Kosher eggrolls. Enough said.
Chinese food lovers in the Jewish community can rejoice as we now have access to delicious kosher vegan Asian cuisine with Yugirolls. This family-owned vegan Asian food service has recently achieved a significant milestone by becoming kosher certified by the Ottawa Vaad Hakashrut (OVH), a program of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
Vegan eggrolls are the brainchild of Van Tran, who grew up in a family who ran an American-style Chinese food restaurant. Four years ago, his parents retired and instead of enjoying the break, Tran saw that his hard-working mom and dad seemed more at loose ends than happily enjoying retirement. To engage them, he tasked his chef father to create a meatless eggroll that he, since becoming vegan, could also enjoy.
After many trial recipes and much experimentation, his dad did it! This passion project to please his vegan son led to the creation of the famed yugiroll and by 2021, Tran’s food service business was born. The menu has grown from that first vegan eggroll and includes a variety of eggless, dairy-free, and meatless versions of traditional Asian cuisine. Some of their most popular items are “yugiballs,” a vegan version of sweet and sour chicken balls, and “Admiral Yugi chik’un”, their vegan take on the spicy General Tso dish.
"We are always creating and evolving our menu,” says Tran, adding that even the yugiroll has undergone four or five versions as they strive to keep improving.
While vegan cuisine may suggest that the product is pareve (no meat, no dairy), Tran explains the journey to kosher certification still took over a year. The idea started with Rabbi Eytan Kenter of Kehillat Beth Israel who first approached him and then engaged OVH director Rabbi Levy Teitelbaum.
Now located in the kitchen at Congregation Machzikei Hadas (CMH), Tran along with his mother Mai, father Danny, and wife Heidi, have been working hard with the OVH as well as CMH’s Rabbi Michael Goldstein and the CMH team.
“I had to overhaul my entire menu to kosher,” Tran says. “The hardest part was the ingredients because we had to source new products to make sure they were all certified kosher.”
The process was helped by Rabbi Teitelbaum.
“He’s been great at answering a million questions,” Tran says explaining that he also had to get accustomed to the stipulations surrounding Shabbat and Jewish holidays.
For example, Tran explains that closing recently for Passover was a bit scary for his team since they are preparing for the upcoming community Pop Up Restaurant Experience on April 23, and with their kitchen closed, they were unable to do any prep work.
“It was really great working with Van and his family on this project,” says Rabbi Teitelbaum. “I got to spend lots of time with them answering their questions. They work well together and have displayed first intrigue, then admiration when understanding the kosher guidelines. Van already has a following, and I believe his customer list will soon include many people from the Ottawa Jewish community.”
For the Jewish community, Yugirolls’ effort to achieve OVH certification is a testament to the company's commitment to providing high-quality kosher food. People can order directly through Yugirolls, at their website here. Tran adds that their frozen food is also being sold at several locations in Ottawa including Keepin' It Vegan Bakery, also newly certified under the OVH. (See the full list here https://www.yugirolls.com/faq)
For those interested in the upcoming Pop Up Experience, you may place your orders until 11 pm, April 20, here: https://www.yugirolls.com/preorder