A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

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Amarin Thai: Vegan Friendly

[caption id="attachment_2191" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Sign Amarin Thai Sign[/caption]


HILLCREST.  Amarin Thai offers a wide variety of vegan appetizers, soups, entrees, and curries.  In short, it is a vegan’s paradise.  Amarin Thai is open for both lunch and dinner, but the highlight, for me, is their lunch special (offered Monday through Friday from 11am – 3pm).  The special includes soup, an entrée, an eggroll, and a side salad for $5.99.  The best part? The food is GOOD!  Well worth a special trip.

When I arrived for lunch, I was ready to eat!  We quickly ordered and had a bowl of Miso Soup sitting in front of us within 5 minutes.  I slurped my soup happily and enjoyed munching on the chunks of tofu bobbing in the broth!


[caption id="attachment_2185" align="alignnone" width="640"]Miso Soup Miso Soup[/caption]


We first tried the Drunken Noodles, an entree made from wide rice noodles that are stir-fried with Thai chilies, bell peppers, basil, and bean sprouts, that is then topped with cilantro leaves.  Amarin Thai lets you pick your spice level.  I went with a conservative 3 and was pleased with the results.  The noodles were soft and tender and had absorbed the flavors from the various spices and peppers.


[caption id="attachment_2186" align="alignnone" width="640"]Drunken Noodles Drunken Noodles[/caption]


We then moved on to the Rama with Tofu entree, a mix of steamed broccoli and mixed veggies smothered with spiced peanut sauce, that is served with a side of rice.  The peanut sauce in this dish is creamy without being overly sweet.  It makes eating broccoli fun!

Once we had devoured our main dishes, we moved onto the eggrolls (which are somewhat of a misnomer, since I checked and there definitely isn’t egg or any other non-vegan ingredient in them!).   The eggrolls’ crispy exteriors house crystal noodles, cabbage, and carrots.  Mine was gone in two bites!


[caption id="attachment_2188" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rama with Tofu Rama with Tofu[/caption]


Amarin Thai’s interior is simple but comfortable – beige walls, dark chairs, and white tablecloths welcome customers.  The true highlight has been interacting with the servers.  They welcome you with a smile and patiently answer menu questions.


[caption id="attachment_2189" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Interior Amarin Thai Interior[/caption]


Amarin Thai also has a covered patio with booths and tables for those who want to eat outside.   The patio is also equipped with space heaters to ensure you have a comfortable dining experience!


[caption id="attachment_2190" align="alignnone" width="640"]Amarin Thai Patio Amarin Thai Patio[/caption]


Amarin Thai’s unique hours are also worth mentioning.  On Friday and Saturday they are open until 3am!  So whether you are stopping in for lunch or a late dinner, I hope you enjoy Amarin Thai as much as I have 🙂


9/22/2014 NOTE: A Fussy Fork reader recently went to eat at Amarin Thai and obtained some information important to vegan customers!!  Amarin Thai uses the same oil to deep fry their tofu and their meat.  Good information to know so you can make an informed choice during your next visit there.  Thanks for the email Sally!!


3843 Richmond Street

San Diego, CA 92103



Saffron Noodles and Sate: Vegan Friendly

Saffron Sign


MISSION HILLS.  The Saffron dynasty began in 1985 when Su-Mei Yu opened Saffron Thai Grilled Chicken, a restaurant focusing on . . . you guessed it . . . chicken.  In 2002, Yu opened Saffron Noodles and Sate next door.  A welcome addition, as it offers a plethora of vegan options.

The first time I went to Saffron (thanks to a tip from my aunt and uncle who used to live in San Diego!), the host told me that Saffron can make almost any dish vegan by substituting rice noodles for egg noodles, or tofu for meat.  The power to “veganize” a menu?  Yes, please.

First up, we tried the Salad Roll with tofu.  The rice paper rolls up rice noodles, lettuce, cucumber, daikon, mint, and cilantro.  It is fresh and light.  And when dipped in a side of peanut sauce, delicious.  A great way to start the meal.


Tofu Salad Roll


Next, I tried the Noodle Soup with Vegetables and added tofu.  I chose the wide rice noodles.  (There is also a thin noodle option.)  The soup has a broth flavored with star anise and features zucchini, broccoli, green beans, carrots, and mushrooms.  I made my soup spicy, which involves a paste of chiles, Lao ginger, lemongrass, salt, and pepper.  Chunks of tofu floated with fresh vegetables in the flavorful broth, above a generous layer of rice noodles.  It was a bowl of warm comfort on a cloudy and cool San Diego day.


Vegetable Soup


Wingman Pablo ordered the Stir Fried Vegetables and Jasmine Rice and added tofu.  (Yes, we went nuts on tofu that day.)  Through vigorous nodding and raised eyebrows, he gave the dish high marks.  Note: Saffron offers red, organic rice for an additional 80 cents.


Stir Fried Vegetables


Finally, Saffron offers four desserts, all of which are vegan: (1) Sticky Rice with Banana, (2) Tapioca with Coconut Pumpkin Sauce, (3) Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango, and (4) Banana Sticky Rice.  The last three desserts are seasonal and are not always available.  I tried the Sticky Rice with Banana.  The dessert arrived in a banana leaf, and once I peeled back its protective layer, I was left with what looked like a sticky rice burrito.  Cutting it open revealed a banana filling.  Sweet sticky rice + sweet chewy banana = sweet way to end the meal.


Sticky Banana Rice


Saffron provides a friendly and casual atmosphere.  Orders are taken at the counter and assigned a number.  Customers are responsible for picking up a tray with their order.


Interior Saffron



The artwork on the wall is eclectic and colorful.  Additionally, customers with a keen eye can enjoy beautiful blown glass creations on the upper shelves of the restaurant.

[caption id="attachment_415" align="alignnone" width="300"]Interior Saffron Interior Saffron[/caption]


There are also a variety of outdoor tables for those who want to enjoy the weather or eat with their pet!


[caption id="attachment_1755" align="alignnone" width="300"]Saffron Outdoor Tables Saffron Outdoor Tables[/caption]


Saffron offers a program aimed at reducing waste.  If you bring in your own dish and utensils or carryout container you will receive a 10% discount off of your purchase.

The restaurant also recognizes that you might be in a rush to pick up food.  So they offer “curbside service” — if you order by phone, then call again when you are in front of the restaurant, they will come outside to swipe your credit card curbside!


3731 India St

San Diego, CA 92103