Plant-based dining options in Sydney tend to fall into one of two categories. There are the ones that try to replicate dishes that typically contain egg, dairy and meat with stand-ins. They are determined that tiramisu and bacon-and-egg rolls can be forged from soy, gluten, nuts and grains. And it’s a lofty goal. However, when it comes to pure enjoyment, there’s a lot to be said for places that just leave it out.
Vegetables are delicious in their own right, and at Little Turtle, an all-veg Thai restaurant on Stanmore Road, they are banking on the fact that it’s not chicken that makes a tangle of hokkien noodles delicious – beans, carrot, mushrooms, green onion and tofu in a slightly sweet and savoury sauce are more than up to the task of nailing those slippery carb cravings.
Likewise a green curry. It tastes almost identical to any rendition you can find in the city, it just happens to star zucchini, bamboo shoots and baby corn, with a little luxed-up coconut rice on the side. Who are you kidding, you’re ordering the satay skewers for the sauce, no matter what they’re threading onto a bamboo skewer, and here it’s barbecued tofu, firm enough to handle multiple swipes through the generous pool of peanut sauce.
Even wing lovers get a little love in the form of crunchy fried cauliflower florets bathed in a sweet and spicy Thai riff on a classic American rib sauce. They’re a best seller for a reason.
When you have a mixed group of diners it can be hard to find somewhere that pleases everyone. The fact that Little Turtle caters to a vegan crowd without compromising the flavours that people love in Thai food should move them to the top of the list. Affordable prices and big tables out in the back garden will seal the deal.
Plant-based dining doesn't need to hinge on sleight of hand, distracting you with textures that approximate meat so you won’t notice the absence. In fact, leaving it out altogether is a pretty strong play, and that’s why this Little Turtle is winning the crowd-pleasing vegan race.