So heartening to remember that not only are vegetables good for you (enough already!), but, with the right balance, can taste superb. Here’s a Thai-Japanese fusion dish that includes our well-beloved Western vegetables (along with the relatively unknown kale).
Haven’t we been through the mill with vegetarianism? In the 1920s, American kids like M.F.K. Fisher were being fed carrots in white sauce by grandmothers with “Nervous Stomachs.” The ’70s found the knock-off curries — generally a mish-mash of dying vegetables found in the crisper bunged in a pot with stale curry powder. Forty years on, the vegetarian cause rose up with a fury, this time including raw and gluten-free foods. Fortunately, cooks now realize that dishes can concurrently strengthen health and fire up your imagination. At least I hope they do.
Nowadays, Gatineau’s La belle verte is experimenting with new ways of cooking (and non-cooking). Here’s their take on a simple bowl of noodles.
The Place: Although this neo-hippy spot has become known far and wide for its raw food menu, fear not. Delicious cooked dishes can be had as well. If, perchance, you’re put off by cashew un-cheese, please follow the list of lunch dishes further on. Soup, sandwiches, and burgers make up the bulk of this vegan offering. The rich oven-baked pizza, “All Dressed,” is piled high with tomato tapenade, caramelized onions, and fake bacon bits. Don’t neglect the tartelettes Moka — almond buckwheat tart shells filled with a sumptuous filling of coffee, cashew, and coconut butter. (The flavour of coconut is suffused throughout.)
The Dish: Choose either brown rice or soba for your La belle verte bowl. The soba (buckwheat noodles) are somehow so soothing. Here, they’re served cold with your choice of sauce — tamari, sesame, and ginger; coconut milk and coriander; or the crowd favourite, spicy Thai peanut sauce. Roasted tofu slices the size of dominoes are dense and meaty. And tasty with their tamari marinade. Garnish consists of tall, tall pea sprouts shooting up. Dig deeper to find a variety of other vegetables — roasted red onions, red peppers, and mushrooms, along with steamed carrots, for instance. The slight bitterness of steamed broccoli and kale complements this gingery peanut sauce (sweetened with dates!) very nicely. Good texture from the soba, too.
Of course, there is the godsend of your virtuous mood. After all, you were the one who chose to ignore the call from the cholesterol-pumping poutine at La patate dorée across the street. You’re now the very model of health. Not to mention, comparatively speaking, ever so svelte. And at the same time, you’ve discovered quite the taste sensation.
Ahh, the pleasures of self-denial.
The cost: $12
Hours: Open for lunch Monday — Saturday from 11:00 a.m.
La belle verte, 166, rue Eddy, Gatineau (Hull sector), 819-778-6363.