Sesame Soy Gluten

Sesame Soy Gluten

Vegan and vegetarian foodies have scored a major win in Raleigh, NC. A self-described Asian Fusion restaurant has opened in the North Hills shopping area, bringing with it an entire menu of vegetarian (mostly vegan) options. Spring Rolls Restaurant offers Chinese and Thai cuisine made with quality ingredients that bring out the natural flavors of each dish.

I went to Spring Rolls last night with my bff over at Cuisine Vegan. The service was excellent – our waitress was friendly, helpful and honest, and shared her excitement that just yesterday Spring Rolls obtained a liquor license. Even though the bar was not yet stocked, our waitress told us about the Total Wine within walking distance and even offered to call the security transport to pick us up, take us to get our wine, and bring us back. She really wanted us to feel at home, which made our meal even better.

My friend ordered the General Tao’s Soy Protein, I got the Sesame Soy Gluten, and we shared a serving of veggie spring rolls. The spring rolls were the best I’ve ever had. They were crispy without being overly greasy, and the cabbage and carrot tasted sharp and fresh. My real love affair, though, was with my soy gluten. What is gluten, you ask? Wikipedia answers:

Gluten (from Latin gluten “glue”) is a protein composite which appears in foods processed from wheat and related species including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.

So it makes sense to use gluten’s chewy consistency to mimic the texture of chicken. Soy gluten is made from a combination of the gluten in soy beans and wheat. I like gluten as a non-tofu meat alternative, because the texture is perfect when fried: crispy  on the outside and dense, moist, and chewy on the inside. When sesame sauce is added, it’s like little nuggets of heaven. My sesame soy gluten was nestled in a bed of crispy rice noodles, with a small side of steamed broccoli, and a side of brown rice. The sauce was rich and dark, with a mild sweetness, not at all greasy like you might find at cheaper strip-mall style Chinese joints.

Susan and Eddie Tu

Sister and brother team Susan and Eddie Tu, co-owners of Spring Rolls Restaurant

During our meal, Susan and Eddie Tu, the owners of Spring Rolls, stopped by our table to chat with us. As Eddie said, they were eager to talk to fellow foodies and get honest feedback. The Tus told us about their commitment to using fresh foods –Eddie said they only have a small freezer in the kitchen – and their desire to cater to the herbivore crowd. They were both so sweet and obviously passionate about what they do. We had a great time chatting about the Raleigh food scene.

Spring Rolls just might be my new favorite restaurant in Raleigh.

**UPDATE 1/26/2011**
I’ve now been to Spring Rolls three or four times, and while all of my experiences have been superb, I would like to append this review with one note. A few weeks ago, my date ordered the General Tao’s Soy Protein, and hated it. I tasted it, and I have to agree that it was a weird consistency (like eyeballs maybe?) and also pretty flavorless. I talked to the server about this on my most recent visit, and she gave me this breakdown of all the vegetarian meat options: The Soy Gluten is meant to be a chicken substitute; the Seitan is meant to be a beef or sausage substitute, and the Soy Protein is meant to be a shrimp substitute. Which sort of explains the eyeball consistency issue. I hope this helps anyone who reads the menu and gets overwhelmed. Maybe in the future, Spring Rolls will add these descriptions somewhere on the vegetarian page of their menu. In any case, I personally recommend the heavenly soy gluten.

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