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Saturday, 19 January 2019

Veganuary at Wagamama

If you recently had a gander at my instagram, you will have seen that on Wednesday I had the pleasure of sampling the Vegan menu at Wagamama at Intu Metrocentre. What perfect timing as we are currently in the midst of Veganuary! (Something that I wish I knew was a 'thing' before the middle of Jan, because I would have certainly took a crack at it). For those that are unfamiliar with a vegan diet, you essentially do not consume anything that is a by product of an animal or that contributes to their suffering. Whereas a veggie would avoid meat, vegans would also not consume dairy, honey and eggs etc.

To start the event off we were taken upstairs in Wagamama where we could dine in private. We were first given some samples of vegan canned drinks to try and a menu to peruse. I was truly impressed that Wagamama dedicates an entire menu to both vegetarian and vegan food, most restaurants I eat in, asterisk three options on the menu that are suitable to vegetarians, which is just a bit crap. The drinks were Cucumber & Mint and Mango & Ginger. I'm not a huge fan of Mint so the Cucumber can was a bit of a write off for me, but the Mango & Ginger was really tasty. I love anything spicy and this had a lovely kick of warmth after you had a sip of sweet Mango.

After a little chat with James the manager, the starters were brought out for us all to try. There were four vegan options, Edamame, Wok fried greens, Yasai gyoza and Mixed mushroom & panko aubergine hirata steamed buns. That sounds a little overwhelming so let me give you a run through. Some of you might know what Edamame are, but if not they are steamed beans with seasoning poured over the pods (you only eat the bean). I have actively avoided these in the past, but I'm so glad that I tried them because they are actually really tasty! A perfect little snack that you can just pick away at. Moving on to my favourite dish of the entire night, the Wok fried greens. I am a total garlic fiend, so this dish won me over from the get go. It is tender stem broccoli and Bok choi (Chinese cabbage) in a soy and garlic sauce. What a taste sensation, I'm truly ordering this every time I visit Wagamamas now. Yasai gyoza is essentially a vegetable dumpling, pleasant enough but I'm not a massive fan of dumplings. Lastly the Mixed mushroom & panko aubergine hirata steamed buns. It looks like a little burger with panko crumbed aubergine and mushrooms on top. I actually really liked this dish, it was pretty filling and it had a nice texture to it. The crisp of the aubergine complimented the soft texture of the bun and mushrooms. I also thought I hated aubergine until I tried this, which just goes to show it's always important to step out of your comfort zone.

After indulging so much on just starters we had a little food break and a chance to chat with the team about the restaurant itself. If you haven't eaten at Wagamama before the most unique thing about it, is that they cook your food fresh there and then, this means that your orders can come out at different times, but the beauty of this is that your food is never left sitting there waiting, it's as fresh as it gets. I actually learnt that every morning the chefs sit a prep the fresh ingredients for the dishes and that they barely use any oil. So not only is it really fresh its also pretty healthy! I was also impressed to see that they have a separate part of the kitchen to prepare vegan options, so there are no cross contamination of animal products.

Stepping away from the food for a second I was truly impressed with the general ethos of Wagamama. I found that their values are instilled in every staff member and that health is so important to them as a company. Not just your diet, but your well being too. Wagamama employees are all given a log in for a meditation app, that helps them in everyday situation for example walking up or dealing with a stressful day. I really love that mindfulness seems to be at the core of everything they do. I was also really impressed to see that they are partnered with the charity Mind, which focuses on mental health. For every Power of Super Green juice (image above) purchased, 25p is donated to Mind. This made the entire experience of drinking a super healthy juice feel enriching for my body and soul.

Ok back to pigging out! On to the main courses. Pictured above is Yasai Yaki Soba, this is a noodle dish with the egg removed from the noodle to make it vegan. It is jam packed with lots of delish veg and garnished with shallots, ginger and sesame seeds. I love a good veggie stir fry and its was certainly very flavourful! I then tried two tofu dishes, which I was sceptical about but I had nothing to worry about. The Yasai samla curry is the thicker looking one which was coconut and lemongrass. The tofu in this was kinda spongy and not my favourite texture but by no means not edible just different. I much preferred the tofu used in the Kare Burosu ramen, This was silken tofu and it had a lot creamier softer texture. The Ramen dish is a veggie broth with vegan noodles, tofu and lots of veg! Very tasty I really recommend giving this one ago.

I am not a vegan, I have dabbled in vegetarianism multiple times but never committed fully. So tasting this menu was a complete new experience for me, one which I would urge even the most committed meat eater to at least try. I believe there are misconceptions of vegan food, some of which I think I was guilty of thinking before I got to the event. Will I still be hungry? Will it be bland? Will I feel like something is missing?  To all of which the answer is NO. I don't want the purpose of this blog post to try and convince you to give up meat, I think I'm just aiming to try and get people to try something new! I really want to stress that you don't need to be vegan to enjoy vegan food.

A massive thank you to the staff at both Wagamama and Intu Metrocentre for putting together this event! I really enjoyed a new experience and found foods and flavours I had never tried before. We also received a lovely goodie bag that I showed in my instagram stories, containing some lovely little gifts like bath bombs, herbal teas and a gorgeous notebook that fit the ethos of Wagamama perfectly! Hope you have all enjoyed this lengthy post, well done for making it this far. I just had so much to say!

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