A Richmond Favorite

Sometimes it takes a lunch date gone awry to remind me to be grateful for the times when folks have sense of etiquette. My friend arrived late, answered the phone twice during our meal, and didn’t have enough money to pay for lunch. Oy vey!

Was my meal a total failure? No way! We were having lunch at Hoang Tra, a little neighborhood restaurant in Richmond. And this place has an abundance of terrific food and vegan options galore. One of their secrets is this mock chicken that is far meatier than anything I’ve had before. Pretty much all of the chicken dishes on the menu can be substituted with the veggie chicken. I’ve asked dozens of times how they make it, and the usual response is that it’s pressed tofu. I knew there had to be more to it than that, and my server this time told me that they buy it from Layonna, which is this really fun store in Oakland that sells all different kinds of mock meats. Some of their products are better than others, but we’ve found some that are quite good. Some old friends of ours make pulled pork sandwiches out of their mock pork, and it’s delicious. I can’t wait to buy some of this mock chicken to experiment with myself.

This lunch was made with a mock duck, which was flavorful but didn’t have the same meatiness as the mock chicken. It didn’t matter, because the whole dish was so full of flavor and texture, and I was so thrilled with myself for trying something new. It was full of bamboo shoots, baby corn, onions, cilantro…all sorts of goodies. It was nice and brothy, had a touch of chili, and came with lime wedges to squeeze on top. Blissful!

When I moved from Santa Cruz to the east bay, I couldn’t wait to find places that were unique that I could get excited about, and this is one of many that I have found in the past few years. I hope you will try this restaurant someday. Just please…for goodness sake…hang up and eat!

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