P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Times Visited: Many

True story: my boyfriend and I were planning on going to Beau Thai for a lunch special on President’s day, but we missed it, and Typhoon had already closed for their lunch time as well, so the closest thing we knew that with vegan friendly Asian food was P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. Not to mention, we were looking for something borderline lunch-special-priced.

I’ve had good food and bad experiences at P. F. Chang’s, but still consider it somewhat of a guilty pleasure, since it was a cool, affordable, veg-friendly place to go in downtown Boston when I was in college. It’s also a safe place to go with unadventurous coworkers while out of town, or with relatives whose idea of Chinese food is Panda Express (where nothing is vegetarian).

I hadn’t been in over a year until recently, and surprise, surprise, it all seemed the same. Thanks for the comfort, corporate chain! While I feel slightly hipper in P.F. Chang’s as opposed to a place more glaringly uniform restaurant, like The Cheesecake Factory or Rockbottom, I’m almost surprised that this is actually being written. But, it’s a very veg-friendly restaurant, that you can find in the Pearl District, Bridgeport Village, Tanasbourne, and oodles of other suburban shopping centers and downtowns across the United States. Looking around the cool restaurant, you see family gatherings, couples on dates, business lunches – people you could just as easily spot in a similar chain.

The thing that’s surprisingly great about P.F. Chang’s is their in-depth familiarity with vegetarian options. No need to order the pasta without butter and cheese here, and there’s even vegetarian mushroom ‘oyster’ sauce on the ingredients list. The multitude of veg*n options on a national chain’s menu is fantastic to see, and we suggest writing to P.F. Chang’s, and other chains asking for specific vegan options and clarifications.

The vegetarian listings are marked on the menu, but labeling them vegan or not is the controversial part. There is conflicting information on the internet, and after researching and speaking with them, it seems that sugar is the final line. P.F. Chang’s does not guarantee that their sugar is not processed with animal bone char. Make your decision. If you’re not comfortable, then you should stop reading here. P.F. Chang’s also provides a gluten-free menu listing, which includes basic vegetable sides and a Buddha’s Feast mixed vegetable entree.

But we were there as a matter of veg*n Chinese convenience, and our meals were pretty good! The Coconut Curry Vegetables and Tofu has an unassumingly light sauce, that even my coconut curry-disliking dining companion fell for. I’m very wary of sauces and curry at Asian restaurants (case in point: not veg*n-friendly Thai Peacock and Green Papaya) so while I knew this dish was bastardized, I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about fishy sauces. The tofu was just how I like it in my Chinese food – lightly fried and mingling with veggies in a tasty sauce. While Ma Pao Tofu is a dish that is typically made with tofu and meat, P.F. Chang’s breaks tradition again and makes this a straight up tofu, sauce, steamed broccoli, and scallions party. The sauce is slightly spicy and flavorful, reminiscent of the classic ‘garlic brown sauce’ at so many Chinese restaurants. Once again, this experience is even better knowing there is no chicken broth in the mix. This pile of tofu easily provides leftovers, making the $8 price tag even more bearable. It’s a price I’d pay more easily at dinner, but it was worth the lunch. If I could change anything about the Ma Pao, I’d add more sauce and heat up the broccoli some more. The steamed broccoli just calls for more sauce than the dish as to offer, and the condiments on your table just don’t cut it – not even the ‘special’ mustard/chili/soy sauce made just for you.

If chains are good for anything, let it be P.F. Chang’s to the rescue when I’m traveling somewhere without an accessible veg*n restaurant. Especially if I don’t have to be seen by anyone I know!

Coconut Curry Vegetables and Tofu

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Ma Pao Tofu

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Address: 1139 NW Couch St. Portland, OR 97209

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18 responses to “P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

  1. Pingback: P.F. Chang’s China Bistro — Sauce making and Receipts·

  2. The Ma Po Tofu makes me all warm and fuzzy inside…

    PF Changs is about the only place we’ll go for chinese in PDX since chinese food on the west coast seems to be waaay different (read: worse) than what we were used to back east.

  3. DeepCerulean – This East Coaster also misses neighborhood (albeit probably suspicious) Chinese food. I used to enjoy Golden Jade on SE Belmont, but it apparently reopened as another Thai restaurant not too long ago.

