A Chinese and takeaway restaurant on Crwys Road serves the best crispy grated beef in Cardiff and it turns out to be meatless.
In Cafe serves a range of vegan versions of familiar classics such as aromatic crispy duck, sweet and sour chicken dumplings, Szechuan-style roast pork, and king prawns with cashew nuts.
However, they also sell non-vegan dishes for committed carnivores and also specialize in authentic Hong Kong cuisine.
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Owned by Grace Tsang, originally from Hong Kong, she moved to Cardiff with her husband and children three years ago to be closer to her family who already live in the city.
Grace, a former accountant, explained the reasons for opening the business two and a half years ago.
âMy husband is good at cooking and my family is good at cooking too, they have been running a restaurant business for maybe 20 or 30 years. So we got together so that they could help me run the business â,
Grace runs the house and runs the business, while her husband cooks. However, when they first opened, In Cafe focused on English breakfasts rather than the Chinese cuisine they are known for now.
âAt first we chose the English breakfasts because we wanted to have more time with the children as the cafes can close earlier. But we found it quite difficult because people are loyal to the cafe where they normally go, âsaid Grace.
âWe tried to use good quality ingredients like bacon and sausage and keep everything fresh. But it was not a success, so after six months we introduced Hong Kong style cuisine.
Hong Kong-style dishes added to the menu included oven-baked pork chop in tomato sauce and crispy fish fillet with sweet corn sauce. But, as things started to improve for the company, their next challenge was not far off.
âIt went really well because many Cardiff students from Hong Kong, China and Asia loved our food,â Grace said.
âBut then the pandemic happened and all the students went back to their home countries. So we have introduced more local Chinese dishes to our menu.
Grace also spotted the untapped potential of vegan Chinese food in Cardiff, and that was another boost for the business.
âI have noticed that vegan food is very popular in the UK and found that not many Chinese restaurants or take out restaurants do. I also have a family member who is vegan and he loves our food. But when he came to our restaurant we didn’t have a lot of options for him, âGrace said.
âMost Chinese restaurants if they do vegetarian or vegan food, it’s just tofu and veg. So I think it’s really great to have more options for people. It’s a good stepping stone for people who want to try switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The three most popular vegan dishes on In Cafe’s menu are their crispy grated beef, sweet and sour chicken meatballs, and aromatic crispy duck. When asked why they are the most popular, Grace replied, “Because they are tasty and you can’t find them anywhere else!” “
In Cafe’s Crispy Grated Beef in Peking Sauce (Â£ 8.80) is famous and I can see why. It was just as good as his meat alternative. Incredibly crispy shreds of wheat and soy protein in a thin batter were coated in a sticky, sweet, flavorful, and slightly spicy sauce sprinkled with onions. It is going to become one of my regular take out in Cardiff.
The sweet and sour vegan chicken meatballs (Â£ 9.90) were an absolute death ringtone for their meaty counterparts. The crispy, golden scoops of meaty protein were accompanied by a brightly colored and reassuring sweet and sour sauce. It was a take-out Chinese classic cracker.
On a separate visit for lunch, vegan breaded chicken (Â£ 9.50) was bathed in a sticky, sweet and flavorful teriyaki sauce sprinkled with crunchy veggies. It was better than the meat I have eaten in many take out. The accompanying grilled fried rice certainly didn’t miss its egg, either. The golden beans had a nice toasted note from a well-seasoned wok.
The Vegan Shrimp Toast (Â£ 6.50) saw crispy fried bread covered in a smooth tasty batter and topped with sesame seeds with walnuts. While it was definitely missing an extra hint of shellfish, I barely noticed it when I dredged it in the teriyaki sauce.
In Cafe devotes a lot of time and effort to its vegan dishes, from seasoning, marinating and cutting meat substitutes to creating the sauces from scratch.
âAll the sauces are made by my husband. We found that our normal sweet and sour sauce was not vegan, so we looked at other ingredients to see how to replace them. The taste is still good and similar to the non-vegans, âsays Grace.
The effort has paid off as vegan dishes now represent 40% of In Cafe’s business.
“It’s cultivated by word of mouth, I’m not good at social media!” Said Grace.
“Some of our customers are from Newport and Bridgend – it’s very touching because they travel so far.”
While In Cafe is currently only open for lunch and evening take out, they are hoping to open for evening dining at some point in the future.
âFirst I want to see how the business is going and if the kitchen staff can handle it. If the staff are too tired, they’ll just go find another easy job, âGrace said.
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