I'm not beating around the bush with this one. These vegetable manchurian dumplings are quite possibly the tastiest "vegan" morsels I've ever put in my mouth. And probably the best thing I've put in my mouth this year. You probably don't realise how significant a statement that is coming from my mouth. I grew up in a household where dinner guests who were vegetarian were given the stare of death at the dining table. Don't worry - nothing bad ever happened. Mum would cook the odd vegetarian dish, alongside 4 or 5 other dishes all including some form of meat or seafood protein. If they asked if there was anything else, she'd simply reply - the rice has no meat in it. Yeah - brutal. God forbid, I bring a vegetarian girl home (it did happen once by the way, but unfortunately that only lasted a day as the death stares were just too much for her). So you get the gist. And the background. Work with me here. I don't think you could convert me to veganism but I would happily eat these dumplings on a daily basis for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
When I ordered them, I honestly had no idea what was coming. I'm just a sucker for any menu item with the word 'dumpling' on them (I mean, you could put snapper and marmite dumplings on your menu, and I would probably order it out of pure curiosity). But these dumplings are of the deep-fried ball variety and are hot pillow-y balls of goodness. The texture is half the pleasure. As for the components, well, they're most likely made up of a mixture of finely blended vegetables, maybe a touch of cornstarch or flour to bind, deep-fried till golden brown, and then doused in a manchurian-style coating of ginger, garlic, vinegar, soy, chilli and tomato paste. I have no idea if that's right or not, but whatever it is, it's just so damn tasty, and best of all - they have a wee kick to them too with a lingering heat that is perfect for any of the craft beers (awesome list) or cocktails on offer.
The Manchurian thing and the entire menu theme to Satya Chai Lounge revolves around the Indian-Chinese culinary melting pot. This cuisine is for real, if you're wondering if I just made it up. So if you like both indian food and chinese food, this is your dream merger. The use of soy sauce and vinegar as core ingredients along with the holy trinity of garlic, ginger and chilli and then fused with the typical Indian spice medley results in dishes like the Vegetable Manchurian with massive amped-up flavour profiles. To be honest, I could have written up a dish of the day for several of their menu items with a very close second being their kurryaage (a super tasty creation of theirs riffing Japanese karaage 'fried chicken'). But when it came down to it, I think just the mere surprise that something that was 100% vegan-friendly could be so delicious, so flavour-packed, so texturally interesting, that left me wanting more.....well, it had to be the dish of the day winner. Pats on the back Satya Chai Lounge.
Keen on checking this dish out? Go to:
Satya Chai Lounge, 271 Karangahape Rd, Auckland Central and 515 Sandringham Rd, Sandringham)