If your food had a face, it might look like Lee
Mee Ng. As president of May Wah Vegetarian Food, she is the distributor
all the delicious faux meats that appear on your plate at various vegetarian
dining spots in NYC.
Founded in 1995 in Chinatown, May Wah has grown to one of the largest vegetarian
distributors in New York State. These days, buffalo wings, citrus beef, and chicken
Parmesan are options vegetarians have difficulty choosing from when ordering
at restaurants. All thanks to May Wah.
If ever you are in Chinatown, be sure to visit May Wah’s store, where you
can peruse their shelves with glee and pick up vegetarian seasonings and convenience
foods like frozen dumplings and bean cakes. They also carry some of the meatiest
of faux meats—their refrigerated section is packed with items like Fish
Ham, Crab Steaks, Vegetarian Shark Fin, and Spiced Chicken Leg. It’s perfect
for the curious vegetarian and those of you who were ardent carnivores in a past
life. Even if you don’t live in New York, you can still taste these treats—May
Wah will deliver to your door!
Sangamithra Iyer had a chance to ask Lee Mee Ng about the mystery of faux meats.
Why did you start May Wah Vegetarian Food?
Growing up in Taiwan as a Taoist, I was provided with plenty of delicious vegetarian
food, but when I moved to New York, the cultural environment lacked many of the
foods I grew up with, and it affected my traditional eating habits. As time passed, I realized
there were a growing number of vegetarians, not just among the Asian-American
community. I then decided to start a business and introduce new styles and provide
a greater selection to the vegetarian community. From the beginning, our goal
was to serve customers with the highest quality products in terms of nutrition
and taste. To date, we have not only accomplished our goal, but we are also very
successful in helping to promote the healthy benefits of vegetarian food.
What is the basic philosophy behind vegetarian meats?
The basic philosophy is that every animal deserves a chance to live out a full
life. This is the Taoist belief. By adjusting our eating habits, we give the
animals this chance, and at the same time, benefit ourselves with a healthier
Generally, who is your clientele?
Eighty percent of our customers are restaurants, health food stores, and supermarkets.
Twenty percent of our business is from religious communities and individual retail
How many NYC restaurants use your products? Are they all vegetarian restaurants?
I would say around 50 percent of the vegetarian restaurants in NYC order from
us—we make daily deliveries to them. In addition, many non-vegetarian restaurants
are now providing a vegetarian selection in their menus, and some of them are
also our customers. As mentioned before, we also provide regular deliveries to
many health food stores and supermarkets around the city.
For a vegetarian supplier, you carry some of the meatiest
of faux meats—fish
ham, crab steaks, spiced chicken leg. What is the inspiration behind these products?
We understand that many consumers might initially find it difficult to adjust
to vegetarian foods; therefore we try to simulate the texture and the taste of
meat products, using solely vegetarian ingredients, to help them in the transition
to vegetarian food. By providing faux meats, we hope to save some animals, and
provide our customers with a healthier diet.
Where are your products made and what are the primary ingredients?
All of our vegetarian products are produced in Taiwan. The primary ingredients
are soybean proteins and mushrooms. Most of our products are completely vegan,
however there are a limited few that include whey protein in their ingredients.
What is your most popular item?
Our most popular items are Citrus Spare Ribs, Gong Bao Chicken, Chicken Nuggets,
Veggie Prawns, Chicken Leg, Smoked Duck and S.W. Ham.
What are your personal favorite items?
My personal favorites are the Chicken Leg and the Gong Bao Chicken. I usually
dip the chicken leg into barbeque sauce then coat it with Tempura flour and deep-fry
it. For the Gong Bao Chicken, I like to stir fry it with sliced shitake mushrooms.
May Wah’s NYC store is located at 213 Hester Street (between Canal
Grand Streets; 212-334-4428). To learn more or to order products online visit
Faux: Vegan Meats
Photo by Kevin Lysaght
Some people love the taste of meat. And aside from
the yucky fact that meat is flesh, there is something about that tasty
texture that all veggies
and vegans miss out on. But fortunately for all of us, there are soy
and wheat products that do a bang up job at capturing that consistency
flavor. Many veg companies contribute to the new taste of vegan with
their uncanny substitutes, making it much easier to be veg, especially
carnivorous converts. Satya celebrates some of the best vegan meats
Vegi-Deli and their line of Now and Zen products
know their fake meats. When grilled up, their unchicken, unsteak
and unribs are the perfect
meals to serve as crossovers from the traditional meat and potato
as November rolls around, their three pound Now and Zen Turkey Feast
is, according to our review panel, just the thing for a Thanksgiving
with meat-eaters—plus it comes with all the fixins so minimal
work is required.
Soy Boy has always been known for their delicious
ravioli, but we salute their savory and filling breakfast links—nice
spice, not too hot and very hearty. More importantly, their tofu
reigns. In our many
of being vegan, the Satya staff has never tasted tofu with this much
flavor or texture of both meat and cheese. It was a complete meal
in a block of
soy beans. The Carribean flavor won the entire panel over.
The Tofurky feast by Turtle Island Foods was our favorite
a texture that isn’t too thick, a fluffy stuffing and gravy with
just the right flavor. But more surprising and delicious is their new four-pack
sausages in Kielbasa, Italian, and Beer Brat style. They are wonderful
in any form—sandwich, pizza and even surprisingly good straight from
the package. Tofurky’s deli slices still remain the absolute favorite
when it comes to making a cold cut sandwich. Our favorites are the roast
beef, Philly, and cranberry and stuffing (yes, that’s right—it’s
like Thanksgiving all rolled up in a slice).
Two words: Sloppy Jofu. This silly sounding simulation by Wild
Wood Natural Foods is actually quite good. It comes in an
easy open plastic tub and
only calls for heating in a pan or microwave. We were also blown
away by the original tofu veggie burgers. Who knew this ordinary looking
veggie burger would taste so good? It is akin to eating a vegan quiche
It has a very nice almost “egg-like” texture and the
flavor is unparalleled. Wild Wood also makes a flavorful tofu that
much applause. Thumbs-up to Wild Wood.