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19 Jan 2022

Where Mindfulness Meets Vegetarianism

Ever meditated over vegetarian food? Chatteris’ own Luke Sutherland tells us where he goes to veggie-tate in Hong Kong.

Unbeknownst to some, I meditate. All the time really. Because it’s more than sitting down with your eyes closed and trying to tell your head to shut up – it’s just watching things. In fact, I watched my food so much that I realised I didn’t really want to eat meat anymore.

So I don’t, which is cool. It’s also cool if you do. So keep reading, whether you watch things or not, or you eat meat or not. I’ve found that everyone can enjoy some quiet time and vegetables every now and then.

Nan Lian Garden

If you’re interested in practising some veggie-tation, you’ll definitely want to check out Nan Lian Garden.

Located immediately outside of Diamond Hill MTR Station, this classical Chinese garden is surprisingly peaceful. Find the Golden Pagoda in its heart and you will be treated to views of the Penta Hotel too – where many of our current tutors can nostalgically reflect on the time that they spent in quarantine.

One of Luke's favourite vegetarian restaurants is nestled in this idyllic Kowloon garden | Image by Luke Sutherland
One of Luke’s favourite vegetarian restaurants is nestled in this idyllic Kowloon garden | Image by Luke Sutherland

Just beneath the Moon Terrace, there is a huge pool where many-coloured koi fish swim. I was fortunate enough to visit on a rainy day, where thousands of raindrops blurred all the gold, yellow and whitish grey together; creating ghosts under the surface. There is a sheltered viewing platform too, with comfortable benches.

On the far side of the Garden you will find Long Men Lou, a waterfall-covered restaurant which I visited with my fellow Chatteris Tutors, Charlie, Ethan and Jess. Although the food is adequate, and all vegetarian, it is a little bit pricey for what there is. Ironically it is a bit like the waterfall itself – all front and no substance.

The main attraction of Nan Lian for me is the courtyard where you can find the Chi Lin Nunnery. I could tell you that it is naturally peaceful, or I could just say that it was founded as a retreat for Buddhist Nuns. There are three symmetrical gates, and four symmetrical pools; floated by lotuses. All around the sheltered walls, there are ancient stones with inscriptions just beneath. If you take the time to pay attention, the words can be very powerful, and they brought me to tears.

But of course, this is veggie-tation, and I haven’t shown the veggies in a good light. So, what I do recommend is the cafe in the Garden – just next to the Rockery and Gift Shop. The veggie food here is cheap, very tasty and made on sight. What’s more, you can snack while experiencing the serenity of the Garden and listen to the traditional music that plays around the paths.

Sino Vegetarian

Continuing on the Buddhist wheel, the other spot on this list belongs to Sino Vegetarian – a slightly hidden all-vegetarian, all-buddhist restaurant in Ya Mau Tei. The shining shrine by the door is a little sign that you might be in Nirvana.

Although slightly costly, the extensive choice of cuisine here and the intense flavours more than make up for that price. It is also still less expensive than Nan Lian Garden’s alternative.

Once again, I was dining with Chatteris’ very own, Jess and Ethan – for one of our first meals out of quarantine. I think that we paid around HK$160 each, but shared 6 dishes between us. My personal favourite was the lemon chicken plate (made of bean curd.) Ethan was a huge fan of the monkey mushrooms.

Feasting on an array of mock meat and vegetable dishes at Sino Vegetarian | Image by Luke Sutherland
Feasting on an array of mock meat and vegetable dishes at Sino Vegetarian | Image by Luke Sutherland

I recommend going with as many people as possible, so that you can experience as many dishes as you can. It took us a long time to order, because there was simply so much choice. You are also served with tea from the moment you sit down, which I’m convinced is what enabled us to eat more. 

Push the boat out! Why not go to Nan Lian Garden for the day and Sino Vegetarian for the evening? You can also find more of our favourite vegetarian restaurants here.

Are you looking to dine your way around Hong Kong like Luke? Apply now to become a Chatteris Tutor.

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