So you’ve made the decision to cut back on meat and eat more plant-based food – that’s great, but where do you start? You could opt to buy new cookbooks or discover your new favourite plant-based restaurants, or you could simply follow some plant-based foodies on social media to get inspiration.
To help you along on your plant-based journey, be sure to enter the last week of our #8Shades8Weeks challenge to win a hamper from Green Common with their signature OmniPork products! All you need to do is show us your meatless/plant-based meal this week and sign up here.
Ready to go? Here are eight plant-based foodies that you need to follow on Instagram:
Hot For Food
Lauren Toyota’s Instagram account, @hotforfood, is a vegan dream. Her account and blog feature many vegan versions of comfort food, including vegan nacho cheese, made with potatoes and carrots, as well as vegan macaroni and cheese and cauliflower buffalo wings. We’ll take one of each!
Green Kitchen Stories
David Frenkiel, the creator of Green Kitchen Stories, shares healthy vegan and vegetarian food tips and recipes. Come for the food tips, stay for the pics of his gorgeous family!
Food blogger Sara Forte encourages readers to improvise in the kitchen with her simple recipes on her Instagram and blog. She’s a big fan of fresh ingredients and natural foods, so expect to find tons of seasonal plant-based recipes, like roasted zucchini, black bean and goat cheese enchiladas.
We Are Veganuary
@weareveganuary educates followers on a plant-based lifestyle, with sustainability news, tips and recipes. They also have a free kit containing 31 days of vegan recipes!
Thriving on Plants
Sydney-based Instagrammer, Cherie Tu, shares her vegan lifestyle with her followers, including delicious recipes. You’ll also find mouth-watering recipes for sweet treats, proving that plant-based diets don’t have to be boring!
The Plantd.Co team shares wellness and sustainability news, as well as healthy recipes and cooking tips.
The Colourful Kitchen
Did you know that different-coloured veggies each have their own array of nutrients? Health coach Ilene Godofsky’s Instagram encourages followers to “eat the rainbow,” sharing recipes and tips on how to do just that. From orange- kabocha squash to pink- sauerkraut, and everything in between, you’ll find the inspiration you need to eat a wider variety of veggies. Other standout recipes include tahini sweet potato stew or vegan berry breakfast pizza.
Sweet Potato Soul
Jenné Claiborne is a vegan chef, author, YouTuber and blogger who shares mouth-watering vegan recipes with her 380,000 followers. She’s released a vegan cookbook called Sweet Potato Soul: 100 Easy Vegan Recipes for the Southern Flavors of Smoke, Sugar, Spice, and Soul : A Cookbook.
Veganism and vegetarianism are becoming more popular, as people become aware of the health benefits of going meatless.
However, this may not be possible for many people – instead, scaling back on the amount of meat you consume would still be beneficial. For the final week of the #8Shades8Weeks challenge, we’re asking you to do just that and show us your delicious meatless meals. With the prize being a hamper from Green Common, you don’t want to miss out, so sign up here!
Whether you’re looking to commit to a fully meatless lifestyle, or you’re just a little curious, here are eight benefits to going meatless.
Protect the Planet
Not only does animal livestock production represent nearly 20% of annual greenhouse gas emissions, it also contributes to soil and water contamination. Besides this, the farming of animals uses a lot of water and land – it takes more than 1,700 litres to produce just 113 grams of beef! Even the UN believes that the farming and eating of meat contributes to climate change.
Improve Your Health
Reducing the amount of meat you eat has so many health benefits! Did you know that eating red meat increases your risks for heart attack, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers? On the other end, replacing meat with more plant-based foods will give you even more health benefits. Skipping just half a serving of meat and replacing it with a protein-packed meatless dish can cut your risk of developing Type-2 diabetes.
Also, doubling your intake of veggies and cutting your intake of red meat would help mitigate global health issues, like obesity and everyday hunger.
Finally, compared to fresh produce and grains, meat is dense in calories so if you are looking to lose weight, cutting back on meat could help with this.
You’ll Get to Try New (Delicious) Plant-Based Foods
Forget what you’ve been told – plant-based foods don’t have to be boring! There’s plenty of restaurants that are now creating delicious plant-based menus; from vegan-friendly fast food options to fine dining experiences.
You can also create your own plant-based feasts at home, perhaps by incorporating one new ingredient per meal. For inspiration, follow plant-based foodies on social media, or buy a new cookbook!
