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Ever since I started researching veggie restaurants ahead of my Paris trip, one restaurant has constantly popped up as being really popular in the reviews - Tien Hiang, serving veggie Chinese / Asian food.
About a third of the way up Rue Chemin Vert if you enter from the Pere La Chaise end, and travel towards Voltaire metro, the restaurant is not the easiest to spot on this long street. To be honest, I had expected something a bit bigger, given that so many people had written reviews about it. But it's actually a tiny little shop squeezing in an incredible number of tables into a very small space.
When we arrived, we received a really warm and smiley welcome. We were directed to a tiny table in a tinier nook that had 3 sets of tables squeezed in. The menus were delivered promptly. But deciphering what I would like from a list consisting of over 60-70 Chinese (and Viet and Thai) dishes, especially given my amateur French, was getting to be really hard work. They finally handed us an English menu and we ordered some spring rolls, a papaya salad and fried dumplings for starters.
The spring rolls were nice; fresh, piping hot but perhaps not as flavoursome as I would have liked. They came with a sweet chilli sauce which seemed like it was a bit watered down and was therefore weird. The fried dumplings were really good, stuffed with soya mince and accompanied by a plum sauce. The papaya salad consisting of grated young papaya, cucumber (I suspect), grated carrots, peanuts, chillis and lime juice, had a great texture. But there was some strange flavour about the dish that I honestly still can't place. We ate just a little bit of that but given how spicy hot it was, and also given that strange indescribable flavour, we didn't really go through much of it. (Others may enjoy that flavour, but somehow it was too alien for me to relish.)
Next up were the mains - a vegetable fried rice, mixed vegetable thai rice noodles and a side dish of tofu mock-chicken in a cashewnutty sauce.
The fried rice was absolutely superb. Fresh, flavoursome, with small diced vegetables and tiny chunks of tofu, it reminded me of the Chinese food we get in India that is referred to as "Indian Chinese" and is based upon the food of immigrants from mainland China who head over the border to India and offer really fabulous veggie variations of their cuisine to an eager Indian populace. I almost ordered a second plate of the rice to take back to the hotel to savour later but R, my partner, stared me down and I decided against being a piggy !!
The rice noodles were fresh, hot and delicious in a chilli-soya sauce. R struggled to get them onto his fork, but wouldn't give up - given he always eats small quantities, I was amazed to see how much he was packing away.
Our side dish arrived a bit late, but it was worth the wait. Yummy chunks of fresh, lightly fried tofu in a cashewnut-topped soya (and basil?) sauce. The soya protein ensured that now our meal had become incredibly filling. I was delighted by the quality of the food, especially given that I hadn't really been sure what to expect in such a tiny place with such a long menu. (Gordon Ramsay would have told them it was a recipe for disaster and he would have been proved wrong.)
Our pudding consisting of banana fritters and chocolate ice-cream wouldn't have been everyone's cuppa. But I gorged on it. Banana fritters are an acquired taste and I have grown to love them. The chunky chocolate ice-cream was a mainstream delight and worked really well both by itself and with the banana.
We were sooooo full, it was almost unbearable. All around us, people were tucking into their meals with gusto and the speed of the table service was really surprising given how little room the waiting staff had to manoeuvre in. Excited chatter was interrupted only by people stopping to wolf down their meals.
Despite ordering 2 starters, a salad, 2 mains, a side dish, a pudding and 2 drinks, I was happy that our total bill only added up to 40 euros and so know that those on a budget can easily order a nice meal for under a tenner.
Tien Hiang is a real tardis, given its tiny physical proportions. Somehow the kitchen magically delivers a veritable treasure chest of yummy Chinese dishes of a surprisingly high quality. It's a restaurant I would recommend to anyone who's not too fussed about appearances and wants to eat high-quality Asian vegetarian food in the French capital.
92, Rue du Chemin Vert