05 Oct Southern Highlands SOL
SOL FOOD is located in The Southern Highlands of NSW . Shonagh Walker shares her delight at finding a “Shining Vegan Light” in The Southern Highlands.
When I first moved to the beautiful NSW Southern Highlands six years ago, I thought I’d be hard pressed to find any decent vegan or even vegetarian offerings, given the area is renowned for its beef and dairy farming. Boy, was I wrong!
On the day I signed the lease on my new house, the Universe stepped up, in the form of my property manager, who without prompting said, “There’s a fantastic vegan café a few doors up from here that will become your go-to place for lunch.” She was not wrong!
She was talking about SOL Food, an Asian-inspired lunch café that serves 95 percent vegan food and 100 percent vegetarian.
SOL Food stands for Spring of Life, but it truly is food for the soul, too. Healthy, hearty and delicious, the flavours are clean and the textures are crisp and fresh. But best of all, with every bite, I know I am contributing kindness to animals, our planet and my own health.
Owner and chef Chelsea, who has been vegetarian/vegan since birth, opened the family-run cafe in 2010, in an effort to make healthy, tasty, meat-free food user-friendlier to the general community. She and her sisters were born in Taiwan and the food reflects their origin, but with a truly accessible bent. It works. It’s not uncommon to see a queue of customers spilling out the door and along the sidewalk.
“We are constantly challenging ourselves to improve and create new dishes to ensure that our customers never consider a meat-free diet to be boring, bland or limited,” she revealed when I asked her about why she opened and why she works seven long days a week (the café is closed on Sundays, but that is their prep day for the week ahead).
The ‘meats’ are made using plants and soy products and are so much like the real thing that even the most ardent carnivore won’t know the difference (except when their health improves, of course). Chelsea creates the most incredible fish, seafood, beef, chicken and duck substitutes that are not at all bland. In fact, they’re better than the real thing.
There are only about three dishes on the otherwise extensive vegan menu you might need to navigate, as they contain free range, organic, locally farmed eggs (the egg noodles and a couple of pastry dishes), but all you need to do is ask for rice noodles instead, or check the contents of the pastry prior to purchase. The rest, you can safely snack on without concern and I do frequently – at least three times a week! Some days I even get there when they first open and buy a few days worth of meals from them.
In winter, I choose from soups such as Won Ton Soup, Special Noodle Soup and my favourite, Laksa (with extra chilli). There’s also veggie meatballs, Korean mixed rice, fried rice and the best steamed dumplings I think I’ve had ever. They’re made from soy ‘chicken’, baby buk choy and English spinach.
The noodle dishes are another go-to on cooler days and are a healthy, hearty serving of rice noodles with soy ‘chicken’, tofu and plenty of fresh vegetables that are locally sourced.
In summer, I regularly have the Crispy Soy Duck Salad for lunch. It’s a filling and tasty treat, and is laden with celery, cucumber, lettuce, tomato and cashew, as well as the crispy soy ‘duck’. Its dressing is to-die-for.
There’s also Kimchi to help with gut health, rice paper rolls filled with an array of veggies and either veggie ‘prawn’ or soy ‘chicken’ and sushi made with vegie tuna, or soy chicken.
Sol Food also offers a small selection of fried offerings (for when I’m feeling naughty). My must-have is the veggie golden ‘shrimp’ made from Konjac and breadcrumbs.
Chelsea and her sisters truly believe the mantra, “Respect for all living creatures can well be the beginning of peace and harmony” and it is evident in the peaceful, harmonious atmosphere you encounter on each visit to SOL Food. If you’re in the Southern Highlands, be sure to sample their wares!
located at: Shop 3 391-397 Bong Bong Street Bowral, NSW
Tel: 02 4861 3532 www.sol-food.com
Review by Shonagh Walker