By Kristie Hang
Thanks to a sizable Asian and Buddhist population in the San Gabriel Valley, there are many scrumptious eateries with scores of vegetarian and vegan options. What’s unique about Asian vegetarian dishes is that the dishes imitate their real meat counterparts. There’s no salad on this list: we’re talking faux chicken, deep-fried pork chops and other fun “meat” items on the menu. (Pro-tip: To avoid the crowds, steer clear of the 1st and 15th of every month on the lunar calendar because that’s when Buddhists celebrate the bodhisattva Guanyin and eat vegetarian all day.)
1. Bodhi Veggie Cuisine is one of the more gourmet Chinese vegetarian restaurants in the SGV.
Bodhi has a very extensive menu with lots of pictures to help you decide. They offer lunch, dinner, and large banquet sets for bigger parties. Lunch specials start at $5.50. All lunch options come with either white or brown rice or pumpkin congee and steamed or fried buns. Bodhi doesn’t use MSG or artificial flavors in their food.
Standout dishes: Yam with kumquat jam, lotus buns, pineapple fried rice, almond milk pastry dessert.
TIP: They also have online ordering for pick up.
Bodhi Veggie Cuisine is located at 3643 Rosemead Boulevard in Rosemead, (626) 569-9888.
photo by Kristie H.
2. Fine Garden Vegetarian Restaurant
Vegetarians can enjoy dimsum too! Fine Garden is the only all vegetarian dimsum restaurant in the SGV. The shui mai (pork dumpling) is made with soy crab and tastes just like the real thing.
Standout dishes: BBQ “pork” buns, lotus leaf with sticky rice, har gow (shrimp dumplings), radish cake, pumpkin and taro hot pot, almond tea pastry dessert, and vegan Tiramisu cake. Best part of Fine Garden? They serve dim sum all day long!
Fine Garden Vegetarian Restaurant is located at 841 West Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel, (626) 282-2282.
3. Bean Sprouts
Bean Sprouts is a Taiwanese vegetarian café with a Western twist! Lunch specials start at $6. The rainbow crunch roll is a must-order. It’s filled with carrots, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, and mayo. If you are vegan, be sure to let the staff know so they can use their vegan mayo.
Other standouts: pan-fried radish cakes, ‘beef’ noodle soup, pineapple fried rice.
TIP: Lunch prices end at 2 p.m.
Bean Sprouts is located at 103 East Huntington Drive in Arcadia, (626) 254-8708.
4. Thien Tam
Thien Tam is a Vietnamese mom-and-pop shop with only a handful of tables. However, their vegan/vegetarian options are full of flavor and worth the wait. Their faux lemongrass chicken is a big crowd pleaser.
Other standout dishes: egg rolls, pho, beef noodle soup, and Vietnamese ‘crab’ and tomato noodle soup.
FYI: Cash only.
Thien Tam is located at 10345 Garvey Avenue in El Monte, (626) 579-1050
5. Vege Paradise
Vege Paradise is located upstairs in the notoriously-hard-to-find-parking Focus Plaza. Their vegetarian dishes use minimal salt, oil, and do not contain MSG. Lunch specials range from $6 to $8 and come with complimentary soup and choice of pumpkin porridge or rice (white or brown).
Standout dishes: breaded and deep fried mushroom, stewed cabbage roll, pumpkin bisque, three cup chicken, and tiramisu cake.
TIP: Lunchtime meals are much cheaper than dinner. It’s the same food, but different pricing. Vege Paradise also has a stamp card so if you go enough times, you will get a discount.
Vege Paradise is located at140 West Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 280-5998.
6. Happy Family Restaurant
Happy Family is a Chinese vegetarian chain restaurant located throughout Southern California with a huge AYCE buffet option. An entree a la carte runs around $8-10, so the $15 all-you can-eat selection is a better deal. Your order comes with complimentary white or brown rice, a small serving of salad, and tapioca dessert.
