Sydney iconic restaurant, Longrain, recently released its sensational vegan banquet menu and boy, oh boy is it amazing! Since its launch 20 years ago, the culinary institution has been a place where lovers of fine South East Asian food and desperately delicious cocktails can convene, knowing they will never be let down in terms of taste, portion size or indeed, service. This is probably why the brand has successfully expanded into Melbourne and Tokyo and quickly gained a global cult following.
The Vegan Company’s Lifestyle Director, Shonagh Walker, stopped by to trial the banquet recently and rolled out of the restaurant full to her sides and totally satiated. She’ll run you through the menu in a bit, but to give you some background, first here’s a little chat she had with the uber talented Executive Chef, Griff Pamment, who’s got a pretty impressive resume, having worked at some of the world’s most reputable restaurants.
SW: What prompted the vegan menu?
Griff: Longrain’s had a range of vegan dishes for 19 years – we just hadn’t previously drawn attention to them. However, I wanted to make it clear that we are looking after our non-meat eaters, not just vegetarians but vegans also, and to showcase the huge variety of non-meat dishes Longrain serves.
We omit the use of fish sauce in the Vegan Banquet which is a staple of Thai cookery, but the chilli, lime, and ginger create a mouth filling blast regardless. The textures of firm or silken tofu, various strains and types of chilli plus coconut also have a very satisfying effect.
SW: How long did the vegan banquet take to curate?
GRIFF: Not long at all because we already had vegan dishes on the menu. With each seasonal menu change we always ask ourselves ‘what are our options for vegan diners?’
SW: From where did you draw inspiration for the magnificent dishes?
GRIFF: There are lots of vegetarian dishes in Thai cuisine. Although some traditionally contain shellfish or fish sauce we have developed vegan dishes by using substitutes of fermented soy and mushroom to inject loads of flavour.
SW: Well, you’ve certainly succeeded there! Will the menu change with the seasons?
GRIFF: Yes. All of Longrain’s menus are seasonal, with a few of our signature dishes never moving. We do make a note online that the Vegan menu might be subject to change based on seasonal availability with vegetables.
SW: What reaction are you getting from diners? I imagine hugely positive?
GRIFF: The vegan menu is actually drawing new customers in, while some of our regular vegan diners come very week without fail. Also, just by having the Vegan Banquet menu, we have simplified group bookings for many people who want to dine with friends or family and make sure their tastes are really beautifully catered. It’s a great thing having a Vegan Banquet, in the spirit of the shared table.
Now to the truly good stuff – what you can expect on your plate.
It’s worthwhile noting here that owner and founder of Longrain, Sam Christie, has paid attention to every detail and curated a vegan wine selection to go along with your meal, so you can eat, drink and be very merry, knowing your entire feast is cruelty-free. We love it (and you will too)!
Longrain’s Vegan Offerings
Betel Leaf, Yam Bean, Thai Basil, Chilli Jam, Toasted Coconut
Back in the day, before I chose to live a more plant-based lifestyle, Longrain’s betel Leaves with either chicken or prawn were my ultimate go-to the second I stepped through the doors. Needless to say, I was a little sceptical to see if Griff could deliver the goods for a vegan version of these leafy morsels. I needn’t have worried. He more than exceeded my expectations. The sweetness of the yam bean was perfectly offset by the basil and chilli jam and I found myself ordering a second helping. They are just that good.
Mar Hor – Caramelised Tofu, Salted Turnip, Peanut, Chili, Sour Pineapple
I seriously don’t even know where to begin with these small parcels of massive flavour. At first, I was wary, as I’m not a pineapple fan, especially when it’s mixed with savoury flavours. Once again, I was proved wrong. The balance of the caramelised tofu with salted turnip and chili and the sour fruit was everything you could ever want in a starter. I reckon this was one of my fave dishes of the entire banquet.
Massaman Potato Spring Roll, Pickles, Peas, Smoky Sriracha
I thought this would be a bit heavy for a starter, but it proved the perfect texture and consistency and the massaman flavours were the ideal segue from the lighter starters into the heavier main dishes.
Tofu, Pickled Bamboo, Snow Pea Salad, Soy Dressing
More of a side dish, this is still an event in itself, packing some major punch in the flavour stakes. It was a great complement to the rest of the meal.
Stir Fried Firm Tofu, Okra, Black Fungus, Yellow Beans
I truly loved the texture of this dish, from the firm tofu to the interesting nuances the Okra adds, mixed in with the silkiness of the mushrooms and the firmness of the beans. It seems like a weird combination, but it worked like magic and tasted as though it was sent from heaven.
Peanut Curry Roast Pumpkin, Bullhorn Peppers
Oh my Giddy Aunt … this dish left me speechless. Since ditching mostly meat curries, I’m yet to find a seriously decent dish that delivers both the flavours and the textures to satisfy your hunger and your taste buds. This little bowl of goodness has ended that search for me forever and will always be a Number One when I visit Longrain. I urge you to try it.
Thai Basil Salt and Pepper Silken Tofu, Sweet Soy, Lime
Another classic fave of mine from before I began to shun seafood and the like, was Longrain’s Salt and Pepper squid. I really thought I’d miss it, but this is even better. The tofu is the ideal consistency and the balance of flavours just beautiful.
Stir Fried Asian Greens, Garlic, Mushroom Soy Sauce
This classic side dish goes with everything and was as amazing as you’d expect. By now I was beginning to get a little full, but that certainly didn’t stop me devouring these greens. I probably could have practiced a bit more restraint, as there were still a few more dishes to come. Oh well … we live but once, right?
Smashed Thai Cucumber Pickle, Scud Chili, Peanuts
With all the pickly, chili goodness you could ever hope for, this dish was small, but a lovely way to close the savoury section of the banquet and get ready for dessert. Oh yes, I really should have left more room!
Longrain Layered Dessert
A mouth-watering delightful combination of black sticky rice, young coconut jelly, vanilla tapioca and seasonal fruit, this was all my dessert dreams come true.
The Vegan Verdict? Owner Sam, Chef Griff and the entire team at Longrain have quite simply nailed it when it comes to catering without cruelty. Nothing was too much trouble and they even helpfully pointed out the best vegan wines to sip with each dish. It’s a definite YES from all of us at The Vegan Company.