One of my strictly vegan coworkers was raving about a great lunch she had had recently. I asked her about the restaurant, and it turned out not to be a restaurant, but a temple. Another coworker had taken her to the Fo Guang Tea House, located in the basement of the International Buddhist Progress Society temple on the Boardwalk downtown. Since February, the temple has been offering a vegetarian lunch service on Tuesdays to Fridays that is open to the public in an effort to introduce the community to healthy, flavourful, non-meat cuisine. All of their seventeen entrees are priced at just $5, a price I can’t believe in these times. The temple actually doesn’t make a profit, and relies on volunteers to prepare and serve the food.
A group from my office made the trek to the temple on a blustery spring day. We entered the building, paid for a meal ticket, and headed down to the basement dining area. The room was already spotless (as one would expect it to be), but awash in cream table dressings, it looked even more immaculate. Flowing music blended in with the background, and among good company, it resulted in one of the most relaxing lunch hours I have experienced in a long time.
We were welcomed by a handful of staff, and directed to a long table that had been set up in anticipation of our group. To ensure we would be finished our meal in the allotted one hour time, we had preordered so that the kitchen would have our meals ready shortly after our arrival. The rice dishes came with soup, which today, was a warming broth that tasted like winter melon. I had decided on the braised tofu and vegetables on rice, though the laksa was recommended to me as well. A mixture of stir-fried Chinese vegetables accompanied the tofu, which had been cooked perfectly, retaining its moisture.
Braised Tofu and Vegetables
I’m not sure what else I need to say about the Fo Guang Tea House except that it is the best kept secret in the city – where else can you find a nutritious, tasty meal for $5 in the downtown core? The temple is also hosting a vegetarian food fair on June 8, featuring over 50 dishes.
Fo Guang Tea House (in the International Buddhist Progress Society temple)
10232 103 Street
Lunch offered Tuesdays to Fridays, 11am-2pm