A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

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