Standout dishes: fried basil chicken nuggets, ‘kung-pao chicken’, fried eggplant, sushi hand roll,
Happy Family Restaurant is located at 18425 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, (626) 965-9923 and at 500 North Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park, (626) 282-8986.
7. Salathai Restaurant
Salathai specializes in Thai vegetarian food. Their lunch specials start at $5.99 and are available until 3 p.m. Each meal comes with your choice of soup or salad, rice, brown rice, or fried rice. The dishes are full of flavor and spices. You won’t be able to tell you’re not eating meat!
Standouts: Papaya salad, larb, BBQ chicken, satay, yellow curry, fried banana dessert, and mango sticky rice.
Salathai is located at 7258 Rosemead Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 287-5850.
8. QQ Kitchen
QQ Kitchen is a mom-and-pop shop that serves very affordable vegetarian Taiwanese food. They have vegetarian versions of traditional Taiwanese favorites such as pork chop rice, oyster omelette, stinky tofu, noodle soups, steamed Chinese buns, popcorn chicken, to name a few.
A entrée will run you about $5 and come with complimentary soup. QQ Kitchen does not use MSG.
FYI: Cash only.
QQ Kitchen is located at 9441 1/2 Las Tunas Drive, Temple City, (626) 292-1128.
Photo by Eileen T.
9. Hsi Lai Temple Vegetarian Buffet
Do you want go to a Zen place and eat some healthy food too? This vegetarian buffet is located inside the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple.
The food served changes frequently because much of it is donated from local businesses, community gardens, and from volunteers. It’s like going to a friend’s home and enjoying a homemade traditional Chinese potluck. The eating area is open from 11 a.m.- 3 p.m. and there is a $7 minimum donation for admission, which goes towards operating the cafeteria.
The food is healthy, simple, and tasty. The buffet often has tasty soup, tofu, veggies, tempura, curry, sweet potato, zucchini, noodles, a salad bar, and a fresh fruit bar. Most of the time, there is a vendor off to the side that makes fresh custard cakes. After you eat, you can also go check out the temple grounds.
Hsi Lai Temple Vegetarian Buffet is located at 3456 Glenmark Drive in Hacienda Heights, (626) 961-9697
10. Ha Tien Quan
Although Ha Tien Quan isn’t exclusively a vegetarian restaurant, they do have a very extensive vegetarian menu so your carnivore friends can enjoy something as well. I’ve spoken in length about how much I love their bun mam before, (insert link to my top Vietnamese food article), and they make comparable vegetarian version to the anchovy noodles as well as all their other dishes.
Ha Tien Quan is located at 529 East Valley Boulevard in San Gabriel, (626) 288-1896
photo by Kristie H.
Loving Hut is a vegan chain that available around the world. Their dishes are Asian-fusion so you can find teriyaki, pho, vermicelli, BBQ pork, curry, chicken nuggets, spring rolls, among other dishes on their menu.
Loving Hut is located at 621 West Main Street in Alhambra, (626) 289-2684.
Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food
For lunch, you can choose from a two, three, or four item combos at Garden Fresh that come with soup and white rice or brown rice. The menu changes daily. If you’re into juices, Garden Fresh also has a menu full of different organic, freshly squeezed juices, teas, and smoothies.
TIP: There is a small market inside the restaurant that sells organic Chinese groceries and vegetarian Chinese frozen dumplings.
Garden Fresh Vegetarian Food is located at 16034 Gale Avenue in Hacienda Heights, (626) 968-2279.
TIP: To avoid the crowds, steer clear of the 1st and 15th of every month on the lunar calendar because that’s when Buddhists celebrate the bodhisattva Guanyin and eat vegetarian all day.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Kristie Hang is a TV Host, reporter, and avid world traveler that spends 3 months a year in Asia. She has an affinity for bizarre foods and is also the co-founder of the 626 Foodettes Blog, a hyperlocal food blog highlighting culinary options in the San Gabriel Valley. CLICK HERE to follow her on Twitter