When my girlfriend took me here twelve years ago, on our first date, I didn’t understand what she was doing. We’d been going out for several months and I knew that she was a strict vegan, but now she was sitting with me in a Chinese restaurant flip-flopping between the Sweet and Sour Chicken and the Chicken Chow Mein, adding that we should also get Chicken Fried Rice. If I hadn’t known her better, I would have thought she was one of those vegetarians who don’t think birds and fish are animals—but, no, she was a vegan. I had seen her examine cartons of margarine for whey and pass up soy cheese containing casein. It wasn’t until she said, "Ooo—Curry Beef" that I finally just said, "Look—what are you doing?"
She closed her own menu and pointed to the front, where it said in small letters, "All ‘meat,’ ‘poultry,’ and ‘seafood’ menu items are made from vegetable protein products and 100% vegetable oil. . . . Only the fortune cookies contain eggs." Now I wondered how many vegetarians had walked out without seeing this, and I only hoped the staff was prepared to stop them because they would have missed the meal of a vegetarian lifetime.
Only strict vegans and vegetarians can know that, while their meal choices at home are almost infinite, restaurant meals are ridiculously limited. Because vegetables are often prepared with butter, salad dressings made with eggs or milk, soups with beef or chicken stock, and sandwiches with cheese or at least mayonnaise, vegans are often stuck with different forms of fried potatoes (French fries, hash browns, potato chips)—as long as they’re fried in vegetable oil. For many vegans, a meal at the Bamboo Garden will be an undreamed of pleasure.