Finding vegan options at Five Guys and Ho Ping House

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By: Rama Ganesan

Rama Ganesan

At a presentation on veganism at Unity Garden’s Growing Summit, the audience members were asking me about ways to eat vegan at fast food restaurants.

I really do try to avoid eating at fast food places like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Taco Bell and so on. It isn’t just because there are limited options for vegans, but more because of what they stand for. Being a vegan isn’t only about what we eat, it is about what we think and feel about the animals the food industry exploits.

I would try to find vegan food at these places if nothing else was available, so it isn’t an active boycott. But these days, there is always been an alternative for me, even if it’s as simple as a sandwich from home.

In any case, when people specifically asked for vegan options at fast food eateries, I thought I might try to address that as the occasion arises. Perhaps you could Google to find information on fast food options for vegans, but they are not always accurate, and even if they were, it might be helpful to have a local person trying out foods in local fast food eateries. 

So immediately after leaving the Summit, and on my way to the Notre Dame for another presentation on sustainability, I dropped by Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Eddy Street. I quickly consulted the Internet for vegan recommendations, but they were not too helpful.

They do have a veggie sandwich on their menu, but when I asked, they said that the bun had egg as an ingredient (note, there is no veggie patty in the veggie sandwich).

So that just left me with couple of different options for fries, and I picked the Cajun fries to eat the complimentary peanuts at Five Guys. As it happens, I love peanuts.

As I was taking a picture of my ‘meal,’ one of the other workers informed me that I could have chosen a lettuce bowl with veggies. The gentleman at the counter had not known about this, so please learn from my mistake. If you want a vegan meal at Five Guys, ask for a lettuce bowl, and eat with fries and peanuts. 

On the following Monday I was busy with another Unity Garden event, so we chose to eat at Ho Ping House.

Shankar had visited there for a New Year party, and at that time the hostess had arranged a vegan meal for him. Ho Ping has only a brief Vegetables & Tofu section on its regular menu. Even one of the vegetable dishes has pork (ma po tofu).

We chose the broccoli in garlic sauce, as it came recommended by Shankar, and also the snow pea pods. The server suggested a spring roll as appetizer and we relented ($1.65 each).

All three dishes were standard Chinese restaurant fare without any distinction. Both of the vegetable dishes (served with brown or white rice) could have made good accompaniments to other tofu-based entrees. Although we are quite happy eating veggies and rice for simple meals at home, I would have preferred to have eaten something more substantial at a restaurant.

So again, a mistake on my part: I suggest you try one of the other tofu dishes along with these two veggie items: vegetarian delight, ma po tofu (without the pork) or bean curd (country style). All of these dishes are priced at $8.50.

On a bright note, the vanilla apple cosmo was top notch, and quite reasonable at $6! The bar at this restaurant might have more to recommend it than the food, at least this time around.

At both of the events I attended last weekend, I promoted the free screening of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, at the South Bend Main Library, S. 304 Main St., South Bend, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 9. Please join us for a humorous and informative documentary on the food we eat. Please RSVP at the Facebook page if you can, so we will have a count for refreshments!

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