By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
On April 23, patrons of a local Chinese restaurant known for being vegan-friendly were shocked to learn that their beloved eatery may have been using animal-derived products.
Bamboo Garden in Queen Anne (364 Roy Street, Seattle) was the subject of a viral blog post, entitled, “Is beloved Seattle restaurant Bamboo Garden serving animal products to its vegan customers?” (bit.do/bamboogardenseattle). The blog entry was posted anonymously, with a pseudonym “Sally Smith” used.
Smith is a local vegan, the post stated, and upon suspecting that a food item was not vegan, she asked Bamboo Garden to see food packaging. The request was denied, according to the blog entry.
The blog entry goes on to detail the efforts Smith and her friends went through to ascertain whether Bamboo Garden’s food is truly vegan or not. There are pictures posted of Bamboo Garden’s dumpsters, with discarded packaging from food items the restaurant uses. Pictures show that the ingredients of the package labels show non-vegan ingredients such as eggs, whey, milk, and honey.
According to the blog post, Smith and her friends also sent in Bamboo Garden’s food (takeout) for testing through IEH Laboratories and Consulting Group. The food tested positive, both for egg and milk allergens.
Veganism is actually a type of vegetarianism. According to a report from Medical Daily, vegetarians generally avoid consuming meat, but some do eat dairy, eggs, gelatin, and other animal-derived food ingredients.
Vegans go a few steps further and, beyond eschewing meat, also avoid animal-derived ingredients. Vegan and vegetarian diets are rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
According to the blog Peaceful Dumpling (peacefuldumpling.com), a woman named Aubrey Gates King — a vegan — lived in a rural village in Yunnan, China for two years. King wrote that Chinese only have a word for vegetarian, not vegan — though vegans are sometimes referred to as ‘strict vegetarians.’ This distinction is something that is becoming more and more common among the younger generation.
“I’m curious if it’s one of those lost in translation deals where they (Bamboo Garden) don’t know the difference [between vegetarianism and veganism],” said Tiffany Ran, who has eaten at Bamboo Garden in the past. Ran is a professional cook who has worked in the kitchen of a number of Seattle restaurants. (It should be noted that Ran is also a regular contributor to Northwest Asian Weekly.)
On April 25, two days after the unflattering blog entry was posted, Bamboo Garden updated its website.
Previously, the homepage of the website had a sentence that implied the restaurant was vegan: “Only the fortune cookies contain eggs.” The former homepage also had a contact email as being firstname.lastname@example.org.
The updated website does not have the sentence about fortune cookies anymore. And the contact email has changed to email@example.com.
Bamboo Garden’s menu and its signage outside of the restaurant building both state that Bamboo Garden is vegetarian. Its website has always stated, “In the tradition of Chinese vegetarian cuisine, we are pleased to offer tantalizing dishes whose origins go back thousands of years to China’s early imperial dynasties …”
However, according to yelp.com reviews, Facebook business reviews, and Google reviews, the restaurant seems to have developed an informal reputation for being an all-vegan restaurant (except for the fortune cookies), with its staff and an interior placard stating that the food is vegan.
Bamboo Garden did not respond to requests for comment at the time of this report’s printing.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.