• vegan chinese grub at kung pao bistro

    March 4th, 2009quarrygirlkung pao bistro, LA restaurants

    los angeles vegans, i know you’ve had your fill of vegan thai food. on every corner there’s a vegan express, vegan house, vegan plate, or vegan-whatever-the-fuck…all dishing out indistinguishable pad see ew, freshy rolls and garlic pepper entrees. well now if you need an asian fix, you can put the thai habit on hold and grab some vegan-friendly chinese food from kung pao bistro.

    the asian eatery has two locations, one in studio city and one in weho, and both serve up loads of vegan options. they have an entirely separate vegetarian menu, plus the option to make any meat dish vegetarian by subbing faux for real meat at a $3 charge. while some of the fake meat has milk powder in it, plenty of it doesn’t, so rest assured…there are plenty of vegan options.

    i’ve been to kung pao bistro a few times. the weho location is close to my office, and has ample parking, so it’s usually a pretty no-brainer place to meet my mom for lunch when she’s in the area. while the vegetarian menu looks pretty inviting, we always get the same thing off the omnivore menu and veganize it for an additional 3 bucks…because it is so damn good.

    soy beef pan fried noodles. $13.50

    soy beef pan fried noodles. $13.50

    the pan fried noodles are like nothing i’ve ever had. they are the weirdest middle ground between soft and fried…they are crunchy yet soak up all the sauce, brittle and chewy at the same time. i love ordering them because they taste nothing like the vegan asian cuisine i’m used to, which of course consists mainly of thai food.


    the soy beef is delicious as well. it isn’t too sweet like it is at many asian places, and the texture is realistic and hearty but not gross. another good thing about the soy beef is it is definitely vegan. kung pao bistro clearly states on their website: “Not all dishes are vegan. Some of the vegetarian meats are made with milk or whey protiens. Please make sure when ordering to ask which dishes are vegan friendly.” well, unfortunately the staff doesn’t know shit about what is vegan. seriously, the few times i’ve asked them, they said all fake meats were vegan. i got to the bottom of the issue and emailed the restaurant directly. the manager wrote back and confirmed that the soy beef, normal soy chicken, and soy fish are vegan. the breaded soy chicken items such as orange chicken and faux shrimp both contain a milk protein. the dude totally knew what vegan meant, and if you have any additional questions, totally email him. just be sure vegans, if you order chicken at kung pao to make sure it isn’t of the breaded or battered variety.

    i went with whiter-than-white, all-vegan beef and it was delicious! even my mom loved it! and she doesn’t suffer crappy meat substitutes well. seriously.

    we also split a side of broccoli which was absolutely delicious, but a bit of a butt-rape at $7.50.

    sauteed broccoli. $7.50

    sauteed broccoli. $7.50

    cooked to perfection and flavorful as can be, i really can’t fault this stuff. but come ON! over 7 bucks for a plate of broccoli?!?! this is a $4 plate, tops. anyhow, i keep coming back to it because it’s really good. but i know i’m getting the shaft every time.

    vegan fortune cookie. compliments of the house!

    vegan fortune cookie. compliments of the house!

    when you are all done eating, kung pao serves up not just the bill, but VEGAN FORTUNE COOKIES! yep. the one pictured was totally animal-free. read the label on the one you get before you eat it, because it coulda been just a lucky coincidence; i mean, who knows who their distributor is? if you are fortunate enough to have a vegan fortune cookie (ha ha), don’t waste that shit.

    that’s all, kung pao bistro is a great vegan-friendly find. it isn’t necessarily a destination to travel to for some amazing experience or anything, but it’s damn good chinese food that you can trust to be free of dead animal bits. that’s not something we vegans get to eat very often, as most places are beyond sketchy. i will continue to go back, and next time i will try to order something different. (but damn those noodles are GOOD.)

    kung pao bistro
    west hollywood
    7853 santa monica blvd
    west hollywood, ca 90046
    (323) 848-9888

    studio city
    11838 ventura blvd
    studio city, ca 91604
    (818) 766-8686

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13 responses to “vegan chinese grub at kung pao bistro” RSS icon

  • I hate getting butt raped by broccoli.

  • miss anthrope

    foodeater: bwahahahahha. happens far too often, doesn’t it?!?!

  • Sounds good to me.. minus the broccorape.

  • Have you ever been to Happy Family III? I think its somewhere near Alhambra. I went there while vacationing in LA and it was amazing. If you’ve been there, does Kung Pao Bistro top it?

  • miss anthrope

    marygrace: i haven’t been to happy family. i really want to check it out but it’s so farrrrrrr away. i hear it’s great though. i am sure it’s better than kung pao bistro…because isn’t it all vegan?