    VeganFabulous – I’m glad you agree! It really is a nice fall back.

    Billy – Greetings! Thanks for adding us to your blog roll. You can subscribe to our RSS feed by clicking the button below our Links on the right hand side. Let us know if you have any questions.

  4. This is very interesting as I was traveling in February (in Boston) and went to the PF Changs near Copley and had quite a different experience. I let them know I was vegan, but I wasn’t concerned as they had a ton of dishes under the “Vegetarian” section of the menu. But to my surprise the waitress said all the vegetarian options had oyster sauce. I asked her, “Are you sure, because then they are not really vegetarian.” She checked with the cook and also checked to see if there was anything I could eat. When she came back she said that indeed all the dishes had oyster sauce and could not be made vegan. She suggested a couple veggie side dishes. I also asked it if was possible to get some warmed up tofu and they accommodated me. I was really surprised by all of this and plan to write to PF Changs about the fact that they can’t list something as Vegetarian if it has fish sauce…very strange.

  5. Hi Suzanne,

    That is very interesting indeed. I would recommend writing to them – they specifically mention “VEGETARIAN OYSTER MUSHROOM SAUCE” that does not “include animal ingredients” on their menu. I would assume it was confusion over the mention of oyster sauce at all. I’ve dined at the Boston Common location many, many inquisitive times, without a problem. Again, please write and let us know what you find out.

  6. I’ve been assured many, many times over (by seemingly “in the know” kinda servers) that stuff is vegan when I asked. It is a great place to go when you are with main streamers such as business lunches or with parents. The lettuce wraps also rock!

  7. Hey fellow Stumptown vegans!!

    I think the food at PF Changs is yummy. However, after my experience at the one in Vegas I’m not really sure what items are 100% vegan. My husband and I could not find a vegan meal in Vegas so I dragged him to PF Changs thinking we’d have some yummy tofu lettuce wraps, etc. However, when we stated that we were vegans, the waiter went and checked out the menu with the chef. They were extremely helpful, but the news was disappointing. I guess nearly all of their sauces contain ground up bones. Yuck! We ended up having very bland tofu and veggies with soy sauce. I was really bummed to find out that the lettuce wraps could NOT be made vegan. The waiter wasn’t exactly clear as to why, but it sounded like it had to do with the marinade.

    I came up with my own version of the lettuce wrap if you’d like to try mine:

    http://bebopvegan.blogspot.com/2007/12/spicy-tempeh-lettuce-wraps.html

  8. I went there after hearing it was good for vegans, and the waitress flat out told me nothing was vegan. She said everything had oyster sauce including the soy sauce. She seemed very frustrated with me, and told me they could fry up some vegies but it wouldnt takste good. She went to the kitchen and finally came back to tell me that one item on the menu was vegan. After kind of a rude attitude she came to the table at the end of the meal to appologize and explained she needed to learn the vegan menu..

  9. tonight i found a piece of chicken in my PH Chang’s tofu coconut curry. and when i say found, i mean bit into. won’t be going there again.

  10. I highly recommend calling your local P.F. Changs to ask about which dishes are vegan. I say this because I just got off the phone with the manager at the Long Beach location near the Pike, where he informed me there was only one entree that was vegan (Buddha’s Feast) AND you have to request that it be prepared vegan….this way they use a special part of the kitchen away from the non-vegan food. All of the steamed veggies are vegan, also, including snap peas and other side dishes. Hope this helps!

  11. Jamie – We’ve noticed that PF Chang’s is concerned about labeling their dishes vegan when they contain sugar. This may be the case with some locations, or it’s that they actually use different ingredients.

  12. Yep, I went to the PF Changs in Columbus, Ohio and was told that only the Buddhas Feast was vegan. I’m so sad. I thought that was one place I could go with other non-vegans and get something besides steamed vegetables.

    • Well, it’s up to you, and your level of comfort with eating sugar of unknown origins with the rest of the vegetarian dishes. Sad, but honest, at least. Countless other restaurants, and vegans, would never question the sugar elsewhere!

  13. Pingback: Semi-Recent Vegan Eating in Spokane, WA | Food Candy·

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