Here is the slideshow that is part of our New York Times "May Wah Vegetarian Market, a Beacon for Lovers of Imitation Meat".
We are honored to be selected to be a part of New York Times Neighborhood Spotlights. Enjoy the article!
IT was the vegan “beef chunks” that lured Chana Widawski to
May Wah Vegetarian Market
in Chinatown on a recent evening. “I’m an outdoors person and a big
camper,” she explained. The chewy dried brown nuggets had been a hit
with friends on a recent canoe trip — “Everyone loved them,” she said —
and she was back for more.
Annie Ling for The New York Times
Natasha Ruggeri, left, and Ashley Reader, vegans from Boston, at May Wah. More Photos »
Ms. Widawski, a social worker who lives in Hell’s Kitchen, is neither
vegan nor vegetarian. But that hasn’t diminished her enthusiasm for May
Wah’s offerings. When she stumbled on the place during a May Day rally
two years ago, she recalled, “I thought: ‘Yes! That sounds awesome!’ ”
Going meatless presents little hardship in New York City. There are
vegan and vegetarian restaurants of every description, to say nothing of
cafes, ice cream parlors, doughnut shops, even food trucks. But May Wah
fills a more unusual niche: selling meat substitutes. Near Chinatown’s
border with Little Italy, its bright-green awning at the westernmost tip
of Hester Street serves as a beacon to the flesh-averse and those who
With its lime-green walls, nonexistent décor and freezer section full of
processed foods, May Wah looks less like a butcher shop than a
7-Eleven. But behind the freezer doors lurk soy doppelgängers of myriad
cuts of the creatures of land and sea: black pepper steak, sugar cane
chicken legs, citrus spare ribs, barbecue beef riblets, red spotted
shrimp, imitation mutton, grilled eel and thick tubes of vegan ham. The
frozen, sunny-side-up eggs are eerily perfect discs of soy and whey
protein adorned with ersatz yolks the color of Doritos.
Flavor and texture can be less exacting matches. The “chicken” tastes
like chicken, but some of the more exotic offerings are downright alien.
Barbecue sauce gizzard is spongy and almost flavorless, while the
(quite tasty) vegan shrimp resemble nothing so much as seasoned packing
Lee Mee Ng, 58, opened May Wah in 1994 to satisfy her own craving for
the fake meat she had eaten back home in Taiwan. At the beginning,
business was fairly slow. But, Lily Ng, 28, her daughter, said: “People
became more health-conscious over the last 10 years, and the younger
generation is more animal-free. They ask their parents to get these
Indeed, demand has been strong enough that May Wah has expanded twice to
keep up, most recently three years ago. The store imports its products
from Taiwan, where they are made by Taoist and Buddhist manufacturers;
most bear the May Wah brand name. The inventory is 90 percent vegan and
on its way to being completely animal-free. “There are more vegans these
days,” said Ms. Ng, who helps manage her mother’s store.
May Wah’s customers include numerous churches and Buddhist temples that
often buy whole “fish” and “chickens” for religious holidays, Ms. Ng
said. The market also supplies many of the city’s vegetarian
restaurants, though she preferred not to say which. “We also ship
anywhere in the U.S.,” she said, motioning to an order slip she was
filling out for a restaurant in Virginia. Unlike her mother, Ms. Ng is
not a vegetarian (“I’m trying to transition”), but she has tried all of
the store’s products. “It’s a requirement,” she said, laughing.
On a recent afternoon, Yuliya Tsukerman surveyed May Wah’s aisles before
buying some vegan ham, a favorite. Ms. Tsukerman, 26, who is
vegetarian, said the shop, which she first read about on Yelp, had been a
boon for her home kitchen in Brooklyn.
“I go to restaurants that serve fake meat and thought there was magic
involved, and that I could never make any of that stuff,” Ms. Tsukerman,
a copywriter, said. “Then I found out all those restaurants get their
meat from here. Why would I go to a restaurant when I can make this at
home?” She laughed. “The charade is up.”09.12.2012
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