It’s Easier Than Ever
Cutting back on meat doesn’t need to be complicated or mean that you need a meat substitute. Other ways to go meatless include increasing your intake of:
Tofu or tempeh
Rice and beans
Also, if you’re not quite ready to completely let go of meat, you don’t have to; with the help of plant-based alternatives like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat (that taste almost identical to “real” meat), you can make your favourite meals plant-based!
Most commercially farmed animals have short and terrible lives before they are processed into meat. Even products labelled “free-range” aren’t always a guarantee that the animals are treated humanely. We don’t want to guilt you into going fully meatless, but every little bit makes a difference and will have huge benefits.
Animal livestock doesn’t only affect animals, though. Did you know that seafood is one of the most exploitative industries? Reports have shown that the global fishing industry uses forced labour and other human rights abuses.
It Could Help You Look Younger
Meat, especially red meats and processed lunchmeats, can cause inflammation in your body, which can lead to less collagen and elastin in your skin. These two proteins help make your skin supple, moist and resilient. With time, too much inflammation in your body can cause your skin to look dry and wrinkled.
You’ll Sleep Better
Cutting back on meat could improve your sleep! Eating a lot of animal products can cause high blood pressure, which can cause stress and anxiety, affecting your sleep. Conversely, eating more plant-based foods can help promote healthy sleep; kale, almonds, broccoli, sweet potatoes and spinach and others all contain vitamin B6, magnesium and tryptophan, all of which contribute to deep sleep.
Producing animal products also uses a lot of water- 3,140 litres to produce one hamburger, to be precise! If people simply ate more plants and less meat, the global food system would be much more efficient and we could feed so many more people, helping to end world hunger!
You don’t need to make massive changes to your diet that interfere with your normal routine or stress you out; instead, you can just do a “Meatless Monday” or replace a few meals a week! Small changes can make a huge difference – to our health, the planet and other living things on this planet.
Mosquitos love Hong Kong’s humid climate. To get rid of the itchy bites (and irritating buzz in the middle of the night), you may be tempted to douse yourself in insect repellent, but beware of the potential harm that could come with this. Many popular sprays contain pesticides as their active ingredient, which are deemed to be safe in recommended doses, but can be harmful when applied incorrectly or in too-high doses. One of the most controversial ingredients in insect repellents is DEET. Here’s our pick of five of the best DEET-free insect repellents in Hong Kong.
What is DEET?
N, N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, or DEET, is the active ingredient in most common insect repellents. It’s highly effective at repelling mosquitoes, but it can irritate eyes and cause blisters and rashes. It also pollutes the environment, breaking down slowly in soil and seeping into waterways, where it can make the water toxic to fish and birds, eventually contaminating drinking water. To avoid this and put your mind at ease about what you’re putting onto your and your family’s skin (and into the environment), check out our list of DEET-free insect repellents below.
Burt’s Bees Herbal Insect Repellent (HK$89)
This DEET-free spray is made of 100% natural ingredients, mainly rosemary, lemongrass and citronella oil.
All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect Repellent(HK$117)
This DEET-free, all-natural spray contains a mixture of six essential oils (soybean, citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass and geranium). It’s also non-irritating, making it suitable for the whole family.
Para’Kito Family Spray- Mosquito & Tick Repellent(HK$175)
This DEET-free, botanically-derived repellent provides protection of up to 8 hours against mosquitoes and 5 hours against ticks. It’s also alcohol-free and non-greasy, making it comfortable for the whole family to use.
Cocoparadise is turning guilty pleasures into guilt-free pleasures thanks to founder Valerie Chiu
Cocoparadise was championing healthy desserts before the healthy eating movement took off. Concepts like using natural ingredients and ditching refined sugars and preservatives have been part of the brand’s essence since the beginning, so Cocoparadise founder Valerie Chiu knows a thing or two about how to indulge guilt-free. Valerie shared with us her insights on how the healthy eating landscape has changed since the brand started in 2013, and where the health movement is going.
8Shades: What inspired you to start Cocoparadise?
Valerie Chiu: My journey started in university, in the UK. Like many students, I really cut loose- I drank a lot and generally didn’t take care of my body. When I came back to Hong Kong, I went for a health check up; when I did, I was told that I was overweight for my age and had fatty liver and that if I didn’t lose weight, I would need to be hospitalised. That was really the wake up call for me to start taking better care of myself.
