Friday, June 17, 2011

Know your Auckland Vegan history: Part One - Rulei

This is the first part of Auckland vegan history lessons.  In this series of the blog we will be taking a look back into some of the awesome vegan food hotspots of the past which have since gone the way of the buffalo.

Buffalo, of course, being the majestic herbivorous mammal which was hunted to near extinction primarily by white males. 

In my many years as a vegan who has either lived in or frequented Auckland there have been a large number of vegan, vegetarian or vegan-friendly restaurants that have existed, and which I think deserve documenting.  So this series will be a homage to those restaurants of the past.  If you have any found memories of these restaurants, please share them in the comments sections.  If you think I'm missing out on some important history lessons in terms of Auckland vegan legends, let me know and I'll try and write something about them.  And if you have any photos of meals you've shared with other vegans at these no-longer-existing vegan eateries, please share them with the world.

Today I will talk about the recently departed Rulei restaurant in Henderson.  My reasons for starting with Rulei for this series are simple.  It isn't because I spent years going to this restaurant, in fact I only managed to eat there thrice, and those three times were all approximately a month or so before they closed their doors.  My reasons for starting with this restaurant is simple: I have some hilarious photos from Vegan HQ's visit to this place back before they closed.

We at Vegan HQ take vegan food VERY seriously.

Back in December of last year, Vegan HQ noticed that we had some extra moneys in our flat account, and since we were preparing for the departure of two of our most loved residents of all time, we could not think of a better plan than to head together to Rulei.

I'm fairly certain that I first heard about Rulei back in 2005/6.  However, at this point in my personal history I spent too much time where pink flowing robes, jumping around on marble floors to take all that much notice of the opening of a new vegan restaurant in town.  Aside from the fact that, somehow or other, Rulei had managed to secure advertising rights on the walls of the Auckland Hare Krishna Temple, which at the time I was visiting with weekly frequency.

Note: Good luck finding vegan food at a Hare Krishna temple.  Dairy central.

One day I came out of the toilets at the Hare Krishna Temple and saw all these little advertisements on the wall for all these fake meat meals.  It all sounded very reminiscent of another restaurant I will talk about another day, that was in Otahuhu.  Rulei was essentially another of the fairly familiar Chinese/Taiwanese styled vegan/vegetarian restaurants that exist around NZ which offer a number of tofu and fake meat dishes.

How could I not include this photo of me and Mikey Vee on our Vegan HQ outing to Rulei?

Along with the expected mains dishes with names like Veggie Roast Duck (I actually am making these names up, but I am pretty certain these are the names that were included), Veggies and Tofu, Rulei also provided some wonderful entrees and soups.  When we visited we had a mixed plate of fake meats, which included 'chicken nuggets', deep fried tofu and other yummy nibbles.  We also shared a big bowl of what from memory was a chicken and corn soup.  It was fantastic!

One very important part of Vegan HQ's visit to Rulei on this occasion was the consumption of the last deepfried pineapple pie and choc soy ice cream.  As you can imagine, with a name like that, this is a historic moment for Auckland vegans of all ages and levels of awesomeness.

One happy looking vegan right there.

While we were visiting Rulei with all of Vegan HQ of the time together, we were alerted to something very important.  I would personally say it was of utmost importance.  Probably the most important thing that I was alerted to that day.  Rulei was planning to hold several ALL U CAN EAT VEGAN BUFFET NIGHTS OF DEEEEEAAAAAAAATTTTTTTHHHHHHHH!!!  Well, they didn't call them nights of death, because they are vegan after all, and vegan food is all about things staying alive and not on our forks.  I added the death for dramatic effect.

If you look on the window you will see the all important buffet sign.

Tom acted quickly, and we tentatively reserved 20 places for one of the vegan buffet nights.  The word was spread, and we tried our best to fill as many of the 20 spots as possible.  Due to a lack of understanding of the importance of this event in the history of Auckland Vegans, we didn't manage to get 20 friends to come along, but we still managed to fill up one and a half tables with friends.  And I managed to eat enough to make up for the rest of the people who didn't show up.

The food was stellar that night.  They made a variety of their most popular mains and entrees.  I ate a whole heck of a lot of spring rolls, deep-fried tofu and chicken nuggets.  They made a bunch of laksa, sweet and sour vege pork-type stuff, fried rice, various tofu and fake meat dishes.  It was amazing.  And then they brought out some desserts.  There was no deep-fried pineapple pies, those had already been demolished by Vegan HQ, but there were cakes, jellos and other creamy yummy vegan stuff to fill my belly.  I personally ate 8 plates of food, plus dessert.  I wish I was joking about that.  I rode my bike out to Henderson that night, from Vegan HQ.  I tell no word of a lie that I was uncertain whether I would actually make it home with a belly as full as mine was.

After 8 plates of food, plus dessert, my vision started getting a little blurry.

When Romelli arrived at my house later that evening, she found me lying still on my bed, moaning quietly, with my computer open.  I was mid-Google Search at the time, trying to find out if it were actually possible to DIE from eating too much.  It turns out it IS actually possible.  At least according to Google.  But I hadn't ingested that much this time.  

Rulei will certainly be missed by the Vegan community of Auckland.  There were rumours that the lovely people from Vegan Buffet in Hamilton were considering taking over Rulei, sadly this never eventuated, and the place has been closed permanently.  The family who ran it all these years were facing changing dynamics.  They also run a market garden, and their two daughters, who help with the garden and helped at the restaurant, were having to dedicate more energy into their university studies.  So those days are gone.

Expect more Auckland vegan history lessons in the coming weeks and months.  Learn about the Simple Cottage, the place that was on Victoria Street a decade before Golden Age, and the place in Otahuhu who's name I just don't think I ever knew, but it was incredibly awesome beyond belief.

But for now, here's another picture of that historic deepfried pineapple pie and choc soy icecream.



  1. Hell yea! Pineapple pie and chocolate soy icecream! And fake chicken nuggets! OMG soooo hungry right now! I miss Rulei, so many happy eating memories there...

  2. We used to go here a lot and often wondered how long they would be in business... we wondered if it might be quite difficult to make a profit when they didn't sell alcohol, I think quite a bit of a restaurant's profit margin relies on booze unfortunately. I miss it so. Pineapple pie was legendary.

  3. Sigh, I miss Rulei so much. In fact, I was just googling to find out what happened and when this hole in my soul can be healed, lol. I actually cried when I found out. I am that much of a dork. But, yay, I'm glad I found your blog. xxx Lou