A few years ago, the terms ‘vegetarianism’ and ‘veganism’ were not part of the everyday culinary dictionary of Hong Kong people, however, with increasing recognition thanks to partly social media influencers, vegetarianism and veganism are experiencing an upward mobility in the local food economy.
This gradual rise is optimistic for the vegetarian and vegan community as Hong Kong residents in 2015 were reported to have consumed the highest amount of meat and seafood in the world, at 140 kg per capita. But China’s vegan market was expected to rise by more than 17% from 2015-2020, showing proof that the trend has been pedaling away on a high cadence internationally.
Championing a meat-free diet but also inclusiveness, Meat Free Hong Kong made its way into the social scene by hosting meet-ups every week at one of the city’s 200 vegetarian restaurants. I say that they are all-welcoming because omnivores are also invited to tag along. Main organizer Stevie Go described the society strategizes itself as a “vegan food group” instead of “a vegan group”, and indeed it is working given its membership: more than 4000 joined since its establishment in 2009.
Making their own feat in the vegetarian and vegan scene are also entrepreneurs Peggy Chan and David Yeung. Peggy opened her own restaurant, Grassroots Pantry, in Sai Ying Pun in 2011 with one simple core philosophy: “to create food that heals with the highest culinary standards and using the freshest, most nutrient-dense of sustainable, plant-based ingredients.” With precision and passion, it has also expanded into a workshop for plant-based experimentation, allowing Peggy to pivot in the city’s restaurant industry as a game-changer. Most lauded dishes on the menu are her beetroot gnocchi, spiralised-vegetable Thai noodles and watermelon radish ravioli enveloping butternut squash. The same goes to her counterpart David Chan, who has founded Green Monday, a social venture that tackles with issues such as animal welfare and environmental issues through pioneering new means to deliver green options to everyday life. If this isn’t impressive enough, he has also opened the world’s first plant-based eatery and retail chain, which has become one of Hong Kong’s regular go-to groceries, Green Common. By helping American vegetarian and vegan brands break into the Asian market, he has also contributed to Hong Kong’s emerging embrace of the vegetarian-vegan lifestyle, distributing alternatives such as the faux-pork option Omnipork which is now used by a number of hotels. Leading ones like Hotel ICON, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong and Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong has also incorporated the “bleeding” vegan Impossible Burger into their menus, followed by Pizza Express Hong Kong, which became the first in the world to formulate a vegan egg pizza in 2018.
Approaching the topic of food, Hong Kong culture has never been averse to its reputation as a food paradise, it can therefore easily respond to the rise of vegetarianism and veganism by the opening of more restaurants. Here are a few options:
1. Isoya Japanese Vegetarian Restaurant
9/F 83 Wan Chai, 83 Wan Chai Rd, Wan Chai, Hong Kong ($$-$$$)
All dishes, including the sushi platter, are not only made from plant-based ingredients, but they are also presented exquisitely with an artist’s touch.
2. MANA! Central
92 Wellington St, Central, Hong Kong ($)
From Lebanese flatbread wraps (with the liberty to choose from 30 different kinds of topping) and fresh salad boxes to plant-based burgers and warming soups, this popular café is situated in cosy Soho and makes healthy food affordable for every person.
3. Kung Tak Lam
Hong Kong, Causeway Bay, Gloucester Rd, 280號世貿中心10樓 ($$-$$$)
Serving Shanghainese dishes that are completely made of vegetarian and vegan ingredients, they taste almost identical to a typical meaty cuisine! Must tries are the sweet and sour ‘pork’, tofu dumplings and char siu pastry.
4. Kind Kitchen by Green Common
Shop 1, 1/F, Nan Fung Place, 173 Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong ($)
A conceptual restaurant launched by the popular health store Green Common, they serve vegan dishes using their signature ingredient – ‘omnipork’, a vegetable pork replacement. Another item popular on their menu is Hong Kong’s classic milk tea made with oat milk.
G/F, Centrestage, 108 Hollywood Rd, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong ($$$)
Being quite a new addition to Hong Kong’s plant-dining scene, Nectar makes its mark by its exquisite seasonal tasting menus, creating an exquisite fine- dining experience for those who want to enjoy vegetarianism and veganism in all their luxury. Impressive gets are their vegan cheese course, tomato tuna and purslane fettuccine.
Changes are happening. If Hong Kong is offering chances for us to adopt a healthier diet and reduce the carbon footprint, why shouldn’t we make use of them? Going plant-based has numerous benefits and it will definitely make an impact on our lives and the environment.