Monday, February 01, 2010

Buddha Hut : Worcester

I suppose I should clarify my earlier statement about always being wary of vegetarian places. I actually really only have that instinct when it comes to American vegetarian places. Because of the influence of vegetarian Buddhist monks in the Chinese culture, as a kid, going to eat at a vegetarian place (or 食斋 sihk zhai) wasn't that outlandish of a concept. In fact, for quite a lengthy period in my life, one of the best meals that I referenced was a completely vegetarian one at a Buddhist temple near Hong Kong.

So it was within that context, that my family proposed eating with my Aunt at Buddha Hut in Worcester.

I must admit I had somewhat lowered expectations, but when the owner came out, started speaking Mandarin and then switched to Cantonese, we sorted things out, it was a touch more reassuring. After a bit of conversation and finding out more about the owner (he's Vietnamese and been in Worcester, I believe something like 10-12 years or so, but can speak Mandarin and Cantonese pretty well), my parents asked him to, and I'm forgetting what the Chinese phrase is, essentially do the equivalent of omakase in sushi places. And this is what he brought out:

'Wonton' vegetable soup - Surprisingly flavorful soup - can Vegans eat Msg? Crunchy wontons with taro-like insides. Nice.

(Before adding the soup)

(With the soup)

Crab Rangoons - like a lighter vegetable flavored cream cheese. The cream cheese flavor and texture was actually not in the forefront, unlike those in so many other Americanize-Chinese restaurants.

Spring rolls - Interesting stuff - Standard lettuce, carrot slivers and vegetables, but an added crunch from perhaps potato sticks (?) and little imitation bacon bits give this an added variation of textures and taste.

Wontons - With a filling with taro-like texture. Filling vastly different than that of eating real meat, but as with others, I found I didn't really miss the meat either.

'Lobster' w/ ginger and scallops - The lobster comes nowhere close to real lobster's unique flavor or texture - in fact, I think it was more like bean-curd skins (fu pei). Flavor-wise, I actually didn't really taste much of a seafood flavor at all, rather it was more the ginger, scallion and sauce being the flavor.

Stir-fried noodles - Reminiscent of home-cooked noodles, mostly tasting like oyster sauce/hoisin sauce flavoring.

Fried rice - The meat balls were like the gluten pieces of cans of lo han jai (罗汉菜). There was a mystery spice I couldn't quite place that they put in this.

Four seasons - Vegetables, stir-fried.

All in all, it was satisfying.  There was a nice variety of flavors and the dishes were composed of mostly fresh vegetables (as opposed to preserved ones) and cooked in a varing manners. The meal was filling and I didn't really even miss any meat throughout.  My family and I came out of the place, thinking that while we might not actively seek this place out (living an hour away), if we were in the area again, we would not mind stopping by.

Buddha Hut
415 Chandler Street Worcester, MA 01602 (Map)

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