and don’t love when tofu has a silken texture. This dish came with rice.
I enjoyed my experience at this restaurant. The service was great, the food was good, and the restaurant itself was nice. There wasn’t a huge selection of food I could eat there, but there were more vegan options than many other places I’ve visited. I would give it a 4 out of 5.
Just the Facts
- Address: 5451 Yonge Street, North York
- Hours: 11:30am-12:00am
- Phone: 647-430-7560