While the city is teaming with plant-based meat and milk alternatives, animal-free cheese is still a novetly for most Hong Kongers, so it’s hugely significant that the city will welcome its first-ever 100% plant-based cheese shop, soft-opening this Friday (March 26). Featuring handcrafted dairy-free cheeses crafted by raw vegan Chef Tina Barrat and the best of Hong Kong’s artisanal culinary creatives, Le FroMAge by Ma … and the Seeds marks a new page for Hong Kong’s growing plant-based food scene as the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
The brainchild of Chef Tina Barrat, the powerhouse behind recently opened vegan fine-dining concept Ma…and the Seeds of Life and formerly Maya Café, Le FroMAge by Ma … and the Seeds of Life is the newest vegan concept to launch in Hong Kong. Nestled in the trendy sustainability-driven K11 Musea mall in Tsim Sha Tsui, it marks the city’s first-ever shop dedicated to 100% plant-based cheeses.
Made using only the highest quality plant-based and nutritionally-dense ingredients like cashews and almonds, Chef Barrat’s range of over 20 vegan-friendly fermented raw cheese wheels will take centre stage at the store, from her famous creamy truffle-infused Shamembert to the garlicky Moon & Earth and Brie with Pink Peppercorn.
All of them are made in small batches, soaked, sprouted, dehydrated or gently warmed not above 40 degrees celsius, in accordance with the principles of raw veganism, to retain ingredients’ original health benefits and nutrition.
Aside from her handcrafted vegan cheeses, Le FroMAge, whose name means cheese in Barrat’s native French, offers the classic accompaniments to make up the perfect fromage board, such as Chef Barrat’s much-loved keto breads, gluten-free crackers, chutneys and some of the signature dishes at Ma…and the Seeds of Life, from fish-free Sans-Salmon to Faux-Gras, her take on the pâté using from porcini mushrooms and cashews, and Chiaviar, made with energy-boosting chia seeds to replace the endangered sturgeon roe.
Until Sonalie from Green Queen nearly begged me to make them [my nut cheeses] again…That boosted me beyond anything and got me seriously into experimenting various techniques and flavours.Chef Tina Barrat
In addition, Le FroMAge will feature some of the best 100% plant-based products crafted by a number of other local Hong Kong gastronomic artisans. These include vegan sourdough crackers made by the father-and-daughter team at Tai Po-based Latvian breadmakers Mayse Artisan Bakery and jams created by additive-free condiment brand Nicole’s Kitchen.
There will also be plant-based cultured nut cheeses by yoga teacher turned raw chef Amy Elkhoury’s Nuteese concept, and Chef Jan Yeung’s salted and unsalted vegan butters under homegrown plant-based dairy brand Garden Hill at the store, which has been fittingly designed with natural wood, stone and green-filled interiors.
Chef Barrat’s partner for her latest venture is OBH F&B Group, a wine distributor that initially started in Hong Kong with its health-focused grab-and-go outlets, but felt compelled to collaborate with the raw vegan chef to fill the plant-based fine-dining gap in Hong Kong’s food scene.
Le FroMAge marks the second project between Barrat with the group and their joint mission to expand the diversity of plant-based experiences in Hong Kong, at a time when mainstream consumers are beginning to hop on board on the trend that once was considered a niche.
My husband was willing to quit dairy cheese if I found him alternatives that were high quality and delicious.Sonalie Figuerias, Founder & Editor-in-Chief, Green Queen Media
The opening of the store is incredibly personal for Green Queen Media founder & editor-in-chief Sonalie Figueiras, who at one point practically begged Barrat to make her cashew cheeses for her to buy, so desperate was she to find vegan options that her husband would enjoy.
“My husband was willing to quit dairy cheese if I found him alternatives that were high quality and delicious,” says Figueiras. “I messaged Tina and said, I will make it worth your while, please restart your cheese for me. She started doing weekly deliveries: two wheels of her Cashew Pink Peppercorn brie. We were hooked- they are among the best vegan cheeses I have ever tasted anywhere. And that’s how it began.”
On her side, Barrat was unconvinced there was a need and a market for her cheesemaking until Figueiras came calling.
“I had made a few attempts at creating vegan cheeze along my catering adventures, but I had never been really confident that I was doing the right thing,” recalls Barrat. “So when a few of my peers started making beautiful cheeze and promoting them on social media so nicely, I thought: that’s it. I’m not making cheeze anymore.”
“Until Sonalie from Green Queen nearly begged me to make them again as she was craving my cheeze and told me my quality was impeccable and I needn’t worry about any competitors. That boosted me beyond anything and got me seriously into experimenting various techniques and flavours. Le FroMAge opening is also an “homage” to Sonalie for believing in me all these years.”
More and more vegan cheese shops are sure to open in cities across the globe as the plant-based dairy market continues to explode, with recent research suggesting the industry will be worth US$4.5 billion by 2025, and dairy farmers increasingly worried about their future.
Address: Le FroMAge by Ma … and the Seeds of Life, Unit 21 of B201, K11 MUSEA, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong. Open Daily: 10.00am – 10.00pm.
All images courtesy of Le FroMAge by Ma … and the Seeds of Life.