McDonald’s has just launched a new item that may come as a surprise to many – a Veggie Crunch burger.
The patty of this vegetable-based burger is made with green peas, green beans, carrots, potatoes and red bell peppers and the burger comes with crisp cucumber slices and shredded lettuce. Topped with “a tinge of Veggie Crunch sauce for extra oomph”, says its website, it costs $3.
The fast food giant has always been fast to catch up onto local food trends – remember the limited-period salted egg yolk chicken burger? – but this veggie burger is here to stay.
The permanent move indicates the growing attention that food and beverage players, from mass market to haute cuisine, are paying to vegetarian offerings in their menus.
Vegetarians have long been familiar with limited choices when eating out in mainstream restaurants, with meatless mains often being poor cousins to their meatier counterparts. But times are changing. As consumers lead healthier lifestyles and are more conscious of the environmental effects of animal agriculture, many of them are opting for greener, leafier meals.
Restaurants respond to the green revolution by making vegetarian dishes stars in their own right.
For example, one of the menu highlights at two-Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant Odette is the Heirloom Beetroot Variation, which showcases different ways of preparing beetroot to bring out varying degrees of the root’s earthy and sweet flavours. The result is salt-baked beetroot, beetroot meringue, beetroot jelly and beetroot sorbet – all on one plate.
The restaurant at the National Gallery Singapore offers this dish as part of a dedicated vegetarian degustation menu that ranges from six to eight courses.
As Vegetarian Awareness Month comes around next month, various eateries are also putting out special vegetable-based menus.
The Hard Rock Cafes in Cuscaden Road and Resorts World Sentosa will offer a limited-time vegetarian menu featuring dishes such as cauliflower “wings” and cauliflower burger along with cocktails such as Very Veggie ‘Tini, comprising fresh cucumber, red onion, mint and lime juice shaken with Greek yogurt and vodka.
Chinese restaurant Peach Blossoms in Marina Mandarin Singapore is serving a special healthy menu, with many vegetarian dishes such as stir-fried lotus root with celery, Chinese yam and white fungus with organic pumpkin puree.
Vegetarian food can be “exciting”, says Peach Blossoms’ executive chef Francis Chong. “How you cook vegetables affects their taste, moisture, firmness and crunchiness,” he says.
While these are temporary menu offerings, other new restaurants here have vegetarian options as permanent fixtures from the get-go.
Coo Bistro, a 60-seat casual dining outlet in Tiong Bahru that opened in July, offers dishes such as quinoa with toasted pistachios, pomegranate, raisins and carrot puree; and smashed avocado on toast topped with dukka.
“At Coo, we want everyone to feel right at home, so we crafted a menu with vegetarian options to ensure no one is left out,” says Coo’s founder Silas Lee, 51. Its daily specials sometimes contain vegetarian dishes too. One recent one, roasted mushroom fettuccine infused with truffle oil, was “a real hit”, Mr Lee says.
Multi-concept store Plentyfull, which opened last month at Millenia Walk and encompasses a restaurant, bakery, gourmet grocer and food laboratory under one roof, also has vegetarian options right from the start.
“At Plentyfull, vegetables are equal stars alongside our meat and fish options, not just as a garnish or an afterthought,” says Ms Claudia Sondakh, its founder.
Restaurants refreshing their menus have also added more vegetarian options.
Tanjong Beach Club, which opened in 2010, revamped its menu for the first time last November. Out of the 10 dishes on its refreshed weekend brunch menu, six are vegetarian dishes, in response to customer requests. Now its Acai Bowl with hazelnut granola and mushrooms and toast are two “incredibly popular” items during weekend brunch, says a spokesman.
Cantonese restaurant chain Canton Paradise also introduced vegetarian options to its menu last June after seeing an increase in demand for vegetarian dishes. New inclusions such as wok-fried hor fun with wild mushrooms in black bean sauce and wok-fried wild mushrooms with sweet pea and black fungus have been popular with diners, says Ms Canndy Lee, director of operations at Paradise Group Holdings.
Financial planner Selena Loh, 34, was impressed by Odette’s Heirloom Beetroot Variation, which she tried last month.
“It made eating beetroot fun. When the right culinary techniques are used, the flavours of the vegetables are elevated and eating them is not boring,” she says.
The president of the Vegetarian Society (Singapore), Dr George Jacobs, 64, says he is encouraged by the initiatives of restaurants here. “I applaud them for their efforts,” he says, adding that he has seen the number of vegetarian options on menus increase significantly in recent years.
“It is a step towards good things for the environment, animals and people’s health.”
WHERE TO FIND VEGGIE OPTIONS
Image: McDonald’s Veggie Crunch Burger
What: Veggie Crunch Burger ($3, a la carte), a vegetable-based burger with a patty that is made with green peas, carrots, green beans, red bell peppers and potatoes. Spices used in the patty contain natural extracts of garlic, onion and pepper, while ingredients in the sauce include egg and garlic.
