Hello MKLZ Family!
When I was 13 I decided to try going vegetarian for a week. After that week passed, I never ate meat again and after 6 years I became vegan. I’ve now been vegan for 4 years and don’t see myself stopping anytime soon!
I wouldn’t say I’m defined by being vegan, but the lifestyle I’ve chosen has led me on some great adventures—becoming a head chef, starting my own vegan blog, SSAYANG, and learning new things every day.
People often ask if I miss meat, or tell me they would be vegan too, they just can’t give up cheese or eggs. I feel I personally don’t get cravings because I started and still practice this lifestyle for ethical reasons. Choosing to be vegan is a mental thing before anything else!
There’s a perception that being vegan is restrictive and quite frankly impossible. So I thought I’d share a few tips I’ve picked up along the way that have made vegan eating a whole lot easier.
My Top 5 Tips To Make Eating Vegan Easy
Eat & buy local
People think eating vegan is expensive, but the reality is it’s as expensive as you want it to be! Yes, you can buy chia-seeds, acai berry pulp, and expensive imported ingredients, but there are also so many great local options that are just as nutritious and delicious, and so much cheaper.
I’m such a big advocate for buying locally because it means your food will be fresher, more sustainable and affordable. Some of my favourites living here in Malaysia are tempeh, fresh coconut milk, tropical fruits, vegetables, and local herbs and spices.
When eating out, ask for strict vegetarian, not vegan
Eating out can really be a struggle. From servers not understanding what you’re asking for to having your request completely disregarded—patience is integral to eating out as a vegan, especially in Asia.
What I’ve learned is that a lot of people don’t understand what the term ‘vegan’ means, hence why they don’t understand what you’re asking. ‘Strict vegetarian’ is more widely understood because of local Jain & Buddhist vegetarian practices. Skip any misunderstandings by saying ‘strict vegetarian, but onion and garlic are fine’ for your order.
Also, run through specific ingredients you want to omit. Sometimes they’ll say there’s no dairy in a dish but once you start going through the list—butter, yoghurt, cream—they’ll realise it does actually contain it.
Know your plant-based proteins
One of my biggest pet peeves people thinking a vegetarian/vegan dish should be exactly the same as a regular dish minus the meat. It’s no wonder people feel like they’re missing out when the main component of their dish is taken out with no replacement! I love my salads don’t get me wrong, but a couple of leaves and a side of chips is pretty miserable.
Vegans are not protein deficient, so it’s more about having a meal with substance than obsessing over having enough protein. Familiarise yourself with plant-based proteins and see how you can incorporate them into your meals. If you’re taking the meat out of a dish when eating out, ask for some tofu or chickpeas to be added.
People think that there’s nothing to eat once you’ve cut out meat, dairy and eggs, but funnily enough the more I cut out certain ingredients, the more creative I became with food. With certain restrictions, you’re forced to learn how to use ingredients in different ways. Vegetables that are considered sides can become the star of your dish when treated right!
Vegetables stuffed with plant-based proteins, using alternative ingredients for baking, making your own dumpling stuffings—these are some of the ways I’ve played around with simple ingredients to create unexpected dishes. Get inspired and be creative!
Don’t be hard on yourself
So many times, I’ve heard people trying to go full force vegan then giving up a week later. I think it’s great that people are becoming more conscious of their food choices, but I don’t think it should be a struggle!
If mentally you’re not prepared, then forcing yourself to cut out things you love will only backfire because you’ll put yourself in a bad mindset. I don’t believe we should be bound by labels—if you can’t be a vegan full time it doesn’t mean you should give up entirely. It’s better to make smaller changes that you can actually sustain than do nothing at all.
Start with a day or two a week that you eat vegan and slowly increase this as you become more comfortable and confident.
If you’d like to see more of what I make and eat as a vegan living in Malaysia, I post original vegan recipes on my blog SSAYANG as well as tips, reviews, and vegan travel guides. Follow me on Instagram as well if you’d like to see more of what I eat on the regular.
Note: For those of you who don’t know the difference between vegetarian and vegan, on top of not eating any meat, fish or poultry, vegans also don’t consume any animal by-products—eggs, dairy, honey, gelatin etc. This also extends to lifestyle choices, so no leather, fur, suede, beeswax or products tested on animals.