At the beginning, I didn’t know much about losing weight. I was working out, but I was eating pretty much just boiled chicken and broccoli and I realised that eating like that is not sustainable. Coincidentally, around that time, I met a trainer who offered to teach me more about nutrition. I learned that I can still eat the foods I want, it’s just about learning the right kinds of foods. I started avoiding processed foods and refined sugars and started eating more natural foods and it changed my life. I didn’t even know who I was, I started having more energy, getting to school on time and finishing my work. I thought, “this is amazing, I didn’t know I had this in me!”
At the time (around 2013), nutrition and health in the UK was far more advanced than in Hong Kong- it was the norm. You could find gluten and dairy free stuff pretty easily, but it was different when I came back to Hong Kong. I found clean, healthy food, but it was all so bland! I have a massive sweet tooth, so I started making my own healthy snacks. I’m from Thailand so I decided to use coconuts in my treats, since it’s a staple food for us that’s also really healthy.
I moved back to Hong Kong to pursue a business venture that I had started in university, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out, which made me question what I wanted to do with my life. To figure that out, I was going to a boxing gym, which had a cafe that I was always at. I gave them some of my recipes and one day, they invited me to do a pop up to showcase my snacks. When people started asking me about them, I wondered whether my passion could become a business. From there, I got orders for weddings and baby showers and started doing more pop ups!
In the beginning, it was really difficult. At the time, a lot of people just didn’t understand what I was doing and I was relying purely on the taste of the products to move forward. What saved Cocoparadise was attaching my story to it, my personal health transformation. I posted a picture that I had been holding on to for maybe two years; I didn’t want people to think that it’s all about looks, it was more about how good I felt internally but people connected with the picture and they started believing in what I was doing. My mission is to prove that healthy food doesn’t have to suck, that it can be enjoyable. You don’t have to restrict yourself, you just need to be more aware. When you gain awareness, you start to have better control of your life.
What would you say makes Cocoparadise unique in the dessert market?
Generally, there’s a lot of junk in the dessert market. It’s difficult to find desserts that are satisfying, but have clean ingredients. I always work to ensure that the ingredient lists on the products are healthy and easy to understand – no gibberish!
A lot of my products come from things that are missing in my diet. I’m lactose intolerant, but I love ice cream, so I’ve created a new line of vegan ice creams. There’s a lot of vegan ice creams out there, but what’s missing is that they don’t taste like ice cream- they’re not creamy and they don’t have the same texture as traditional ice cream. Also, if you read the ingredient lists on a lot of other vegan ice creams, they’re long and confusing. Ours are short and sweet- no fillers, everything is natural. This does mean that it has a shelf life of only three months, but you know that what you’re consuming is healthier.
With Coco Paradise, you can indulge yourself without the guilt that often comes with eating sweets, we take the “guilt” out of “guilty pleasures.”
How are you working to make Cocoparadise more sustainable and what are your personal sustainable ‘hacks’?
Honestly, when I started the company, I wasn’t really thinking about sustainability, I just wanted to share my mission of helping people eat healthier. As I started to build the business and talk to more people, I then became a lot more aware of packaging and realised that I have a responsibility to make a positive change.
It started with small things, the products used to be packed in plastic, but now they’re packaged in cardboard, and lined with plastic foiling. Cocoparadise is not a perfect company and I’m always working to be more mindful of its environmental impact. I’m slowly improving the packaging, but I’m also concerned about food waste. Right now, plastic helps to improve the shelf life of the products, which is especially important since I don’t use any preservatives; it’s tough to find packaging that is sustainable but extends the shelf life. So I’m working to use less plastic and we’ve cut back significantly on food waste.
Personally, one clear change for me is that now whenever I have the option, I usually go for vegan choices and eat plant-based. I started this business mainly because of my passion for cooking and my mission to inspire others to also live a healthier and more balanced lifestyle to really help educate others to be more conscious about their health and well-being. But it’s about time that we also understand that all of this is interrelated, and it’s time to give back to the world that has given us so much. I would say growing this business, I now know and understand how even the smallest decisions can make a huge impact, so it naturally plays a huge role in my personal life choices.
Cocoparadise was one of the first in Hong Kong to champion healthy desserts, what’s changed in the time you started up until now?
Health has proved not to be a passing trend. When I first started Cocoparadise, I was going to health shows in Bangkok to source ingredients. At first, there was a tiny corner dedicated to healthy items. Each year, the corner got bigger and bigger until it was a whole section of the show, which made me know I was on the right track! It also made me even more aware of ingredients and the suppliers I work with.
