By Tracy Riccio, HKDR Volunteer
Being a vegetarian in Hong Kong can be difficult.
Being a vegan in Hong Kong can be even more challenging but it is certainly getting easier. I have lived in Hong Kong for 6 years now, and finding my way around the markets and supermarkets so that I can eat healthily has not been as easy as I first imagined. It can be tricky to find ingredients, keep fruit and vegetables fresh long enough to be used before they need to be thrown away or wasted or even just understanding what particular things are.
Unable, to cope with shopping at the wet market, my food choices are limited to whatever is available at the local supermarket which does reduce the amount of things available for me to eat.
It didn’t take long for me to form bad habits.
Working full time and rushing here and there in fast paced Hong Kong, I soon found I lacked time to create tasty and healthy dishes in the kitchen. By the time I got home from work and walked the dogs the last thing I wanted to do was go in the kitchen and spend time cooking up amazing dishes.
I began eating things that were quick to cook, required minimal preparation and were high in carbohydrates to fill me up, without giving much thought to the nutritional content of what I was eating. My other problem was that I found it difficult to cook in my small kitchen, with limited worktop space comes limited equipment and my small toaster oven really couldn’t cope with much inside it.
I am not a great cook but I can cook a few dishes quite well when following a recipe.
I found that most recipes I googled required equipment I didn’t have, needed ingredients I couldn’t find or was time consuming because I needed to replace ingredients to make the meal vegan, (e.g. soaking flax seeds to make an egg replacer to bind a bean burger recipe) becoming more and more frustrated and short on time as life ran away with me I began forming more and more bad habits.
All that changed around two years ago when someone posted on Facebook a humorous, potty mouthed video advertising a cook book called ‘Thug Kitchen’ a plant based cook book aimed at people who are ‘too lazy to cook’ or people ‘who don’t care about what they eat’. The book promised to show people how they can eat healthily with easily available ingredients and for people short on time. It sounded right up my street and what I needed to improve my current diet of pasta and rice dominated meals plus I liked the novelty value of the book in that it was full of swear words.
I immediately went onto Amazon and ordered a copy. Luckily my friend was coming over to visit from England so she was able to bring the book over with her.
The book was just what I needed to refresh my eating habits and cooking skills.
Thug Kitchen has everything covered: drinks, starters, breakfasts, main meals, lunches and desserts, good enough for all occasions whether entertaining, watching Netflix at home, snacking or a simple weeknight dinner because of that it has quickly become my go-to book.
As promised, the recipes use readily available ingredients which means I have had no problem getting what I need to make the dishes. Where the book requires some unusual ingredients, for example the lavender, blueberry and walnut scones an alternative is provided (vanilla extract) for people who are unable to find lavender.
Most of the recipes do not require any specialist equipment either and are really fast to prepare which has enabled me to get organised in the kitchen and plan and prepare what I can ahead of time, so cooking actually doesn’t take up that much time and most importantly the method is easy to follow and I am left feeling like I do actually have some cooking skills as the results are always good.
The variety of recipes means that the book can be used a lot without feeling bored or that choices are limited.
I haven’t tried to make any of the cakes as my toaster oven doesn’t give good results for that and there are one or two that may be difficult due to my limited resources and availability of ingredients but most of these things can be skipped or replaced with other things.
My favourite recipe is the red lentils and white bean burgers, they make a nice informal dinner and are so easy to make. I can also take the left overs to work to have for lunch the next day.
In April of this year I was diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer.
What I eat has become even more important so that I can stay as healthy as possible throughout my treatment. I find myself looking at this book more than ever and when I am well enough to cook, I choose some high protein meals like the Quinoa Oatmeal to get me through the day.
This book is good for anyone who is starting out on a plant based diet and they don’t know where to begin in terms of what to eat or for people like me who feel they don’t have the knowledge or the time to cook but really anyone who wants tasty, simple and healthy vegan meals will get on well with this book.
Thug Kitchen: The Official Cookbook has ‘food is so good, you could swear by it!’ and is well worth trying out.
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Thank you Tracy Riccio for taking the time to share your insights on healthy cooking in Hong Kong.
I invite you to follow Tracy’s brave inspirational blog and consider supporting her through a difficult time.