Interest in plant-based eating and fermented food and drinks is ramping up around the world – and here in Hong Kong too. We take a look at a handful of HK-based producers and sample some of their fab products, including vegan cheese, tempeh, sauerkraut, kombucha and more. Read on for a few new ideas for filling your fridge!
Vegan Aged Sharp Cheese & Vegan Butter
Artisan food producer Garden Hill produces a range of gluten-free bread and baked goods alongside some excellent dairy alternatives. We tried the aged sharp cheese ($95 for 160-180g). Made from cashew and coconut cream, there are no nasties here and it’s a tasty vegan option. For my palate, it could have been a little sharper, but an additional sprinkle of nutritional yeast did the trick.
We haven’t been too enamoured with non-dairy butters but Garden Hill is producing a very tasty version ($70 for 250g). Made with coconut oil, oat milk and sunflower oil, this is another excellent vegan choice or perfect for those trying to cut out dairy. It spreads quite easily from the fridge and is good for baking too. Buy direct from Garden Hill or from selected stockists.
Originating in Indonesia, tempeh offers a high-protein, low-carb plant alternative packed with vitamins and minerals. Since it’s made from fermented soya beans, it’s also rich in probiotics and prebiotics, which are beneficial to the human microbiome.
Tempehola makes tempeh right here in HK from organic non-GMO beans. It is incredibly versatile and absorbs Asian flavours particularly well. Use it as you would tofu – for example, just add diced tempeh to stir-fries, or mince it and add to a chilli or Bolognese. We mixed seasoned slithers of sautéed tempeh with Thai basil, mint, coriander, shallots, watercress, roasted sesame seeds and a generous squeeze of lime for a delicious Asian salad.
Tempehola make two varieties of tempeh – soybeans and chickpeas; both are available frozen in handy blocks ($65 for 200g) directly from Tempehola or stockists around town.
As with many on-trend foods, sauerkraut comes in many guises, some better, tastier and healthier than others. Keep an eye out for unpasteurised sauerkraut – that’s where the magic happens. And, luckily for us, Foodcraft handmakes small batches here in HK.
First, shredded cabbage is massaged with Himalayan crystal salt, then mixed with various lactic acid bacteria and left to ferment for three days until it’s ready to eat. It has a naturally sour flavour from the lactic acid that forms when the bacteria ferments the sugars in the cabbage. Since it’s unpasteurised, it’s full of natural digestive enzymes and living probiotics. Sauerkraut is also rich in minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, molybdenum and selenium.
We tried three varieties. Unpasteurised Living Japanese Sauerkraut ($98 for 350g) is flavoured with white sesame seeds, kombu (a type of kelp) and fresh shiso leaves – add a generous spoon to soups and noodles. Unpasteurised Organic Living Red Cabbage Sauerkraut ($148 for 400g) gives a zingy bite to salads and stir-fries. Our highlight, the Unpasteurized Living Kimchee Sauerkraut ($98 for 400g), features cabbage and carrots flavoured with garlic, chilli and ginger; it packs a punch and perfectly balances spicy and sour flavours. Add a generous spoon to a piece of sourdough toast with your favourite nut butter – your taste buds and gut microbes will thank you!
Vegan Cream Cheese
This really caught us by surprise – think Boursin but with a cleaner and fresher taste; and yes, it’s dairy free. Here, the Foodcraft team cleverly combine tofu, coconut oil, lemon juice, fresh garlic, salt and herbs to produce a cream cheese of real beauty. Slather on hot toast or a seeded cracker, or stir into pasta for an instant creamy, herby garlicky sauce. This will become a regular in our home! The Organic Vegan Spreadable Garlic & Herbs Cream Cheese is $128 for 180g.
Dream Keto Coconut Spread
Another winner from Foodcraft, this combines coconut butter with low sugar ingredients resulting in delicious jars of yumminess. There are four varieties: raspberry (our favourite), blueberry, vanilla and a very zesty lemon. Stir into smoothies, add to yoghurt and granola, or, in my case, spoon onto a rich tea biscuit! You can buy four 80g jars for $288, or get each flavour in a larger size.
Room A, 16/F, Yiuga Factory Building, 62 Victoria Road, Kennedy Town
On The Wagon
Not all kombucha is created equal. You should look out for unpasteurised versions, and read the ingredients carefully, as kombucha needs sugar to ferment to create probiotics. Ash and Alvin, aka On the Wagon, have been producing genuine, fresh unpasteurised kombucha in Hong Kong for more than five years. This stuff is the real deal!
On the Wagon offers four crafted blends, Assam and Darjeeling, Roasted Green Tea, Jasmine Green Tea and Earl Grey. Each blend is unique, perfectly balanced with subtle fruity notes and that all-important natural fizz. You can buy them online or at selected stockists and markets around town – six bottles cost $220 and On The Wagon provides a bottle return service too.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.