If you don’t have a vegan in your family, you have no idea how complicated this diet can be. Vegans take vegetarianism several steps further. They eschew all things that are not from plant origins, which means that eggs, milk products and all their derivatives are taboo. Some vegans also avoid honey, as it is derived from something alive – bees.
But on this, the jury is still out.
My younger son announced he was going vegan about eight months ago after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s treatise Eating Animals. Today he’s fit, eats a far healthier diet than he used to and is mentally, spiritually and gastronomically content.
His 30th birthday celebration was held at Buddha Burger, the popular vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv. When Shiboleth, a branch of Buddha Burger, opened in Ra’anana, we had to give it a try.
We began our meal with the ubiquitous orange soup (NIS 27) from which there is no escape these days.
This one, made with pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots, was piping hot and delicious. One felt one was consuming a bowl of pure health: blended vegetables enhanced with the subtle but discernible taste of turmeric and lemon. Shai Levari, the manager, assured me the flavor was produced without the addition of soup powder. “We don’t need it,” he said.
The bread accompanying the soup was a whole wheat bun, soft inside and crispy on the outside, studded with oat flakes and sunflower seeds. I try not to overindulge in bread, but this was too good to pass up.
Before the main course, we were given a classic Buddha Burger (NIS 25 or NIS 33) to sample. It looks like a hamburger but is made from lentil sprouts, mushroom, celery, walnuts, onion, whole grain sesame seeds, tehina and basil. Served on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes, it was pleasantly chewy. No, it didn't taste remotely like meat, but that didn't spoil the enjoyment of it in the slightest.
For my main course I sampled the “shwarma” (NIS 29), which is actually made of seitan, the wheat protein derivative which is a good alternative to tofu in the vegan diet. It looked and tasted exactly like authentic shwarma, but without the greasy after-taste. It was served very aesthetically in sushi-like rolls cut from tortilla wraps and rolled up with shredded lettuce and carrot. The side dressings of “mayonnaise,” “Thousand Island” and “cream” were all concocted from different amounts of tofu and all successfully imitate what they were supposed to be.
My son had the lasagna with eggplant (NIS 33 and 45 NIS), which he
described as a vegan miracle. Pasta and vegetables are okay for vegans,
but how Shiboleth reproduces the necessary cheese sauce is indeed
miraculous. The dish was warm and comforting and so generous, he wasn't
able to finish it.
For dessert we sampled the lemon cake (NIS 22), made from silk tofu and
regular tofu. It was very lemony and as good as any cream cake.
Smoothies are very popular in the vegan diet, and Shiboleth offers a
huge selection made from a variety of healthful ingredients such as flax
seed, parsley and carob powder, as well as the more traditional fruit
drinks. These drinks, based on soy milk, range from NIS 17 for a small
portion to NIS 48 for one and a half liters.
The self-service salad bar is an attractive choice for dieters. One can
take a small salad (NIS 16), medium (NIS 21), large (NIS 26) or huge
The menu is very extensive, and it is amazing how much variety is
possible in a vegan diet. This leads me to something that has been
troubling me for some time now. What does a religiously observant
Ashkenazi vegan eat on Pessah? Grains (kitniyot) are out, soya is out,
beans of all kinds are out, pasta is out. Eggs, so important in Passover
cooking, are out. My son maintains that vegan and Orthodox don’t go
together, so I hope some readers can prove him wrong.
Judging by the admonitions in posters around the restaurant walls, such
as “To become vegan is to step into the stream that leads to Nirvana”
(Buddha), there is a certain religious fervor attached to the whole
concept of eating vegan. And evangelical vegans have been getting
support from an unexpected source. The once red-faced and beefy Bill
Clinton now proclaims from a poster (and an interview with Wolf Blitzer
on CNN) that he lost 24 pounds on a vegan diet and feels much healthier.
One may not be ready to commit to a vegan lifestyle just yet, but a
visit to Shiboleth proves that if you do, you can still enjoy an
excellent meal.The writer was a guest of the restaurant.Hamasger 1, Ra’anana (09) 740-4002 Kosher