By Linda Bladholm
Shing Wang Vegetarian, Icee & Tea House is the newest spot along 167th Street in North Miami Beach, South Florida’s mini version of Chinatown. Owner and cook Sing Kelly bought what had been a Filipino place three months ago and turned it into a modest Taiwanese-Buddhist vegetarian eatery with no-frills décor. Soups (sweet and sour, wonton and white radish, to name a few) are offered at a steam table. Everything else is cooked to order. Shing Wang means "lucky" in Chinese, and that’s how Asian-loving vegetarians will feel here, with no minefield of fish sauce, shrimp paste or pork bits to negotiate. The only "meat" you’ll find is made from soy and shaped into mock drumsticks and shrimp or chopped and added to stir-fries.
Sing became vegetarian for health reasons 15 years ago after suffering a heart attack. Friends convinced her to open the new place to showcase the type of cooking she does at home. Her sister, Suzy, helps out, taking orders and making bubble tea in flavors like lychee and love bird (green tea, coffee, and milk). The frosty, creamy drinks are almost like smoothies here, with big, chewy tapioca pearls. Or get shaved ice — a Taiwanese snow cone in a bowl — topped with jellied fruits in syrup, coconut, crushed pineapple, sweet beans or almond pudding cubes (ice cream is extra).
The versatile, protein-loaded soybean is known as "the cow of China," where it’s used in myriad forms. You can start here with Shanghai-style koufu, cubes of spongy bean-curd skin in sweet soy sauce. Or get the seaweed salad (haitai), made from little knots of mineral-rich kombu (kelp) with strips of spiced tofu. Main dishes, which come with miso soup and jasmine or brown rice, are a multiple choice of soy "meat," noodle or rice, sauce and veggies. Chow fun are wide, fresh rice noodles — great stir-fried with Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, water chestnuts, snow peas and red bell pepper with slivers of soy "beef" and ko-po sauce (light soy sauce and hot sauce). Or get simple, succulent eggplant in black-bean sauce. Veggie sticky rice is a triangular dumpling of glutinous rice wrapped in a fresh lotus along with lotus seeds, soy sausage and peanuts and tied in string — just like you would find in any good Chinatown restaurant the world over, but with a healthy twist.
Shing Wang Vegetarian, Icee & Tea House, 237 NE 167th St., North Miami Beach; 305-654-4008; 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. daily; closed Tuesdays; $1.25-$6.95