I think COVID really caused a shift in thinking about healthy eating and sustainability. When something affects you or your friends and family, you really wake up and become more mindful of your health. And when you take this journey, you don’t want to go back! I was really worried that COVID would affect Cocoparadise negatively because I obviously couldn’t do any pop ups, but I was so wrong. I started sharing my story more and people started to appreciate what I was doing even more because they understood the concept.
What do you foresee as the future in clean eating?
Oh, I think it’s going to be the norm! It’s certainly already the norm in places like the UK, and while Asia is slow, it’s definitely catching up. More and more people are realising how important food is and when you start getting this awareness, you can change your life.
Summer is edging in, which means it’s time to up our sunscreen game so we don’t have to deal with sunburn, awkward tans, skin aging, and the worst of all – the risk of getting skin cancer.
Special occasions such as going to the beach or setting sail on a junk usually call for a stronger SPF protection and perhaps a good slathering of that sunshield. But did you know choosing the wrong sunscreen could turn a delightful summer adventure into a crime?
Sunscreen chemicals don’t belong in the sea
Researches show chemicals like phthalates and other toxins that are used to make sunscreen last longer and cling better to the skin can impact the health of the marine life. When these chemicals leave our bodies and enter into the ocean, they can decrease the fertility and reproduction of fish, induce defects in young mussels and sea urchins, impair growth and photosynthesis of green algae, and bleach or even kill the coral. And the list goes on.
A good rule of thumb would be to look for products that are labelled “reef safe” or “reef friendly”. But with so many sunscreen variants and brands to choose from, it’s hard to know which ones to go for. Well, lucky for you, we’ve done some research so you don’t have to.
Here are our top 5 brands of natural, effective sunscreens that you can easily get in HK that are good for your and for the environment.
Thinksport SPF50 Sunscreem ($135.73)
Strong SPF protection. Water resistant. Vegan (not tested on animals). Reasonable price. And free from reef-damaging chemicals. What is there not to love?
We might be stating the obvious here given the adorable packaging design, but yes – this vegan, eco sunscreen is formulated for babies, children and adults, and is perfect for people who have sensitive skin.
Better latte than never – the sustainable coffee drinkers guide
The smell of coffee is often the best alarm clock. Many of us start our mornings with a cup of coffee. Essentially, life begins after coffee. Do you know that our coffee habits present us with the perfect opportunity to engage in responsible consumption even before we start our day? Consider the following tips to make your coffee habits more sustainable and, in effect, set you up for a successful day.
THE MUG-NIFICENCE OF BYOM
Unfortunately, sixteen billion coffee cups are used and disposed each year, most of which are unrecyclable. Many of us do not know us that single-use paper cups, like their plastic counterparts, cannot be recycled. Because paper cups are coated with a thin layer of plastic to laminate and waterproof the inside, the paper-plastic combination of these cups makes them difficult to recycle. The next time you go to a café, make sure to BYOM – bring your own mug, or a reusable cup. Most coffee shops, including Starbucks, will give you a discount for bringing your own mug. Lower-priced coffee that’s low waste too? That smells pretty good.
DON’T GIVE A FRAPPE ABOUT UNSUSTAINABLE CAPS
Many of us rely on a single-cup brewing machine to get our caffeine fix. These machines typically depend on unrecyclable capsules and pods. Not all hope is lost, however. Nespresso, one of our favorite coffee pioneers, makes their capsules with aluminum, which is 100% recyclable. Moreover, you can ship your capsules back to Nespresso recycling facilities free of charge or drop them off at participating stores. From there, the aluminum is processed and turned into pens, pikes, and even new capsules.
When you brew your own coffee, you can avoid single-use plastic –– by using your own mug, spoons as stirrers, and recyclable straws–– all the while radiating peak hipster barista vibes. If you’re looking to buy a coffee machine, opt for ones that don’t have plastic, like a French Press, percolator and ceramic pour-over filter cone. Many coffee machines with plastic contain PVC, which is the most toxic of plastics.
If you’re buying coffee beans to brew at home, look for ethical certifications (like Rainforest Alliance) that show producers have complied with sustainable criteria. Sustainably sourced coffee beans are not only better for the environment, better for farmers (who are paid fairer prices), but also better for your health. New studies have found that sustainable coffee beans are grown free of pesticides and artificial fertilizer, boasting a higher content in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than beans that aren’t sustainably sourced.
MAKE YOUR BEANS COME TRUE
The next time you meet up with a friend, or a love interest, consider having a coffee at MANA on Star Street in SoHo. MANA serves Impact Berry, an ethical, eco-friendly and organic premium coffee brand. Impact Berry sources its beans from Asian regions, which reduces the carbon footprint that comes with transporting coffee by 98%. An added perk is that MANA serves its coffee in fully compostable cups and lids.
Labelled as “the optimal diet for people and planet”, the Planetary diet was commissioned in 2019 to tackle three global briefs: to feed a future population of 10 billion people in 2050, to champion a diet that is environmentally sustainable, and to reduce the number of deaths caused by poor diet around the world.
This diet encourages us to eat more plant-forward meals, focus on unsaturated fats, lower our dairy consumption, and cut down on highly-processed foods. According to the commission, by doing so we can lessen the pressure on our food supply chain, reduce our carbon footprint, save 11 million people a year from malnutrition deaths, and more.
Now, with a mission statement this promising and an action plan that is highly doable and nowhere as intense as other diets, why hasn’t the word “Planetarian” made it on the food map yet?
IS IT BECAUSE IT’S NOT A DEPRIVATION DIET?
It’s hard to keep up with the ever-growing dietary handles, and the way we differentiate one diet from another is often by recalling the food that we can not consume – i.e.: Keto means no carbs and Paleo means no farmed or processed foods. But as you can see below, the Planetarian diet ticks all the icons on the food pyramid: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, dairy, protein, fats and sugars. Perhaps when nothing is really off the table, and when there’s no major deficiency to look out for, there’s really nothing distinct or memorable about this diet.
OR BECAUSE IT DOESN’T COME WITH A COOKIE CUTTER FORMULA?
Planetarian is one of the more intuitive diets. Rather than simply foregoing meat or carbs, it requires an understanding of our food culture, our food sources, and how they impact the environment. For example, according to The Guardian, in order to consume a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources, North Americans should eat 84% less red meat and Europeans should eat 77% less.
Not having a universal fix means we have to rely on local interpretation or do our own homework, and as much as we want to do or eat the right thing, sometimes it’s just easier to tune out and nibble on the taste of ignorance.
WATCH THIS SPACE
To us, the planetarian diet sounds very much like an underdog. It’s one of the newer diets that reflects our current climate and lifestyle. It takes both our environment and human health into accounts, including those who are malnourished and overnourished. And it’s probably one of the easiest diets to follow and doesn’t deprive us of any essential nutrients.
So watch this space – we won’t be surprised if this diet takes off tomorrow and becomes the talk of every dinner table.
With kombucha and apple cider vinegar gaining popularity over the past few years in the health sphere, the spotlight has been shone on fermentation. However, fermented foods have been part of our diets for centuries, and were initially produced as a way to preserve foods, improve flavour and eliminate food toxins. Today, more people are turning to these foods for their health benefits, and their subsequent sustainability benefits.
What exactly is Fermentation?
Fermentation is a metabolic process in which microorganisms create a desirable change in foods and beverages, like increasing flavour or preserving foods. It occurs in the absence of oxygen and in the presence of beneficial microorganisms, like yeasts, molds and bacteria, that get their energy through fermentation. Some of your favourite foods are fermented! Like kombucha, kimchi, yogurt, sourdough bread, apple cider vinegar and even wine and beer.
Our fave fermented foods:
Kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and pickles.
What are the Benefits of Fermentation?
It’s healthy for you
People have been processing food through various fermentation methods for thousands of years. However, in the 19th and 20th centuries, our diets changed radically; as we moved from farms to cities, we also moved away from fresh produce. Fermentation was one such way to combat this and keep food nutritious for longer.
Fermented foods are rich in probiotics, those helpful bugs that maintain a healthy gut so it can do its job of extracting nutrients from food. Probiotics also aid the immune system because the gut produces antibiotic, antitumor and antiviral substances, and pathogens don’t do well in the acidic environment fermented foods create.
Fermentation provides enzymes necessary for digestion and breaking down food. This is super important because we’re born with a finite number of enzymes, which decrease with age.
Finally, fermentation can increase the vitamins and minerals in food and make them easier to absorb, like vitamins B and C.
It’s also surprisingly sustainable!
