This past weekend I traveled to Friday Harbor, WA and Victoria, BC. While in Victoria I visited the Empress Hotel, a five star property that’s been around for over 100 years, proudly serving the richest of the the rich (I’m still not sure why they let me in the front door). As you can imagine, the hotel’s restaurants have always been formal and rather old-fashioned. This is not a place looking to be “hip.” I expected to go hungry, being an active vegan, and had packed plenty of energy bars.
Those power bars are still in my suitcase, untouched, because I was fed like royalty—vegan royalty. The Empress Room prepared a full five-course vegan meal without blinking an eye—and it was one of the best vegan meals I’ve ever had!–and the appetizer buffets were also stocked with vegan treats. The neatest thing, though, was the curry buffet in the Bengal Lounge. This restaurant has been serving an old-fashioned Indian curry buffet for decades. Lamb and chicken curries, mostly.
My friend and I walked in for lunch, and I commented that the menu had a couple of veg options so I would be fine if I couldn’t do the buffet. One of the servers heard me and she interrupted our conversation to assure us that the kitchen would love to make extra veg options for the buffet—it was a common request.
It is so nice to be a vegan activist in 2007.
So in honor of the decidedly old-fashioned and un-hip Empress Hotel in Victoria—proudly serving vegan food—here is a list of ingredients for your very own curry buffet. Instructions for dressing to the nines are not included.
2 Tb oil or white wine
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 Tb of curry powder
Taste this first! Some curries are spicy, some are sweet–”curry” is not actually a spice, it is a mixture of spices, and each mix is different. So taste a bit on your tongue first to know how hot it is.
1 large Yukon Gold potato, diced
1 can coconut milk
2 cups water
1 head of cauliflower, sliced
1 bag frozen peas
1 zucchini, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste, and/or a bit of tamari
–Heat the oil or wine in a heavy stock pot, then add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Saute for 5 minutes (medium heat), until there’s a bit of color.
–Add the curry powder and stir, over medium heat, for 2 minutes. Curry is better if it’s get a bit of a toast.
–Add the potato, coconut milk, and water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potato pieces are tender.
–Add the other vegetables and simmer until they are tender, about five minutes.
–Salt and taste. Serve over, with all the yummy traditional curry condiments (below).
On the buffet
Samosas and/or pakoras
A bit of green salad with a simply vinaigrette dressing
Spicy Indian lentil soup
And the most important part, the condiments for the curry:
Chopped dill pickle
Chopped spicy mango pickle
Sweet mango chutney
Sliced onions tossed with paprika
Raita made with soy yogurt
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Sliced and toasted almonds
Chopped raw jalapeños
Hot pepper jelly
Put the curry, rice and plates on one end of the buffet, followed by small bowls of all the fun little things. Let your guest choose their own condiments encourage seconds and thirds. A perfect dessert for this meal would be rice pudding (with soymilk instead of cow’s milk) and fresh mango.
For the recipes I’m not including, please go to VegCooking.com.