In the depths of winter, sometimes even several layers of woollens aren’t enough to keep the chill at bay. What’s really required is a warming bowl of something spicy to warm you up from the inside out. For veggie eaters and vegetarians alike, we’ve put together a collection of fiery dishes with a liberal dose of chilli that may end up surprising you.
‘Fish’ Flavoured Fried Eggplant at Dainty Sichuan
Sichuan cooking is renowned for often being far too hot for unwary tongues to handle, due to its heavy reliance upon Sichuan peppercorns. Dainty’s ‘fish’ flavoured fried eggplant, a dish that has become quite renowned in Melbourne’s vegetarian and vegan circles, actually swings more to the sweet side of spice rather than order-20-jugs-of-water hot.
Still, biting into a piece piping hot out of the fryer and having the spicy outside coating perfectly complement the oozing soft eggplant within is something everyone needs to experience at least once, vegetarian or not.
176 Toorak Road, South Yarra
Shakshuka at Spout
On a chilly morning, there’s nothing better than warming yourself up with a spicy, aromatic dish. Shakshuka, an originally Tunisian dish whose Arabic etymology means “all mixed up”, is definitely the way to go at Ripponlea’s Spout. Two eggs are poached in a spicy tomato sauce with preserved lemon and green olives, and served with dukkah, haloumi and pide. If the shakshuka doesn’t float your boat, pretty much all the savoury vegetarian options at Spout play with spices, from paprika to harissa and, of course, chilli.
48 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea
Tofu Bibimbap with Korean Chilli Sauce at Warra Warra Korean Kitchen
Korean cuisine aficionados will readily tell you that bibimbap is the perfect meal. At newcomer Warra Warra Korean Kitchen, they dish up a tofu version that arrives in front of you, sizzling in its hot stone bowl. Make sure to squeeze over a heavy drizzling of Korean chilli sauce before mixing everything up. Some Korean sauces can be a bit heavy handed on the sugar content, but at Warra Warra, an agreeable compromise is struck between zesty sweetness and kick-you-in-the-pants chilli heat.
Shop 19 & 20 Tivoli Arcade, 235-251 Bourke Street, Melbourne (enter via Rainbow Alley)
Bamieh bi Zayt at Bayte
The food at Bayte is increasingly becoming one of the very best examples of Lebanese cuisine in Melbourne and their plentiful vegetarian options are as impressive as everything else on the menu. For a hearty dinner, you can’t go past the bamieh bi zayt: spiced okra, tomato and olive oil stew with walnuts, long threads of thinly sliced chilli and fresh coriander. Make sure you order a serving of Bayte’s flatbread to mop up your stew.
56 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Stir Fried Daikon Cake at Colonel Tan’s
Nearly everything at Colonel Tan’s comes with a liberal dose of fresh chilli, but the stir fried daikon cake in particular is strangely suited to winter eating. Nestled among the threads of beanshoots and frilly white fungus mushrooms are thick chunks of daikon layered together in a way that easily soaks up the mushroom sauce (which gets its kick from lots of fresh green chilli). This is a dish that’s simultaneously comforting and fiery.
229 Chapel Street, Prahran
Veganoff at The Hungarian
Time to finish with something that’s more traditionally recognisable as winter fare, although there’s nothing traditional about The Hungarian’s vegetarian co-opting of beef stroganoff. Instead of beef, the creamy stew comprises of mushrooms, broccoli and peas, served on top of either nokedli (traditional Hungarian fried noodles), or some buttery mashed potato. As for the spice, there’s lots of paprika in this one.
362 Bridge Road, Richmond