8shades of zacki hamid

8Shades Of… Zacki Hamid of Big Dill

Have you got your fill of Big Dill yet? This hip diner-style eatery in Sai Ying Pun dishes up comfort food classics like burgers, fries, mac ‘n’ cheese and milkshakes that are certain to satisfy every cheat day craving… but all while being 100 per cent vegan!

Rather than using off-the-shelf meat substitutes, Big Dill’s plant-based proteins and sauces are all made from scratch in-house, meaning they can tell you exactly what ingredients go into their dishes too.

Source: Big Dill

For our latest edition of “8Shades Of”, we chat to Big Dill’s co-founder and creative director, Zacki Hamid, to find out what inspired him to start Big Dill, why he decided to go vegan and what were the most challenging dishes to create for their plant-based menu.

1. In one sentence, tell us what you do?

I’m the creative director of Big Dill; I help shape the menu and creative direction of the brand.

2. Why are you an 8Shader?

Switching to a plant-based diet led to me learning more about the harmful practices of industrial farming and its effects on the environment. I think sustainability is an imperfect pursuit in the modern world as it’s nearly impossible to be totally circular, but with the global population nearing 8 billion, we all have to do what we can to be more mindful of our impact and commit to making any positive changes that we can.

Having become frustrated at the lack of plant-based comfort food options available in Hong Kong, Big Dill was born out of the purpose of offering plant-based comfort food options that were appealing to vegan, vegetarians and meat-eaters.

Source: Big Dill

3. What’s your best eco habit – and your guilty not-so green one?

I use dry toothpaste tablets, which are perfect for travel and have a much lower transport footprint as no water is added.

As for my not-so-green habit… I have a lot of sneakers!    

4. Fave veggie dishes in Hong Kong?

I have to say the Big Dill burger – it’s my go-to vegan cheeseburger in Hong Kong! I also love the porcini and pine nut fried rice at Chi Lin Vegetarian.

5. What made you decide to go vegan? And what are some of most common misconceptions about a vegan diet?

I became vegan in a bid to improve my own health, which it did! I suffered from an auto-immune condition from a young age and switching to a plant-based diet helped reduce the inflammation indicators in my body.

Source: Big Dill

A common misconception I often come across is a concern that you can’t get enough protein in a vegan diet. This isn’t the case – there are actually plenty of plant-based foods that are rich in protein like soy, legumes, nuts and wholegrains.

6. What are some of the biggest challenges you faced when creating Big Dill’s plant-based diner-style menu? 

Working out how to create similar textures to meat-based equivalents is always a challenge. Quite often the flavour profile is a lot easier to replicate but without the right texture, it doesn’t re-create a similar experience. A lot of trial and error goes into creating the right textures – the development process never ends! It’s an ongoing journey where we look to refine and further improve our offerings.

Our milkshakes were harder to perfect. We ended up finding a local ice-cream maker in Hong Kong and worked with them to make our own custom ice-cream that was as creamy, silky and indulgent as the dairy equivalent.

Source: Big Dill

7. Aside from being plant-based, what other ways does Big Dill incorporate sustainability? 

Wherever possible, we source locally. This can be a challenge in Hong Kong, but we always look local first! When we can’t find something local, we’ll then set about creating it in-house from as many local ingredients as possible.

8. Finally, what shade of green are you and why?

Emerald green. I love the gemstone – its soothing energy is considered to provide healing to all levels of our being, bringing freshness and vitality to our spirit!

Find out more about Big Dill on their website and Instagram

NEXT: See all ‘8Shades Of‘ interviews

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