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Maybe it’s because I’m not working out as much these days, but eating multiple indulgent meals a week doesn’t feel as good as it used to. After a January cleanse opened my eyes to delicious yet lighter eats across town, I’ve continued to keep my eyes peeled for healthier options when dining out. So I was really interested to try the new Crystal Green collaboration between popular Chinese chain Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao and local green pioneer Green Monday (also the creator of OmniPork).
What would alternative meats be like in traditional Chinese dishes?
Six dishes are part of this collaboration. All the alternative meats are comprised of plant-based ingredients such as peas, shiitake mushroom, rice and non-GMO soy.
We started with one of Crystal Jade’s bestsellers, the xiao long bao ($52/4). This version uses OmniPork and celtuce. The bundles were tasty, and I enjoyed the crunchy texture from the celtuce. However, these won’t remind you of traditional xiao long bao as, at least during our visit, there was no soupiness at all. But if you just think of these as steamed dumplings, they’re definitely worth a try.
The OmniPork wonton soup ($68) would be a great light lunch. Again, these dumplings had a crunchier texture, this time from carrot, shiitake mushroom and bok choy. In my experience, it’s hard to find a good dumpling in town that doesn’t contain pork. This is a welcome (dare I say, needed) addition to our city’s dumpling scene.
Next up were these OmniPork balls with shichimi and cumin ($92). Since meatballs often seem to contain indistinguishable meat anyway, the OmniPork version doesn’t seem like a big transition. The texture seemed like a normal meatball and the spice was nice. This would be a great group appetiser or party snack.
The last OmniPork dish featured these OmniPork strips with sweet bean sauce served with steamed pancakes ($90). This one tasted much more like an alternative meat – the texture of the strips was firmer than regular pork. While it won’t fool a meat eater, this dish is satisfying, especially when paired with Crystal Jade’s delicious pancakes.
Moving on to the “beef”! The Beyond Beef and egg white soup with cilantro ($95) is based on West Lake beef soup. I’ve never had West Lake beef soup before, but I can say that this Crystal Green soup is delicious. Of all the Crystal Green dishes, this might be my favourite. Crystal Jade does Chinese soups well, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the soup is silky and comes with gorgeous ribbons of wispy egg white… only there’s what tastes like hamburger meat mixed in too.
The last dish was the sweet-and-sour Heura chicken ($98). This really is the most chicken-like alternative chicken I’ve ever had. However, the flavour of the sauce didn’t really work for me, and I didn’t like it with the texture of the alternative chicken breast. It might have been nicer if the Heura chicken had been battered and fried instead.
All in all, there’s a lot to love about the new Crystal Green menu. It’s great that alternative meats are available in such an accessible way. Some of us may have decided to eat less meat for environmental reasons, and others may decide to once they discover they feel better when they do. This collaboration proves that it is now possible to have a delcious alternative-meat meal right in the comfort of your favourite restaurant. I’m looking forward to seeing what dishes this collaboration produces in the future.
The Crystal Green menu is available at all Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao locations, excluding the ones at the airport and in Kennedy Town
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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