While canning requires a lot of energy, many fermented foods require no cooking or heat at all. Further, fermentation reduces the need for fridges and freezers, being able to be stored on a shelf and it prevents food waste, because instead of throwing food away when it’s less-than-perfect, for example, vegetables, you can simply chop them, salt them, pack them in a jar and leave for a few weeks – or longer!
Whether you eat or drink fermented goods for the health benefits they bring, or for the tang and zest they add to your meals, their health benefits are plentiful and the process is good for the environment.
Rewriting Hong Kong’s Food Scene with Our Forks and Chopsticks with Larry Tang
“Locally sourced”, “organic”, “sustainable”… we see these F&B buzzwords almost everywhere we go. Some of us find them appealing. Some of us are even willing to pay extra for these labels. But most of us don’t know what they really mean, or the depth of the impact buying these foods have. So we decided to reach out to one of Hong Kong’s food heroes – Larry Tang – to get some insights. As the founder of Locofama Group, a community-centric business that champions fresh local organic produce, Larry sees the supply chain through from farm to table, and here’s what we learned.
The definition of “local produce” seems to vary country by country. Could you share your interpretation with us?
According to Food Made Good, the distance radius used to define “local” in the UK is 80km, and in Hong Kong, it’s 500km. So yes, things can get a bit complicated here. If you go to the wet market and look for the “local produce” label, it usually means the source is coming from somewhere in China. Most people assume “Hong Kong local”, but that’s not the case, because we’re only consuming around 2-3% of food from Hong Kong. In Locofama group, we use the term “SLOW”, which stands for sustainability, local, organic, and wellness. These are the four pillars that we invest our time and money in. And when we use the term “local”, we DO mean Hong Kong.
Locofama group was one the first businesses that put “sustainability” on the Hong Kong food map. How strongly did people resonate with this term when you first started Locofama in 2013, and how have the mindsets changed over the years?
I actually did not get into this business thinking sustainability would play such a big role. I started Locofama because people around me got sick, so my entry point was very much about health and wellness. Back then we had to import a lot of meat and seafood because it was hard to find good quality organic meat locally – wild-caught salmon and tuna had to be shipped from overseas – so sustainability wasn’t really part of the picture, until two years into the business when we started doing events.
I remember people getting upset at us for using plastic straws and wanting to know how we handled our wastage. Since how we measure the success of our brand is based on how much positive impact we can generate, it was clear to us that if sustainability is where the consumers are headed, then we’re going on that journey with them.
The cost of sustainable and organic food is a real barrier for some of us. Do you have any advice or tips for people who want to lead a healthier lifestyle but just can’t afford it?
My tip would be to plan and commit ahead of time. Think of it like purchasing an airplane ticket. If you don’t want to pay the last-minute premium price, you have to plan ahead.
According to the government, the average monthly food expense per person is around HKD$2,500. I’m sure we all know people who spend a lot more than that, which means there are people who spend far less. It was never my goal to serve only the top 1% of the population, so I started visiting local farms and working with local farmers to see how we can make good quality food affordable. In our CSA programme, we have Chinese medicine doctors, nutritionists, head chefs and farmers working together to help you plan what to eat in the next season. All you have to do is to subscribe to it, then a box will be delivered to you every week. If consumers are willing to commit 3 months in advance, not only can we get quality product from local farmers at a cheaper price, but also a richer biodiversity because they will be able to grow different types of crops.
And oh, eat more fruits, not juice. Eat the whole fruit.
Some of us find it hard to associate an urban jungle like Hong Kong with the farming industry. What’s the quality like in local farms and how accessible are they?
Up until the 1960s, over 60% of food we ate was produced in Hong Kong. The theory that Hong Kong doesn’t have enough farm land is definitely a myth. There’s a law that prohibits us from converting farmland into residential area, so land is not an issue. Funding is. We just don’t have enough farmers. There’s not enough money to support them because most people don’t appreciate local produce and are not willing to commit.
Quality wise I’d say we have some really good farmers here. Again, we’re only eating 2-3% local produce, so whoever is still farming, they are not doing it for the money, they have real passion. At the moment, I’m building a farming school with this farmer who has been experimenting at his farm since 2006. We’re confident that if we train a farmer for 6 months, they will be able to learn enough to handle 30,000 to 50,000 sq ft. of space. Along with the technology we provide them, they can make HKD$15,000 to $20,000 a month.
