What is at stake in plant-based cuisine; with Kheng and Lilly
With a passion for cooking and plant-life, Kheng and Lilly, a young couple with Malaysian and British background, dedicate their lives to holistic awesomeness. Not only does their cafe, Seeds & Sunshine, serve up wholesome plant-based food, but it also plays host to workshops dedicated to wellness and mental health in their community space on the 2nd floor. The welcoming space aims to provide a sanctuary for people to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, and relax in a peaceful garden atmosphere.
What is Seeds & Sunshine?
Seeds & Sunshine is a plant based cafe and community space focusing on wellness.
The focus and mission of Seeds & Sunshine?
We sell more than just food; we want to promote wellness and sustainable living. We sell plants, promote other plant-based cafes and producers of plant based foods, we run diverse events promoting wellness from mental health through to movement workshops, and we collaborate with other businesses to promote environmental sustainability.
Through our actions, menu and events we aim to plant a seed of curiosity with everyone and begin to grow a conscious community of like-minded people.
How did your couple start Seeds & Sunshine?
To cut a long story short, we love cooking and plants.
Lilly made the change to a vegan diet and lifestyle after completing her yoga teacher training with The Yoga Institute, Thailand in 2014. And Kheng has been very active in crossfit since 2014, doing at least 5 classes a week. We have both learnt a lot about overall health since 2017, combining our knowledge to lead better lives; mental health and well-being, nutrition, physiology to social interactions. The more we learn, the more this knowledge inspires us to continue to lead this lifestyle and improve our diet and to be more environmentally sustainable.
As we became aware of new ways of living, we were always looking for places and people to guide us and inspire us. Now we are in a position where we too can share tips and strategies to build a conscious lifestyle.
Future plan for Seeds & Sunshine?
Lilly also runs another business with her partner Jen, Mindful Sparks – a mindfulness company and consultancy. Seeds & Sunshine and Mindful Sparks will use the space as a platform to implement community based projects such as recycling campaigns, mindfulness seminars, trauma sensitive yoga, anti-bullying awareness etc. We are also looking to use the space in the evenings to host events such as wellness and dinner events as well as talks and workshops to start creating dialogue around current issues impacting our lives and our world.
How have you learned about plant-based cuisine?
All through cooking at home. Kheng comes from Malaysia and has a multi-ethnic background. His passion for cooking started through learning from his mother and while living on his own in Australia and Thailand. Lilly originates from the UK and lived in China for 6 years before moving to Thailand. We have experienced a very broad range of culinary delights. Our focus is firstly on nutrition, secondly on flavour, then texture.
We will be constantly learning. As science breaks more barriers and more information is readily shared with the general public, plant based cuisine will continue to evolve and grow. A lot of our menu came about through trial and error for years, we see something we like, re-create it then pull it apart to see if we can make it healthier or more nutritionally balanced.
Your biggest challenge when you first start a vegetarian cafe and plant-based cuisine?
The biggest challenge for us is still the bias to not eating meat. People will tell us how much they enjoy our food but they could not ever give up meat because “How else would we get our protein??” or “How can vegan food taste good without meat?”.
We’re sure many vegans experience the same thing and for all those who say they could not stop eating meat our response is, we’re still alive and thriving! We both workout at least 5 days a week combining Crossfit and yoga and we are doing fine…
Currently, our clientele are mainly non-Thais as the meals we create are more known outside so for some foreigners there is the element of home-cooked food in our menu which attracts them. We are looking how to be more inclusive to the Thai community and include flavours and meals that they would enjoy. We have started by adding in some delicious salads, influenced by Malaysian and Thai flavours.
Have you worked with meat substitutes or any other producers who offer innovative artificial meat on a laboratory basis (cell-based meat/clean meat) ?
We don’t actually work with meat substitutes such as mock meat or other processed items; we use plants, tofu, nuts, grains, seeds etc to create all of our dishes. We have tried a few brands they’re sold all over the UK. We don’t really like them because they taste too much like the real thing. Maybe we will take to them more in the future, who knows.
Is there a trend of restaurants with vegetarian/vegan menus recently and plant-based cuisine?
To be honest, not that we are aware of. From what we’ve seen so far, these menus are not the most nutritious – they usually have only 1 or 2 types of vegetables in each dish and a tiny amount of tofu or soy protein. We feel most restaurants don’t really offer balanced meals (or understand nutrition) for vegans or vegetarians. On a more positive note, most Thai restaurants that don’t have a vegetarian/vegan menu are very accommodating in making vegan/vegetarian dishes.
We focus on what we can do and we do it well. There are definitely fads every year with “super foods”, acacia, avocados, spirulina to name but a few. We try not to follow these fads as all foods when combined into a balanced diet are good for us. Also, a lot of these “superfoods” have heavy ethical considerations such as exploitation to take into account so if we do use these foods, we buy locally and seasonally.
How do you see the plant-based cuisine and plant-based movement, both as world movement and as in Bangkok?
Overall, people do seem to be coming more aware of the positive impacts a plant based lifestyle and plant-based cuisine can have not only on an individual level but also on a regional and global level. Popularity of vegan food is already picking up in the west, especially in the UK. You can check the statistics for plant-based food sales on Plant Based News (https://www.plantbasednews.org/), they are a very good online resource.
Social media is also a wonderful tool to learn more from others and to delve deeper into areas of plant-based cuisine that isn’t immediately accessible to us in Bangkok. But there are definitely lots of exciting places to explore in Bangkok and we would recommend using Happy Cow to find out where these places are!
How can restaurants/ hotels/ cooks… communicate the approach of innovative sustainable plant-based food/ food chains and plant-based cuisine to others?
Education is key, allowing effective communication to take place in a safe space supports not only the industry but also the individual businesses and creates dialogue for consumers and customers to make informed decisions about what they are eating.
Scholars of Sustenance (who we support) do some great outreach work on food waste with schools, definitely check them out!