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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Green Sprout: Eat the veggies, skip the meat mockery

Funny how tastes change. Twenty years ago, the thought of eating tofu made me queasy. Now I fry it up at home and toss it with kimchi and go to bed happy.

One of my favorite lunch dishes in the city for five years or so has been the "bean curd skin roll" (right) at Green Sprout, in Clear Creek Mall on Piedmont Avenue across from Ansley Mall. I never think I'm going to be able to eat the entire serving, but I've never failed.

It's basically all bean sprouts with some ribbons of carrot wrapped in a loose, crispy skin. Drag the pieces through the slightly sweet and gingery soy concoction with your fingers or chop sticks. Do not even try to bite into a piece. Stuff the whole thing in your mouth. Otherwise, it will rupture and turn into salad, and you'll not get the simultaneous layers of crunchiness.

I'd eat at Green Sprout a lot more often if I could convince friends to go with me. But most Americans — and plenty of Chinese, too — still feel they are being deprived if they don't get meat with their meal. Green Sprout handles that like many other vegetarian Chinese restaurants. They make a lot of traditional dishes with make-believe meat.

So, when I talked my friend Frank into lunching there last week, I wasn't surprised when he ordered the General Tso's (mock) chicken (left). I don't understand this. There's no doubt in my mind that the undisguised dishes are better. They're actually more creative, too.

I admit, though, that I did find the faux Tso chicken - springy balls of fried something-or-other - better than I expected. But they had about as much similarity to chicken as cheese puffs.

"The mushroom soup was the highlight," Frank said.

Then get the dishes that don't play make-believe.

The ambiance here, thanks to blah green walls, is kind of dull. But avoid the meat mockery and you'll have a memorable and inexpensive lunch or dinner.

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