My family and I returned from a vacation to Tahiti last week. Tahiti is a beautiful island and we had a wonderful time, but I quickly realized that it wasn't going to be easy being a vegan in paradise. In spite of the fact that I saw dozens of farm stands all around the island offering a tantalizing variety of fruits and vegetables, and I saw only five cows, it was much easier to find a cheeseburger on a Tahitian menu than anything that I could eat. I mostly had to resort to my old stand-by order: hash browns and fresh fruit for breakfast, French fries and green salad for lunch and dinner (and in some cases, the green salad was simply a plate of lettuce with dressing). I was probably cheating by even ordering the hash browns and fries, since heaven only knows what had already been fried in the oil in which they were prepared. But it seemed that slow starvation was my only other alternative. As we flew home at the end of our trip, I remarked that the best meal I had eaten during the whole vacation was the lunch I ate at the airport at the beginning of the trip as we prepared to depart Sacramento.
That isn't as pathetic as it sounds, since the lunch I had at the airport was at the Lemon Grass Asian Grill and Noodle Bar, located in Terminal A at the Sacramento International Airport. While the guys in the family stood in line at Burger King, I ordered a plate of Jungle Curry, a tasty mixture of tofu, sweet potatoes, garbanzo beans, broccoli, zucchini, and tomatoes in a Thai yellow curry sauce, served over white rice. It was fabulous!
But for those of you who aren't planning to fly out of Sacramento any time soon, Jungle Curry is available to you at another of the fine restaurants operated by the inestimable Mai Pham. Her recently-opened Star Ginger Asian Grill and Noodle Bar is my new favorite restaurant with multiple vegan options. Star Ginger features the cuisine of Southeast Asia, and the menu specifically identifies the dishes that are vegan. There are six such listings on the lunch menu: Buddha Salad Rolls, Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad, Asian Noodle Salad with Greens, Grilled Vegetables with Shiitake Mushrooms, Jungle Curry, and Vegetable and Lentil Curry. I have tried each of these dishes except for the Grilled Vegetables with Shiitake Mushrooms and have developed a couple of favorites. When the weather is hot, I order the Ginger Sesame Tofu Salad, which consists of pan-seared tofu served on a bed of chopped greens and cabbage, then topped with peanuts, crispy noodles, and a ginger-sesame dressing that really makes this dish. When the weather is cold, I order the wonderful Jungle Curry (although the Vegetable and Lentil Curry is very tempting too). At lunchtime, I usually wash the food down with a refreshing mango iced tea.
I haven't had dinner at Star Ginger yet, but their dinner menu includes a couple of different vegan menu offerings: Thai Lemongrass Tofu Salad and Pad Si Ew with Tofu and Mushrooms. The restaurant recently obtained their license to sell beer and wine.
Star Ginger is located at 3101 Folsom Boulevard, at the corner of Folsom and Alhambra where Togo's used to be. Their phone number is 916-779-0082, and their website address is http://www.starginger.com/star-ginger.php. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Dinner hours are Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and Sunday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Parking tends to be difficult in that area, particularly at lunchtime, as the restaurant has only a small, cramped parking lot and street parking fills ups quickly, so plan accordingly.