Where: Available at all restaurants and via McDelivery at www.mcdonalds.com.sg
Image: Trombetta Zucchini from Odette
What: Trombetta Zucchini (no individual price as this dish is part of the vegetarian degustation menus, which start from $118 for a six-course weekday lunch)
This dish features sliced Italian zucchini cooked in avocado oil and served with a quenelle of tarragon yogurt sorbet, pickled shallots and caper-walnut crumble, and a walnut emulsion.
Where: 1 St Andrew’s Road, 01-04
Open: Lunch: Noon to 1.30pm (last order) (Tuesday to Saturday); dinner: 7 to 9pm (last order), (Monday to Saturday); closed on Sunday and public holiday Info: Call: 6385-0498 or e-mail email@example.com
Image: Chilled melon salad from Tanjong Beach Club
TANJONG BEACH CLUB
What: Popular choices are chilled melon salad ($16), a freshly diced assortment of melons served with passionfruit gel and topped with lemon yogurt, tahini, honey, mint and almond flakes; and the Acai Bowl ($21), comprising organic acai berries, banana and apricot topped with fresh blueberries and mango, icy Inca berry confit, toasted coconut and crunchy hazelnut granola.
Where: 120 Sentosa Beach Walk, Sentosa
Open: 11am to 10pm (Tuesday to Friday); 10am to 11pm (Saturday and Sunday); closed on Monday
Info: Call: 9750-5325 or go to www.tanjongbeachclub.com
Image: Quinoa from Coo Bistro
What: Popular choices are Coo Bistro Quinoa ($14), which is served with pomegranate, raisins, toasted pistachio, carrot puree and lettuce; and Coo Bistro Gado Gado ($16), a medley of vegetables including edamame, pomegranate, oven-baked pumpkin and potato, crispy tofu and house-made peanut sauce.
Where: 259 Outram Road
Open: 11am to 10pm (Monday and Wednesday to Saturday), 11am to 6pm (Sunday), closed on Tuesday
Info: Call: 6221-7060 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
HARD ROCK CAFE
What: Quinoa burger (available only next month, $19++), a house-made patty of quinoa, red onion, portobello mushrooms, eggs, cheddar cheese, pecans, barley, soya sauce and breadcrumbs, topped with Sriracha hummus, arugula and tomatoes.
Where: 02-03-01 HPL House, 50 Cuscaden Road
Open: 11.30am to midnight (Monday to Thursday); 11.30 to 2am (Friday to Sunday)
Info: Call: 6235-5232 or e-mail email@example.com
Where: 01-209 Resorts World Sentosa, 26 Sentosa Gateway
Open: 11 to 1am daily, last food order at 10.30pm
Info: Call 6795-7454 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
OPEN DOOR POLICY
What: Vegan maccheroni pasta ($24++), a house-made macaroni pasta that comes topped with hearty portobello bolognese gratin and bechamel.
Where: 19 Yong Siak Street
Open: Open daily, Lunch: Noon to 3.30pm (last order at 3pm), dinner: 6 to 11pm (last order at 10.30pm), brunch: 11am to 3pm (Saturday and Sunday only)
Info: Call: 6221-9307 or e-mail email@example.com
OPEN FARM COMMUNITY
What: Watercress soup ($19++) with poached egg, crispy kale and house-made olive oil caviar
Where: 130E Minden Road
Open: Lunch: Noon to 4pm, dinner: 6 to 10pm (Monday to Friday); lunch: 11am to 4pm, dinner: 6 to 10pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday)
Info: Call: 6471-0306 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Wok-fried hor fun with wild mushrooms in black bean sauce from Canton Paradise
What: Wok-fried hor fun with wild mushrooms in black bean sauce (from $14.80 for a regular portion to $29.60 for a large portion)
Where: Canton Paradise has outlets in I12 Katong, Alexandra Retail Centre, Bedok Mall, Compass One and The Star Vista
Open: Opening hours vary
What: Chestnut dumpling with truffle puree, wild rice and seaweed dashi ($21)
Where: 21 Keong Saik Road
Open: 6 to 10pm (Monday and Tuesday); noon to 2pm, 6 to 10pm (Wednesday to Friday); 6 to 10pm (Saturday)
Info: Call: 6221-2189 or e-mail email@example.com
What: Stir-fried mixed vegetables of nameko mushrooms, honshimeiji mushrooms, bamboo pith, Wu-er fungus with mixed vegetables served in mini pumpkin (from $24++ for small)
Where: Level 5 Marina Mandarin, 6 Raffles Boulevard
Open: Lunch: Noon to 3pm, (Monday to Friday); 11am to 3pm (Saturday, Sunday and public holiday); dinner: 6.30 to 10.30pm daily
Info: Call 6845-1118 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Roasted Kin Yan farm mushrooms from Plentyfull
What: Grilled Kin Yan farm mushrooms with smoked onion puree and pickled radish ($20++)
Where: 01-79/80 Millenia Walk, 9 Raffles Boulevard
Open: 11.30am to 10.30pm daily
Info: Call 6493-2997 or e-mail email@example.com
A version of this story was originally published in The Straits Times on Sept 18, 2016. For more stories like this, head to www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle.