A Plant-based Feast

A Plant-based Feast

Vegetarian eating is not a new fad. In fact, people around the world have been eating plant-based diets for centuries.

There are many reasons for adhering to a type of vegetarian diet, (of which veganism is one), including health, religious beliefs, economics, as well as environmental and animal welfare.

The new face of sushi at Izakaya Midori

Whether you are an aspiring vegan or just looking to eat more plant-based meals, vegetarianism carries cultural traditions that provide rich culinary inspiration. From India to Israel and the Caribbean, vegetarianism is celebrated as a way of living. Plant-based eating is part of several prominent religions. First noted among the Hindus and Jains of ancient India, vegetarianism has been a common cultural theme through history in Buddhism, Islam, Sikhism, Judaism, Rastafarianism and some branches of Christianity such as Seventh-Day Adventists. Their reasons range from non-violence towards animals to personal health and the celebration of the body as a ‘temple of God’.

If you are worried about missing out on vital nutrition as a vegetarian, don’t be. According to the American Dietetic Association, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

A plant-based diet has been noted as one of the influential factors in longevity studies, along with several other factors including exercise, moderation of habits, connection to community and joy.

However, being vegetarian or vegan is in itself no magic health wand. It is possible to eat as much processed junk food as a vegan as it is as a carnivore.  There are many health benefits of a vegetarian diet, such as a reduced risk of some chronic diseases, provided that care is taken to eat a wide enough range of whole unprocessed foods to meet nutritional needs. Even a partial transition away from processed foods to a more plant-based diet can improve your bodily functions.

Eating a range of fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, whole grains and seeds ensures adequate protein intake and the amino acids essential for bodily processes, including tissue building and repair. Essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are also obtained by including a wide range of foods in a vegetarian diet.

In recent years, becoming a vegetarian has become more accessible due to the increased availability of a wider range of fresh produce, more plant-based products, community support and dining options.

Two vegetarian restaurants on the Gold Coast demonstrate different motivations to follow plant-based diets, showing choices available to those who wish to enjoy an extended range of healthy food.

Izakaya Midori

Take an internationally acclaimed chef, give him a change in philosophy and what ensues is top grade food in a completely new arena. Izakaya Midori, (meaning ‘green’ in Japanese), is the Gold Coast’s first plant-based Japanese restaurant. Its menu carries many Japanese favourites, all stunningly delicate and beautifully presented, from edamame (including a smoked version) to gyoza, and sushi to curries, Chef Fumiyoshi Iwasaki putting his own spin on well-known dishes and creating completely original new ones to form a dazzling array of plant-based dishes.

“Cooking vegan Japanese food is not an easy task,” Fumi’s wife Yuka explains, “as most Japanese seasonings are made using animal products, even for colour.  Fumiyoshi researched all the products he used before becoming vegan. All the sauces and broths now must be made from scratch, not only replicating the taste of traditional Japanese food, but making it taste even better than the original.”

Besides its delicious food, there’s a depth and philosophy to the restaurant that is greater than veganism alone.

“It is a great pleasure for us to use the name ‘Izakaya Midori’ because of what it means in Japan. We try to live considering the welfare of other people, the earth and animals, and we hope to teach people the benefits of having a plant-based diet,” Chef Fumi says.

For Midori’s owners it’s about “a future for Japanese food with wabi-sabi [the Zen Buddhist belief in accepting the world as imperfect, unfinished and transient; valuing purity, simplicity and imperfection] that makes the earth, people’s health and animals happy,” and providing their best hospitality possible using plants.

Izakaya Midori, 50 Woodland Drive, Reedy Creek, Ph:  07 5645 6625 Open: Sun – Thurs 11am – 8pm, Fri – Sat 11am – 9pm

Cardamom Pod Brickworks

When Cardamom Pod Broadbeach (now sold) began serving à la carte meals, the Gold Coast’s vegetarian dining scene took a massive turn skywards. With beautifully presented, nutritious meals made to order, Cardamom Pod converted a throng of fans, their fruit and flower laden ‘Pod’ breakfast bowl named one of the best dishes on the Coast. In Chef Manju’s Cardamom Pod Brickworks, the menu was extended to include salads, koftas, tempura, dosa, fritters, tacos and more.

Cardamom Pod’s cuisine is based on a holistic Ayurveda philosophy which emphasises the whole spiritual and physical being, including the integration of medicinal foods into everyday eating for maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. “It’s the science of life,” the chef tells us. “We are what we eat, so we should put the correct fuel into our bodies. It will improve our quality of life as well as that of animals and the planet.”

With many of the restaurant’s staff being Krishna devotees, the café’s cuisine is a fusion of Eastern and Western culture. Indians were the original alchemists, being able to transform the simplest ingredients into complex and wonderful dishes. It’s a theme also evident in the restaurant’s cuisine.

“Besides our philosophy, our unique selling point is that we use herbs and spices not just to enhance the flavour of food but also as preventative medicine incorporated in everything here: meals, juices, mocktails and super smoothies. Ginger juice, for example, protects against uterine cancer. Many people come to Cardamom Pod wanting to make healthier food choices. There are a lot who have health issues and food allergies, and they inspire us to do more gluten-free and nut-free dishes. Really, though, we are open to anyone who wants to improve their health choices.”

Cardamom Pod is the haven of the super healthy, and good food never looked this good. We’re reminded to eat the rainbow of colours. No matter what dish you choose, in a perfectly arranged bowl, on a hand-thrown plate adorned by flowers and cacao nibs, or in a coloured glass with fruit edging its rim, your meal will be painstakingly presented, gorgeously feminine and markedly Instagrammable, we gorge on this food with our eyes before a bite ever passes our lips. Simply beautiful! So awe-inspiring that we know it must be good for us!

Cardamom Pod Brickworks, 3 Brolga Ave, Southport, Ph: 0424 251 008 Open daily 7:30am – 4:30pm

Open: Sun – Thurs 11am – 8pm, Fri – Sat 11am – 9pm
50 Woodland Drive, Reedy Creek QLD 4227, Australia