CANES' Vegan Eggs Benedict

Casual Looks Good on CANES Too

Written by Asaree Thaitrakulpanich

“The Plant Issue”, October-November 2023 

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Vegan food that doesn’t just aspire to be good in its own lane but can hold its own and even surpass meat-based fare is the name of the game at CANES. And how is this done? With science, of course.

CANES is an acronym for Cruelty-Free, Altruistic, Natural, Evolutionary, and Sustainable, meaning—according to owner Nitis “Tung” Chuladesa—that the restaurant is vegan and uses locally-sourced, natural products and food science to meet consumer demands. “People won’t stop eating meat or eat it less, unless plant-based food is better than its animal counterpart,” says Tung. “It also should be cheaper and easier to prepare.”

Don’t get the two branches of CANES mixed up. The circa-2019 one at Muang Thong is a reservation-only, fine dining establishment with a culinary lab attached. There, you will get to experience CANES’ splashy 14-course vegan tasting menu. This newer branch, on the other hand, is a casual dining spot located in the Health Land on Pradit Manutham Road. Food innovations from the Muang Thong lab come straight here.

CANES Vegan Casual Dining Restaurant & Grocery Store
CANES Vegan Casual Dining Restaurant & Grocery Store

The motivation for opening this spot comes from a closed door. Boat noodles- loving Tung wanted to open a boat noodle shop, but his mother didn’t want to profit off of animal slaughter. So, he delved into formulating a plant-based boat noodle soup instead. With the help of local food scientists and chefs with experience in Michelin kitchens who specialised in treatments such as Nordic cuisine, fermentation, and smoking, the “E” of CANES blossomed as the team worked to create alternative ingredients: custardy vegan egg yolks gelled from Thai flowers; honey made without the labour of bees from local coconut sugar and monk fruit; cheese from rice; and various types of roe fermented from vegetable broth.

“Our vegan products also fixed a few problems with existing animal products. For example, honey is sticky, hard to mix, and bad for the environment,” says Tung. CANES’ vegan honey, on the other hand, is soluble and lower in sugar. Similarly, the plant-based fish eggs keep longer than their seaborne counterparts. 

Vegan Eggs Benedict
Vegan Eggs Benedict

All of the raw materials used to make these components are sourced from local farms or CANES’ own farms in Chiang Dao and Nakhon Pathom, which produce vegetables and various species of rice. Embracing sustainability (the “S” in CANES) as much as possible, their locally-grown rice is fermented to make the vegan fish sauce, while the remaining sediment is used to produce vegan shrimp paste, which is similar in process to miso, Tung explained.

Putting the idea of “vegan” to the side first, we decided to assess each dish at CANES in its own right and found ourselves pleasantly surprised. The Beetroot Tartare with Caviar is served with 72-hour fermented focaccia and textured with crunchy walnuts and umami plant-based caviar—a much more affordable and less fishy alternative to real caviar. The vegan egg yolk on top, as mentioned before, is made of flowers and added a custardy bomb of creaminess to the dish. The same caviar and vegan eggs are used on the Eggs Benedict, which is also topped with smoked beetroot.

Vegan Boat Noodles and vegan Shrimp Paste Fried Rice
Vegan Boat Noodles and vegan Shrimp Paste Fried Rice

The Boat Noodles here come in dry and soup versions, and both made us go, “Woah, exactly like boat noodles!” The same could be said for the Shrimp Paste Fried Rice, topped with a crunchy veg protein and carrying hits of non-fish yet satisfying, pungent umami.

Due to past experiences with doughy, tofu-chunky, carby vegan burgers, I intended to judge the burger menu harshly. However, Tung was confident about his patty and cheese. He presented the Mushroom Tempeh Burger in front of me, dribbling the vegan rice cheese onto the patty and placing the brioche bun on top. I took a bite. The meaty yet light tempeh patty with the tangy cheese and the brioche bun with cacao butter instead of margarine put the combo high on the list of vegan burgers I’ve ever had.

“Vegan burgers don’t always have to use fake meat,” Tung insists. “We don’t need to make vegetables taste like meat, but we want to make veggies delicious in their own right.” 

He added that instead of using Western woods like hickory or apple, local Thai woods such as longan are used to smoke ingredients at CANES. The Black Garlic Tonkotsu with Poached Egg replaces a typical katsuo broth with one made from smoked vegetables. It was the one dish I found a tad too much on the heavy side, however.

Vegan Honey Toast
Vegan Honey Toast

Finally, we washed it all down with CANES’ Green Tea and Strawberry Chamomile Kombucha while enjoying the Vegan Honey Toast topped with hazelnut ice cream for dessert.

For those who don’t mind zipping on the highway to Pradit Manutham for a plant-based meal, the sciencey food innovations of CANES will make the trip worthwhile and possibly change some outlooks on the possibilities of plant-based cuisine.

CANES Vegan Casual Dining Restaurant & Grocery Store
Health Land Pradit Manutham, 288 Pradit Manutham Road
Open Wednesday–Sunday 11am–8:30pm

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