ZING ZING GREEN SWEET SESAME TOFU & VEGAN CHOW MEIN – VEGAN CHINESE FOOD. DELIVERED

zing zing sweet sesame tofu
Hi, Pathetically

I miss East Asian food. Chinese. Japanese. Korean. It’s all good. I’m sure vegan options are out there. In fact, I know they are. I just haven’t dug deep enough. I used to enjoy Wagamama’s Japanese dishes. Especially the Kare Burosu ramen. But the elaborate plastic packaging their deliveries come in is completely out of hand. Then I remember Zing Zing has a “Green” wing in Elephant and Castle. And I reach for my phone.

Firecracker Cauliflower. Miso and Szechuan Aubergines. Mongolian Mushrooms. Black Bean Tofu… My mouth’s watering scrolling through the menu. The only downside is none of the mains come with noodles or rice. So I go for the Sweet Sesame Tofu for fancy. And the Vegan Chow Mein for filler.

When the food arrives, straight away I wish I’d ordered more fancy. The tofu looks and smells incredible. Wok-cooked with chilis, then glazed in a rich, sweet soy sauce and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. Visually arresting. Fragrant. Definitely the real deal.

zing zing green vegan chow mein
Hi, Pathetically

I tip out half the chow mein and half the tofu. Using the sauce of the tofu to lubricate the dish. The sweet sesame sauce tastes amazing. Sweet. Rich. Bursting with flavour. And the tofu provides the perfect chew. Like the sweet chilli squid I used to order. Because in the end, all you’re really looking for is the right texture and that magical taste explosion. Nobody really craves dead animals.

The food disappears quick and I go in for round two. The chow mein is the perfect filler to stretch out the meal. Wok-tossed, stir-fried vermicelli rice noodles loaded with fresh vegetables and battered cauliflower. Straightforward. Simple. Delicious. Like fancy rice. A perfect accompaniment to the rich, sweet chili soy sauce and more decadent sesame tofu. I definitely zinged.

ARANCINI BROTHERS – DEEP FRIED RISOTTO BALL BURGERS AND LOADED POTS TO MELT YOUR VEGAN HEART

arancini brothers risotto ball burger vegan
Hi, Pathetically

The relatively new Bermondsey branch of deep-fried risotto ball pioneers Arancini Brothers is a bright orange all-vegan joint on the starting line of Maltby Street Market. Only it’s open all day. Seven days a week. Serving vegan cake, croissants and sausage rolls. And burgers. And loaded risotto ball pots. And paprika fries. And eggplant tomato sauce. I could go on.

All-vegan fast food employees must get tired of answering the same dumb questions about the menu. “Yes, the smoky chorizo is vegan.” “No, there’s no egg in the special mayo.” “Yes, the cheese is all plant-based.” But it’s just like it is in the memes. You stand there dumbstruck for a second. Spellbound. “You mean, I can order anything? ”

I’ve been a few times since that first visit, so I play it a lot cooler these days. And everything I’ve tried is delicious. I always throw in a side of citrus and mushroom zucchini risotto balls and load up on special mayo and eggplant sauce. But the tastiest thing I’ve tried so far is the CHorizo burger. Smoky cHorizo, deep-fried risotto burger patty, cheese, crispy onions, chilli sauce, mayo. And yes, it’s all vegan.

The burger itself is a straight-up knockout. Pure vegan fried decadence. Crispy and gooey in all the right places. The special mayo. The spicy kick of sriracha. The crunch. Oh man, the crunch. And the blissful, sticky juiciness of it all. I was literally licking my fingers and scooping up every last crumb. Wishing I had more risotto balls to dunk in my last drop of special mayo.

Address: Arch 34 Maltby St, London SE1 3PA

LOVE SHACK – MEATY MERCATO METROPOLITANO’S NEW PATCH OF VEGAN PARADISE

Hi, Pathetically

Mercato Metropolitano’s a laid back, good-food and tasty-beer oasis in the heart of Elephant and Castle. Yet, despite the Italian-themed food hall’s seemingly endless array of colourful culinary possibilities – from all around the world – most diners seem to make the same choice; a mountain of chips and grilled meat. So needless to say, not so friendly for the vegans.

Recently, however, a new vegan startup planted its plastic-free roots in the midst of the carnage. Enter Love Shack London, a Hackney-based good vibe peddlar, now offering “plant-based power to the people” of south east London.

Setup alongside a stock waffle joint and beef and chip shop, the new Vegan Shack menu sparkles like a rainbow over a sea of beige. A tropical palette of fresh ideas bursting with even fresher ingredients. I felt Spring in my step just reading it.

When it comes to vegan fast food, I don’t usually go for more “rustic” burger patties. But this time the burger in question sounded surreal, like an eccentric work of vegan art. A flavour fiesta I was (not) dying to celebrate.

They call it The Mexican, but it might as well be called The Vegan Sunset. And it features a walnut, mushroom and black bean patty, guacamole, tomato salsa, a mysterious slice of “smoked vegan cheese” and grilled pineapple. All on a fluffy beetroot brioche bun.

The patty itself was perfect. Juicy and firm, yet fresh, wholesome and beany at the same time. And everything was complementary. The creamy, homemade guacamole. The tangiest, tastiest, most tantalising tomato salsa I’ve ever tasted. And the sweet tartness of the grilled pineapple.

Unsurprisingly, The Mexican kind of fell apart in my hands. But it didn’t matter. I licked my fingers in silence. Spellbound by every single bite. It was exquisite. And paired perfectly with the overpriced bottle of Brewdog x Verdant Sheena IPA I got from The Italian Job.

Address: 42 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6DR