China Mama has been given a makeover, and boy is she looking and tasting better than ever. With a new owner, a remodeled interior, and a renovated menu, featuring a ton of vegan or easily veganized Sichuan and Chinese dishes, this Jones Boulevard Chinatown fixture is back and better than ever. We’re excited that China Mama is a vegan-friendly restaurant in Las Vegas … and you’ll see why.
With food that is cooked to order, it’s easy to customize a vegan meal at China Mama. Just make sure to bring all of your friends because the portions are huge, and you’ll definitely want to try it all.
Chilled salads are a great way to start your meal, or to cool down your palate from the spicier dishes to come. Their smashed cucumber salad with garlic is deceptively flavorful; what appears to be a lightly-dressed plate of cucumbers, is actually a deeply savory sesame and garlic umami bomb.
The wood ear mushroom salad is also tossed with the same sesame dressing, with the addition of carrots and chili to add a bit more texture and spice to this earthy appetizer.
Like those salads, many of the dishes at China Mama arrive to the table looking very humble and simple. But upon taking that first bite, you realize there is so much more going than meets the eye. The stir fried green beans are one such dish. A large mound of crispy-skinned green beans appears to be void of sauce, with just a few flecks of red chili added for color. However, the moment you bite into one of those beans, you’ll see how perfectly they are cooked — simultaneously tender and al dente, and richly flavored with sesame and Sichuan chili oil.
There are a couple of noodle dishes on the menu that can be veganized, but by far the most profound is their Tan Tan Noodles. Chewy alkaline noodles are topped with sesame paste, chili oil, cilantro, roasted peanuts, and “chili crisp”, and diners are instructed to quickly toss everything together as soon as the bowl touches the table. The resulting noodle dish is rich and unctuous, deep, and slightly spicy. It normally comes topped with pork, but just specify that you want it made vegan, and they’ll leave it off for you.
You can’t dine at China Mama without ordering the Mapo Tofu. No other dish poses so many questions in every bite. With each mouthful you pick up something different in the complex sauce in which silken tofu is gently simmering in. Spicy. Garlicky. Pungent. Numb. It’s the kind of dish that keeps you constantly contemplating the flavor; eating it faster and faster as you try to ward off the heat from one bite by chasing it with the next.
But, the vegan goodness from China Mama doesn’t stop there. Do yourself a favor and order the scallion pancake. This flaky, buttery pastry is perfect as an appetizer, but it’s even better as a vessel to help you sop up the collection of sauces left on your plate.
The YuXian Eggplant is one of those dishes with a sauce you won’t want to waste. It arrives to the table still bubbling in the clay pot in which it was cooked. Magic happens in that pot, as the eggplant becomes so tender and almost creamy, rich with garlic and chili oil and topped with fresh green onions.
Rice can be ordered on the side to accompany any dish, but if you’re going to go through the trouble of ordering rice, then you might as well order their vegetable fried rice, specifying that you want it vegan so they’ll make it without egg. Fresh carrots, peas, broccoli, and bok choy give a crisp bite to the fluffy fried rice, which can also be made with brown rice upon request.
A few of their desserts are vegan-friendly, and they are continually working to expand their vegan options in all aspects of their menu. Just ask your server what sweet treats they have available for vegans that day.
3420 S. Jones Blvd.(Mountain View Plaza), 89146, 702-873-1977, Monday – Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Michael Monson, a former teacher turned vegan YouTuber and content creator, has been living and eating in Las Vegas for over 20 years. Michael started his vegan YouTube channel, “Monson Made This” in 2017 as a way to give back and help grow the online vegan community that helped make his transition to a vegan lifestyle so much easier. When he’s not developing vegan versions of his favorite childhood (and adulthood) recipes, he’s hanging out with his two rescued pups, Tuff and Odie.