About a year and a half ago, my family and I took a Savor Oakland food tour of Jack London Square. We had a great time, so when my sister suggested taking the Savor Oakland Chinatown food tour, I jumped at the chance.
I made sure to specify that I'm vegan when I purchased my ticket. Carlo, our wonderful guide and one of the owners of Savor Oakland, made sure there was a vegan option for me at all but a couple of the stops on this tour.
This past weekend, we gathered at Lincoln Park, where Carlo gave us a brief history of Oakland's Chinatown, and then we headed to Classic Guilin Rice Noodles. The menu consisted entirely of dishes made with -- you guessed it -- Guilin rice noodles, a specialty of the city of Guilin in southern China. These fat noodles are usually served with a bowl of broth, but since the broth served to the rest of the tour participants contained beef, my noodles were topped with vegetables and served with a side of soy sauce. Among the vegetables included with this dish were mushrooms, peppers, garlic, bok choy, and pickled longbeans. The portion size was generous, and this dish was a very satisfying way to begin the tour.
Our next stop was a fortune cookie factory. Unfortunately, fortune cookies contain egg, so I didn't partake. We went from there to a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant, Banh Cuon Tay Ho. The first item we were served was completely unexpected, at least to me -- sweet potato fritters. We wrapped them in lettuce and dipped them in soy sauce. They were excellent!
After we finished the fritters, the rest of the group ate non-vegan things, while I had delicious spring rolls filled with noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, and cilantro, and served with peanut sauce.
Our visit to Banh Cuon Tay Ho ended with tiny cups of iced coffee from a local roaster called Bicycle Coffee Co., so named because they deliver their coffee beans by bicycle. The coffee was served Vietnamese-style with condensed milk to the other tour participants, but sugar was added to mine instead of milk. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I enjoyed this small taste.
The next stop on the tour was my favorite: Nature Vegetarian Restaurant, where we had quite a feast. Plates of fantastic sesame "chicken," "pork"-fried rice, braised tofu with vegetables, and braised eggplant with spicy sauce were served family-style. I was in a food coma by the time we left the restaurant, and the tour wasn't even over yet.
Since I was already so full, I was glad the next stop involved food that I couldn't eat (pork bao), and then we browsed for awhile in a shop called King of Ginseng Co. Our final stop on the tour was a Zagat-rated Cambodian restaurant called Battambang. Instead of whatever non-vegan things the rest of the tour participants ate, I had avocado rolls with peanut sauce, and my dessert was a cold refreshing coconut.
I thoroughly enjoyed this tour, and would definitely recommend it if you're planning to be in the Bay Area. Be sure to let them know you're vegan when you sign up, something you should do any time you book a food tour. Otherwise, some of the restaurants may not be prepared to serve anything you can eat. More information about Savor Oakland Food Tours is available on their website at www.savoroaklandfoodtours.com or on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SavorOaktownFoodTours.