Shang Palace is the two Michelin star restaurant at Kowloon Shangri-La that serves traditional Cantonese food to a steady stream of diners who want to try out some of thieir renowned interpretations of Cantonese cuisine.
We dined under huge chandeliers, deep red tones running throughout the classical design adding to the warm feel of the restaurant. The restaurant was busy but with a relaxed atmosphere but this doesn’t mean that service was sloppy. Our waiter was friendly throughout, remaining subtly in the background and appearing when needed without being overbearing.
It’s not a vegan restaurant but there are both vegetarian and vegan options available on the standard menu, including a set vegetarian menu that is easily veganised. We opted to let the chef create a vegan menu for us, hoping he’d showcase his skills and create something memorable for us. We weren’t disappointed.
The Vegan Food:
As we sat down we were served a welcome tea as is tradition in Cantonese dining; we then spent a few minutes talking to Kenneth, the restaurant Tea Master, he is one of the few people in Hong Kong with a certificate of accreditation from the Chinese Government in recognition of his study and knowledge of fine tea. He selects a tea for us to pair with our meal, one of the many choices of exquisite teas served at Shang Palace from their extensive menu.
Before we began with the dishes outlined in our vegan menu we were served an amuse-bouche of pickled turnip and apricot. It’s sweet and crunchy, there’s a chilli spice and sesame flavour and it’s a great little flavour hit that prepares us for what’s to come.
A selection of condiments arrived at the table to accompany our meal, including a smoky soy bean, chilli and garlic sauce and a homemade vegetarian X.O. sauce. The X.O sauce was addictively spicy and rich and had pieces of dried tofu that gave it a wonderful texture.
X.O. sauce originates from Hong Kong, specifically from the area of Kowloon, and is a condiment that is synonymous with luxury. It’s normally packed with meat and seafood and so this moreish sauce is normally off limits for vegetarian and vegan diners; we were delighted to see this vegan version grace our table.
Our first course is “Steamed jade dumpling with matsutake and assorted vegetables, deep fried beancurd skin roll with assorted vegetables, black truffle topped with almond flakes and vegetarian Peking duck”. It’s a collection of dim sum selected by the chef which gives us a small tour of some traditional small bites enjoyed by people in Hong Kong.
The bright green dumpling has a crunchy diced vegetable filling in the middle and is soft on the outside, whilst not being overcooked and gooey. The beancurd skin roll is deliciously crisp on the outside and the additional almonds give a nice toasty flavour. Crispy bean curd skin is used again in the vegetarian Peking duck pancake, a vegan version of Cantonese classic but somehow tastier than we’ve ever had before. The crispy beancurd adds a fabulous texture to the soft pancake rolls, already filled with sweet and aromatic hoi sin sauce.
An exceptional soup arrived next; ‘Double-boiled wild fungus with bamboo pith and cabbage served in a young coconut’. It was a visual treat, served in a coconut mounted on a golden dragon adorned bowl. It was like receiving an advance warning that we should expect this soup to be special, which we’re happy to report back that it was.
Double-boiled soups, cooked well, manage to pack in an extraordinary amount of flavour into the broth. The name comes from the unique cooking technique which uses a sealed pot to lock in the flavour of the ingredients, before the whole thing is cooked in a second water filled pot.
Our soup is light and warm with a subtle sweetness from the soft and tender cabbage. There were a variety of mushrooms giving texture and flavour. One mushroom in particular was intriguing, being soft and almost dough like with a mild flavour, there were thin, soft slivers or another variety of fungi and sponge like bamboo pith tubes that soak up the broth to become flavour packed. This was a soup to savour and a perfect way to discover the wonders of Chinese mushrooms.
Possibly the star of the show and yet another variety of mushroom ‘Pan-fried wild mushroom with crispy rice in supreme soy sauce’ was an absolute hit with us. It looked uncannily like a piece of well barbecued meat, glistening with a rich marinade. It was however a piece of mushroom which melted away when eaten, soft with delicate earthy flavours and covered in a delicious rich soy marinade. The combination of the butter soft mushroom against the crispy rice cake is nothing short of exquisite, the chargrilled flavours linger; this was truly an exceptional dish.
The beautiful presentation with striking colours from nature’s own palate stopped us in our tracks when ‘Coddled pea sprout and lily bulbs with cordyceps flower in clear vegetable broth’ arrived in front of us. Such simple ingredients, cooked with a light touch combined to make a dish that was full of flavour and texture and bursting with healthiness. Sweet goji berries sat atop chewy strands of cordyceps flower, a meaty mushroom which is mild in flavour with a beautiful hue. Water lily bulb flakes look like they’ve been delicately scattered and their nutty, crunchy taste works perfectly with the firm green leaves, all finished of with a light golden broth. This is a vegetable dish that has been well thought out and cooked to perfection to show off the flavours of these high quality, fresh ingredients.
‘Braised rice vermicelli with wild mushrooms served in a mini pumpkin’ comes next and was a great excuse to eat more of that fresh and spicy X.O. sauce. It was a simple noodle dish cooked well and we loved it’s edible mini-pumpkin serving dish.
Another traditional Hong Kong favourite made an appearance at dessert in the form of ‘Black sesame roll and sweetened red date stuffed with glutinous rice dough in osmanthus syrup’. The dark black sesame rolls were soft and warm and incredibly light with a nutty sesame flavour. As they weren’t over sweet they were the perfect accompaniment to the stuffed date with it’s orange infused osmanthus syrup that had a delectable marmalade taste. A perfectly balanced dessert which not only scored high on taste but was also a great chance to try something typical of Hong Kong.
A small fresh fruit platter ended our meal, as is often traditional, but there were interesting fruits that we hadn’t tried before that made it a little more interesting to us. Sourced by the chef from the local market, we’d never seen Chinese red kiwis before and there was a crunchy pale green peach that was mouthwatering.
The Vegan Food Quest Verdict:
Make a reservation at Shang Palace to eat vegan Cantonese food at it’s best. Enjoy the relaxed atmosphere combined with the excellent, friendly service as you are impressed with bite after bite of plant based food that might just introduce you to a few new ingredients as well. Order off the regular menu and ask for vegan adaptions or request a vegan set menu to eat a selection of vegan delights created by an excellent and highly acclaimed chef and his team.
We were guests of Shang Palace but please rest assured that their generosity in hosting us didn’t influence our views.
64 Mody Road,
Tsim Sha Tsui East,
Telephone: +852 2733 8754
Opening Hours: Lunch 1200-1500 & Dinner 1830-2300