When I was a child, going to the Chinese takeaway was the ultimate treat, and I still believe there are few things more satisfying than a good serving of crispy deep fried goods. Fortunately, there are a few Chinese places in Manchester with decent vegan options.
Sweet Mandarin is a nice restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter with a separate, fairly extensive vegan menu.
I visited with Dr HH and Mama HH, and we ordered a trio of starters to share: salt and pepper mushrooms (which were extraordinarily juicy and flavoursome), salt and pepper tofu (small, tasty, chunks of tofu that won over my tofu-hating mother), and spring rolls (pretty standard, not mind-blowing).
My mother invariably orders Singapore noodles when we go anywhere for Chinese. She liked this one because it wasn’t as spicy as the dish can be in other eateries, and she enjoyed all of the veg (bamboo, water chestnuts, carrot, broccoli, and onion).
You’d expect the chilli garlic tofu to be quite a potent and exciting dish, which is precisely why Dr HH ordered it. Alas, he found it not that spicy, and he needed to slurp a lot of sauce for flavour. This had the same good tofu triangles as the starter, but he found it a bit samey as a main – some other veg besides onions would livened it up.
Those tofu triangles made another appearance in my two winters mushroom and tofu. It’s hard to go wrong with well-seasoned mushrooms and tofu, but the sauce was very mild – it was pleasant, but more of a side than a main, excitement-wise. Some cashews might have elevated it (but that’s probably true of most things).
I was pleased to see egg-less fried rice on the menu, which isn’t always the case at omni Chinese places. Fried rice is always preferable to regular old boiled rice.
This restaurant isn’t mega fancy, but it’s suitable for a nice occasion and has a really nice atmosphere. However, the music was a bit of a distraction. Not because they played any wild tunes, but because they played just about every ’00s middle of the road song you could imagine (or, as Dr HH put it, “This sounds like it’s the Scrubs soundtrack.”). We’ve been known to stay ages in any eatery that’s playing classic nineties R&B, but here the music pushed us out the door! Here are some of those tunes:
How to Save a Life – The Fray
Don’t Know Why – Norah Jones
Put your Records On – Corinne Bailey Rae
Hallelujah – Jeff Buckley (“At least it’s the Jeff version,” harrumphed Dr HH. And I know this isn’t early noughties, and it’s a great song, but still.)
America – Razorlight
Smile – Lily Allen
Wherever You Will Go – The Calling
In the Morning – The Coral
Valerie – The Zutons
Heartbeats – Jose Gonzalez
Run – Snow Patrol
We fled before Coldplay could make an appearance!
Is there any better music to hear in a restaurant than ’90s R&B? And what’s your go-to Chinese takeaway dish?
My Chinese does sweet and sour aubergine balls which are to die for! And I love sea spice beancurd. They also do beancurd satay skewers for starters which are really good. I want Chinese now!
Oooh, sea spice beancurd sounds very exciting! I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before!
The salt and pepper tofu sounds awesome! I love getting General Tso’s tofu with broccoli!
I wonder if that’s more of an American thing – I only know it from American cookbooks and pop culture, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it on a menu.
Yeah it is an American thing. There is a great documentary called Finding General Tso and it is all about the dish and the chinese restaurant in the USA. I forget the dish, but it is based off of a chicken dish, only ours is less spicy and much more sweet.