It takes a lot of passion and perseverance to succeed in the culinary world. The long hours, the heat, the pressure… (and the pandemic certainly did not help). That has stopped many young talents from pursuing their dreams. Does that concern you?
It definitely does.
Chefs overseas are pretty well respected. But for some reason, in Hong Kong, working in the kitchen is not so glorious. It has a “factory” connotation, and people are conditioned to function like a robot because of what we called the “Split Shift Culture”. There’s no interest in creativity, and coming from the advertising industry, that really bugged me.
That’s why we launched Fama Kitchen. Through running competitions with final year students at Poly University and THEi, and inviting winners to come into our kitchen for free, we can recruit people who studied culinary arts and want to become a chef, as well as people who are interested in doing the concept and creative side of building a hospitality brand. It’s a win-win.
What does Hong Kong’s food scene look like to you in 10 year’s time?
Obviously, it’s not a great outlook if nothing is changed. The way I look at it, there will be two outcomes, and it’s very much up to the consumers. Whether we continue in the vein of “compulsive consumerism” or go with “conscious consumerism”. Consumers are the ones who will determine what the food scene will look like in 10 years’ time.
“If we treat every dollar we spend as a vote, everything will change.”
Last question – do you think plant-based living is the future?
I think all the plant-based meat alternatives are transitional products for us. It’s only a matter of time before people look at meat or seafood and realise the direct impact it has on the environment and our health. I think the price for grass-fed beef, organic pork, wild caught or organically farmed seafood will continue to go up, and when we can’t afford it, we’ll have to go plant-based. I also think people are becoming more kind in every generation. In my generation, growing up we didn’t have a conclusion on whether fish can feel pain, but now it’s well known fact. I sometimes come across videos on Youtube of young kids not wanting to eat animals, so I think their taste buds will change and there will be a higher demand for plant-based food.
So yes. I think plant-based living is the future. But when? I don’t know.
People dabble with veganism for various reasons. Some for the health benefits, some for the love of animals, and some for the environment. While we support diversified diets and less meat consumption on the whole, if you are becoming a vegan solely because you’ve been told veganism is THE antidote to global warming and climate change, drop your kale and take a seat – we have some news for you.
No, we’re not here to burst anyone’s green bubble. Ditching meat could very well be the most sustainable thing anyone can do to help save the planet, but that depends on where you live, where your food comes from, and how it lands on your plate.
Is your hood vegan friendly
In Finland, eating fish is considered an environmentally sustainable diet because fishing helps prevent the lakes from overcrowding and in turn, keeps the underwater life healthy. In some Arctic communities, consuming seal meat is also considered sustainable (and nutritionally efficient) because not many vegetables can withstand frost. For greens to make their way to the table, they’d either have to be raised under controlled conditions, or be transported from other parts of the world.
From plant to plate… by plane
And that brings us back to Hong Kong and our supermarket visits. Imported perishable fruits and veggies like asparagus, strawberries, grapes… most of them have travelled far usually by air, truck or barge to make it to the shelves and believe it or not, transportation can actually create more greenhouse gas emission than a quail.
“Not as bad” doesn’t mean “good”
Plant-based alternative and faux meat brands are on the rise, and they all have the same promise of doing good for the environment. Granted, imitation meat has less carbon footprint than animal meat, but it’s still heavily processed, and with that comes the price of deforestation, habit destruction and carbon emissions.
Fair trade can fail
As the demand for plant production arises, labour violations increase. According to Harvard Political Review, approximately 3.5 million agricultural workers globally are enslaved people, and about 75% of farmworkers in the United States are undocumented. This field is notorious for mistreatment and underpayment, which affects both plant and animal farmworkers. Not to mention the toxic chemicals they inhale everyday and the intense labour that comes with the job.
People vs. plants
Less meat means more reliance on plants. More plants mean more reliance on soy, corn and hybridized wheat. At the moment, artificial fertilisers account for at least 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions (meat and diary make up 14.5%, but you get the point). Plant diversity is key and moving to regenerative agriculture could be a solution, but can it cope with the load of feeding the world’s population? We haven’t done the maths but we’re going ahead with “very unlikely”.
Conscious living is key
So no, going vegan is not a one-size-fits-all dietary solution and it won’t save the planet (as least not right now). But yes, if you are mindful of where your food comes from and how it is made, going vegan could mean less negative impact on our environment. And for many, that’s good enough of a reason to adopt the V and drop the meat.