  • This place is nasty!We ate hear 3 years ago & like you said, the staff is clueless, we also saw the host BLOW HIS NOSE INTO HIS HAND & the handle silverware & menus after we ate!The food was gross IMHO.

  • Always had good food at Kung Pao in WeHo and Studio City. There’s another one in Sherman Oaks near the galleria on Ventura Blvd. (close to the 101/405 interchange.)

  • Dude! Sauteed broccoli for $7.50? I saw it for $.97 at the super. I probably would have fell victim to though =|

  • I went to the West Hollywood Kung Pao Bistro once a number of years ago and wasn’t particularly impressed.

    BTW, re: the comments about Happy Family, I wouldn’t assume that any vegetarian asian place in the LA area is all vegan, even the ones that insist their fake meat is vegan. Esp. those Thai places that have sprung up like roaches…

    Happy Family, as well as a number of other Chinese vegetarian places in LA are buddhist vegetarian. This means that pure vegetarian dishes won’t contain egg, cilantro, onion, (Chinese) leek, garlic, green onion, and in some cases, chili. Some places will serve these items in certain dishes, but usually egg at least will be indicated in an obvious way. Even though Chinese people don’t traditionally eat (much) dairy, and are frequently lactose intolerant, there’s no specific buddhist proscription against dairy, and the fake meat products will often contain small amounts of whey protein, casein or other dairy products. The people in these restaurants usually don’t know what these ingredients are, and / or they think they don’t matter because it’s “just a little”.

    Once in a while I just don’t worry about it, especially if it’s something someone else ordered, but usually I order only certain types of dishes, but if you’re a strict vegan, I would be wary about eating most soy meat that’s not obviously TVP, tofu skin, or plain seitan / wheat gluten. Veggie shrimp can go either way; I’d say most peppersteak, the soft / stringy kind of veggie chicken, etc. have small amounts of dairy in them. Chewy stuff like veg squid / veg kidney is often, but not always, non-dairy.

    Visit one of the vegetarian supply stores like Bhodi Vegetarian on Valley, or the other one in that area, or any asian market, and you can read the ingredients on this type of product. Some of the (wholesale) places are now getting a little better about at least clearly indicating which products have dairy in them.

    Honestly, even if it’s vegan, eating too much soy meat is really not a good thing IMO. Tofu, tempeh, and seitan have been produced for thousands of years, and are usually produced in a more or less traditional way. However, other soy based mock meats are often (as I understand it) made from the byproducts of industrial food production, which often uses weird chemicals and stuff. I’m not saying I never eat the stuff, but I personally try to avoid it when I can.

    I put an incomplete, and possibly somewhat outdated list at:
    (a couple third party lists – these might have some restaurants that aren’t around anymore)

    There’s a new one that’s pretty Westerner-friendly and not bad on the second floor of the big shopping center at Valley and Del Mar. I believe its English name is “Gourmet Vegetarian Restaurant” at 140 W. Valley Blvd., #222. However, they have a lot of fake meat stuff and it’s going to be difficult to get them to show you ingredients. With the possible exception of Bean Sprouts in Arcadia (which is not amazing, but at least different from the rest of the places), most vegetarian Chinese places have a similar style / menu, and you’re not going to get a lot of regional variation.

    There are a couple (completely vegetarian) places in the SFV (one in Chatsworth, one in Resda, owned by sisters), which aren’t as authentic as the SGV ones (i.e., the food is pretty similar to western “Chinese” restaurants, and most of their clientele were born in the US), but are still way better than Kung Pao Bistro.

    Readers who are adventurous and willing to take risks might also read this thread:

    You’re going to get better vegetarian Chinese food at a non-vegetarian restaurant (IMO), but you’re also more apt to get something non-vegetarian by mistake.

  • vegan fortune cookie? You hit the jackpot.

  • i’ve been a number of times to the one in sherman oaks and the weho location. i generally stick to the tofu dishes. the last time i went to the weho location i ordered the homestyle tofu, after a couple of bites i bit into a giant piece of something. so i gave it to my meat eating friend and he confirmed it was chicken. i sifted through the rest of the plate and found no less than 4 more chunks. the waitress came over and denied it was chicken. i havent been back yet.

    i love chinese food, but i’m pretty much dead set on going to any place that isn’t vegetarian. if i have to go some place that’s more accomodating i like Mandarette on Beverly, just east of LaCienega. The salt and pepper tofu is incredible.

  • FYI the panfried noodles have egg in them 9at least the Sherman Oaks location says they do)and I kinda got freaked out about the veg meat a while back. Also, a lot of the “master sauces” used in Chinese cooking have chicken in them….

  • We will never call Kung Pao Bistro for delivery again. Last time we did, which was back before I began avoiding gluten, the faux chicken I ordered seemed to be animal meat chicken. I had my partner taste it and he agreed with me that it was animal meat chicken.

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