Himalaya Bakery & Café – Third Time Lucky!

Do you guys remember my last visit to Himalaya Bakery & Café? When I wrote about it, I wasn’t kind – but I stand by what I said. Their scrambled tofu is rubbish. Their pies, on the other hand, are delectable!

We passed through Daylesford a couple of days ago, and I decided to give the café one last chance. I grabbed a couple of pies to go and a mini orange cake to share with Mr. AA. Much to my delight, the pies were a pleasure to eat.

Mexi Bean Pie 1
Mexican Bean Pie

The first thing I noticed and loved was the pastry. Not only was it wholemeal, but it was also very bread-like, and not the typical greasy, flaky mess you’d expect. It was sort of like a calzone, but fluffy. I’ve never eaten a pizza pocket before, but I imagine this just about sums it up!

Mexi Bean Pie 2
Mexican Bean Pie – Inside

They were a little stingy on the filling, but what it lacked in volume it made up for in taste. It was not unlike burrito filling and corn stuffed into warm bread. How could that possibly be bad? It can’t. And wasn’t.

Tofu Veg Pie 1
Smoked Tofu & Veg Pie

The pastry on this was the same as the Mexican bean pie and had a lone cashew pushed into the top.

Tofu Veg Pie 2
Smoked Tofu & Veg Pie – Inside

The filling in this was much like what I remember veggie pasties being like (though I could be way off the mark here, as it’s been a loooong time since I had one). The first thing to hit my senses was the smoky flavour, but it subsided after a few bites. If the girl behind the counter hadn’t told me it was vegan, I would have gone back and insisted that it had egg in it. The filling held together really well and was the perfect consistency. Whatever they used to bind it works a charm.

Orange Cake
Orange Cake

I made a careful choice with this, knowing that the apple scroll on offer was far too big and the chocolate cake was going to be more rich than what I was in the mood for – so I settled on the only option in the cabinet that was both vegan for me and sugar free for Mr. AA – the orange cake. The zest in it gives off a slightly bitter flavour, but it’s otherwise excellent. It melted in my mouth and reminded me of the Greek cake “revani” that my great aunty makes every Christmas. I’m not sure if it’s a typically Greek tradition or just something my family does, but every year my great aunty Sophia bakes the cake with a coin wrapped in aluminium foil in it. Whoever happens to get the piece of cake with the coin in it is supposed to have good luck. My middle sister and I fought over it every year as kids – not for the good luck, but for the fact that it was $2 with no strings (chores) attached.

Anyway – family memories aside, at the very least Himalaya Bakery & Café is worth it for the pies. I’ll be insisting on stopping by every time we pass through Daylesford in future!

Note: For those of you concerned, there’s gluten free options on the menu & in the sweets cabinet.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis & Broccolini® with Soy and Sesame

Kecap manis, pronounced like “kitCHUP maneese”, is a sweet, sticky, Indonesian soy sauce. It’s not an obscure thing, so you don’t have to search Asian grocers or health food stores for it – it’s available at most supermarkets near the soy sauce. Most of the time, though, you’ll see questionable ingredients listed on the bottle, such as “flavours” or three digit numbers… And I’m yet to come across a store bought version that’s gluten free. So, “why not make it myself?”, I thought.

Gluten Free Kecap Manis
Gluten Free Kecap Manis

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Mustard Tofu

Here’s the third recipe, using my cashew béchamel, as promised! This is a vegan version of the “mustard chicken” recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals. Please excuse my dodgy night time photos – the lighting in my kitchen isn’t that great and I don’t have a very schmick camera.

Mustard Tofu Finished1
Serves 4

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Eatery Review: Veggie Kitchen

Veggie Kitchen Front
Veggie Kitchen
159 St George’s Rd
Northcote VIC 3070

This little gem is tucked away on St George’s Rd – a street in Melbourne with plenty of vehicle traffic but not a lot of pedestrian traffic. It’s a vegetarian, Taiwanese restaurant with vegan and gluten free options clearly marked on the menu. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to not have to ask a million questions about the ingredients in the dishes I’m considering!

Veggie Kitchen Inside

We showed up for a late lunch and the place was desserted – though I think it might have had a lot to do with the World Vegan Day festivities happening in Melbourne at the time.

This little photo book came to us with the menu. It seemed a bit silly and didn’t help me choose a dish at all, but I looked at it anyway.
Veggie Kitchen Photo Book

I was in the mood to think outside the square, so I ordered this sparkling blood orange & cardamom drink which was pretty good! It wasn’t too carbonated (fizzy drinks normally disagree with me) and the cardamom was subtle. It was nice and tangy.
Veggie Kitchen Sparkling blood Orange & Cardamom

We ordered a few things from the a la carte menu. First we had the dumplings. The wrappers tasted awesome but they tore pretty easily. I found the filling a little chewy but Mr. AA really loved these! If you’re a dumpling kind of person, you’ll dig these.
Veggie Kitchen Dumplings

Then the curry puffs… These were nice and crispy on the outside and full of veggies & spices on the inside – but not spicy at all. Two thumbs up for not being greasy!
Veggie Kitchen Curry Puffs

This was a stuffed tofu item called “ah gei”, which is a traditional Taiwanese thing. Honestly, I had no intention of eating tofu that day, but the waitress told me that they MAKE all of their tofu on site, so how could I resist? It came as a parcel – I cut it in half for the photo so you could see the inside. It’s one of the more unusual things I’ve eaten this year but it did NOT disappoint. It was actually pretty amazing – full of rich flavours and a good texture that wasn’t too chewy. I was a little apprehensive about sharing this!
Veggie Kitchen Ah Gei

And finally, the curry tofu – because I had to try more than one kind of tofu. This dish was freakishly familiar and it didn’t take me long to figure out why! This is the *exact* type of curry I was served in Japan when I was expecting to get an Indian style curry! I’ve been wanting to eat something like it ever since I came back from Japan in 2007 but I had no idea what to look for. So… I was feeling pretty happy. I finally had some answers about the mysterious curry in Japan.

The curry was mild but had lots of flavour and a good variety of veggies in it. I forced myself to finish the plate not because I was hungry but because it was too delicious to leave behind.
Veggie Kitchen Curry

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that this is the BEST tofu I’ve ever had. It’s far superior to any other; it’s spongy, soft and delicate, but not like silken tofu. It doesn’t fall apart, but it breaks nicely when you dig the side of a spoon into it. I really wish this restaurant would pre-package their tofu and let you take some home to work with.

I’d like to have seen more mains and less entrees on the a la carte menu. That being said though, when I go back, chances are it will be for the banquet. I’d really love to try some other things from the menu, including some dessert which I didn’t have room for at the time. Everything is reasonably priced (entrees $5, mains $13) and the staff are SO FRIENDLY.