Veggie Girl: Karma Asian

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Hot-and-sour soup is my new winter comfort food, thanks to Karma, a great new Asian fusion spot at 22 South Broadway. I tried my first bowl a couple of weeks ago and was instantly addicted to the potent brew. It's the spiciest, most perfect hot-and-sour soup I've found, full of of huge chunks of delicious garlic, flecks of red chile, large pieces of egg and tofu with a pleasingly peppery and mouth-burning finish.

Craving another taste, I stopped in yesterday and ordered a bowl to go. At only $2.95, it was the cheapest, most satisfying lunch I've found in the city -- actually two lunches, since I got enough for two meals.

And this soup not only tastes good, but I could swear it's good for you, too.

The first time I tried it, I thought I was coming down with a cold. I thought something soothing and spicy would make me feel better -- and sure enough, I never got sick after eating it. I did get full, though, since I'd made the mistake of ordering a Karma Wok lunch alongside my soup.

While most Asian places I frequent often include an egg roll with lunch, they never include soup -- much less a salad and a half of an orange, too. But all that comes in the Japanese bento box that holds a Karma's lunch entrée, as does a heaping portion of rice (brown on request).

Karma is a vegetarian's dream, since its menu is infinitely flexible and the restaurant will create a vegetarian tofu version of any of its twenty wok dishes. I hadn't had spicy orange peel since I stopped eating meat, and I was eager to try it with tofu, The server even graciously offered to let me have some of her special vegetarian shrimp with the dish. While it wasn't nearly as spicy or flavorful as I'd hoped, it was fun to try something different. I can't wait to sample Karma's sweet-and-sour tofu, General Tao's tofu and tofu Kim Chi. I've also heard raves about the spicy basil tofu.

Karma also has pineapple cheese wontons (for those former carnivores who long for crab cheese wontons, which are also on the menu), Thai spring rolls, noodle and rice dishes, curries, a vegetarian pho, IInari and sesame balls for dessert. I can't imagine ever growing tired of the selection -- particularly since I've heard that the kitchen also carries vegetarian steak and duck, as well as shrimp, which can be put in any dish.

Although I've only been to Karma twice, I'm already convinced that it's destined to be my favorite Asian spot in Denver. The owner reports that the restaurant will soon be getting a liquor license, which could help fill the lovely but often deserted dining room.

To find out more about Karma, visit www.karmaasian.com. Or just visit the real thing. -- Aubrey Shoe

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