Childhood friends Cindy and David Nguyen share more than a surname (“we’re not related ... or married,” Cindy asserts, with a laugh). They’re both vegan.
Following an off-the-cuff conversation during Vietnamese New Year celebrations this February, the pair’s heritage and lifestyle will soon collide in an entirely plant-based Vietnamese eatery – Mettā Sol – on Goodwood Road. It’s taking shape, quite suitably, within a natural health and wellness collective called the Good Hub.
The menu was birthed with a lot of experimentation (and to-ing and fro-ing between their parents for advice). A stint at last weekend’s Vegan Festival was a good testing ground. David’s confident it’s possible to “maintain the traditional flavours and styles of Vietnamese cuisine” without meat.
But don’t anticipate “mock meat”. “I don’t feel meat needs to be replaced,” says Cindy. Rather, the focus is on “different flavours and textures from fruits and vegetables, and the balance between sweet and sour and salty”.
Where you’d usually find meat, there’ll be worthy alternatives such as tofu and mushrooms. Enoki and king oyster mushrooms will be submerged in a spiced-vegetable pho broth. Sidestepping tradition, their “banh mi” will use ciabatta instead of the customary flaky crusted roll. There’ll also be cold rolls and sautéed-vegetable dumplings with house-made hoisin sauce.
Most of the menu will run daylong but for breakfast there’ll be black-rice congee soaked in a mushroom-ginger broth; a “healthier spin” on Vietnamese banana cake; plus a few other sweet options. The staple Vietnamese cold-drip iced coffee will be dairy-less, of course, subbing in coconut condensed milk made in-house.
“We all know the food industry – especially meat and dairy – has a massive carbon footprint,” says Cindy. “But we’re not out to tell people what to eat.” David adds, “We’re about creating awareness without being too preachy or in-your-face about it.”
Cindy and David’s foray into hospitality couldn’t be further from their former careers as a graphic designer and pharmacist, respectively. Both will cook in a newly installed commercial kitchen. Though the rest of the heritage-listed space – including an original stone wall – remains largely untouched. There’ll be takeaway coffee from a hole in the wall.
It’ll be daytime-only to start, but plans are brewing for special dinners to show off “dishes we grew up with that you can’t really find at restaurants or cafes”, Cindy says.
Mettā Sol is expected to open in mid November.