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“Start with what you have.” Raw vegan Chef Priscilla Soligo of Rawthentic Food makes you feel like you can whip up the raw gourmet delights she so effortlessly creates with whatever is lying around in your pantry. Chef P, as she is known around town, is a natural born teacher, her far and wide ranging knowledge of living foods oozing out of her with such passion and poise it is clear that all the event’s attendees are nurturing a teacher’s crush. Her appeal lies in making regular folks feel like they too can conquer the world of gastrawnomic glory. The event is BeLive By The Sea: a day of learning and inspiration where three accomplished chefs around share their gifts with us mere mortals with the aim of integrating living foods into our daily lives.
Held under a canopy at the Hebe Haven Yacht Club in Sai Kung, the event featured every possible type of weather in Hong Kong, from grey fog, to heavy rain, to burning sunshine to heavy humidity. Our group was so engrossed in the subject matter at hand, it hardly mattered. Not to mention that the location was pretty idyllic, we were right next to the yachts and sailing boat marina with the verdant mountains of Sai Kung country park as our vista.
On the day’s cooking roster was Chef P herself, arguably the city’s most talented raw Chef, followed by local veggie celebrity Chef Peggy Chan, whose Grassroots Pantry & Prune Organic Deli have changed the face of vegetarian cuisine in Hong Kong forevermore and finally, world renowned raw food Chef Elaina Love, founder of Pure Joy Planet, and one of the founders of the global raw food movement. This post would be pages long if we were to describe every dish we were taught and served- over 20 different recipes were demonstrated over the course of the day, which began at 9AM and didn’t close until close to 4PM- so we will focus on Chef P’s dishes but at the bottom of the post, we have listed the dishes by Chef Peggy and Chef Elaina, mostly for drooling purposes.
Chef P begins our day of vegan feasting with a couple of glasses of kefir. Originally a traditional fermented milk drink from the Caucus mountains, Chef P’s concoctions are made made using water and coconut kefir. In order to make kefir, you need kefir grains- the starter yeast bacteria that enables the fermentation process to take hold. Raw foodists & vegans obviously eschew any form of dairy whatsoever and so the non dairy kefir tradition makes uses of good old filtered water and easily fermentable young coconut juice.
Interestingly, Hong Kong is the ideal climate for fermenting foods of all types thanks to the city’s never ending humidity. Apparently, the poor fermenters of Europe and North America have to wait days before their cultures are consumable whereas we can enjoy the fruits of our labour in a mere 24 hours. Heaven forbid! For those in the know, fermented foods are the absolute foundation of a healthy diet. It has taken a few decades, but we are finally beginning to understand that our gut is our second brain- an unhealthy gut environment, one lacking in the right balance of bacteria flora, has been shown to be the root of a long list of common modern ailments and medical issues. The best way to repair the digestive havoc that our stressful unhealthy lives have caused is to consume a wide variety of fermented foods, which help to restore good bacteria, which then enables you to to digest your food optimally and absorb the nutrients. Kefir grains cannot be purchased in a store- well technically, you can order them online but no Hong Kong stores sell them. Luckily, ever since the kefir bug hit Hong Kong a couple of years ago (in great part thanks to the efforts of naturopath and nutritionist Louise Kane Buckley of Loula Natural), there is an avid community of grain sharers through Facebook forums and groups. It must be noted that it is considered extremely bad form to sell your grains- sharing your bacteria is the only way to go.
With our guts in check, what followed was a succession of sumptuous living dishes, most of which contained fermented ingredients- consider your gut health a constant work in progress. For breakfast, we had Coconut Yoghurt Parfait with Apple Cinnamon Crunch Granola, Fresh Berries and Star Anise Maple Glaze. The coconut yoghurt is made with probiotics for more digestive goodness and is tangy and luscious. The apple cinnamon granola consists of dehydrated buckwheat (not related to wheat, actually a seed) flavored with desiccated coconut, orange zest, ground cardamom and Medjool dates amongst other ingredients- the result is both crunch and meaty. This granola is worth having in the pantry for all sorts of purposes- it would work well as a mid afternoon/pre-workout snack. Flavoring raw maple syrup with ground star anise is an example of the delicate yet sophisticated flavour pairings that one can expect from Chef P. If only breakfast could be this healthy and indulgent every day!
Pre-lunch we had a raw “cheese” platter which included Thyme Spring Onion Mixed Pepper Cashew’French Young’ Cheese (packed with probiotics) with Garlic Rosemary Bread Petite Baguettes accompanied by Berry Balsamic Reduction (blueberries and balsamic vinegar) and Kimchi Fuschia (more fermentation and a gorgeous hue thanks to the red cabbage). Hands down, this was Green Queen’s favourite plate of the day. Every morsel was delectable. Who knew soaked blended nuts could taste like goat cheese? Herbs, nutritional yeast, dried onion powder and lemon juice blend together to create the umami of dairy cheese. Not to mention the ‘baguettes’ made with dehydrated almond pulp- they were soft, warm and chewy- an ideal companion to the oozing spreadability of the cheese. And did you know that raw cheeses are aged just like the dairy variety?
Chef P’s last dish for the day, our lunch as it were, was Phuket Noodle Salad with Spicy ‘Peanut’ Sauce. This is another absolute winner. With a raw version this good, it is hard to imagine why anyone would eat the starch heavy regular version. Instead of rice noodles, she uses sea kelp noodles (basically, it’s seaweed, and it is an incredibly addition to your diet) mixed with julienned veggies and chopped herbs, all doused with her creamy, perfectly spiced sauce made with almond butter (instead of peanut) flavored with Tamari soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, coconut palm sugar and lime juice. Along with chopped macadamia and cashews, the dish is filled with varied levels of immensely satisfying crunch, not to mention a perfect balance of sweet, salty and sour. This is a recipe that will become a Green Queen household staple.
If you have the chance to attend this incredible event next year, it is unmissable. With BeLive by the Sea, Chef P has orchestrated a wonderful experience of gastronomic learning. Raw living & fermented foods should be a part of everyone’s diet in today’s over processed world and there’s no better way to embrace raw foods in town.
Chef Peggy’s Vegan Menu
Indonesian Vegetable Skewers (Hedgehog Mushrooms, Cherry Tomato, Broccoli & Zucchini) with Peanut Satay Sauce & Coconut Creme Fraiche Semifreddo with Fresh Mango Salad.
Chef Elaina Love’s Raw Vegan Menu
My Big Fat Focaccia Bread with Herbs & Sun-dried Tomatoes, Spinach Cannelloni with Macademia Creme Fraiche, Italian Veggie Sausage, & Bell Pepper Marinara and Spumoni Pie served with Happy Cow vanilla ice cream.