Social media platform for plant-based dining options worldwide, abillion, has just launched its 2021 Singapore Top 50 Vegan Dish Awards, curated from more than 40,000 reviews across 16,000 dishes. The launch reflects a growing movement of plant-based dinery in the city-state.
In Asia, a vegetarian diet is hardly a new trend. Four of the top five global vegetarian markets are based in Asia Pacific. As of 2018, India had the world’s biggest population of vegetarians (390 million, or 38 per cent of their population), followed by Indonesia (66.9 million), China (51.9 million), and Pakistan (33.2 million). Asia also has a long history of imitation meat. But as meat and dairy substitutes advance into the mainstream, food outlets have been supporting the plant-based movement by introducing alternative protein options like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods to their menus. The global meat substitutes industry is worth $20.7 billion and is set to grow to $23.2 billion by 2024, according to Euromonitor, a market research company.
Going plant-based is considered the “single biggest measure” people can take to reduce their individual carbon footprint, by up to 73 per cent, according to researchers at Oxford University. Here in Singapore, the city voted most vegan-friendly by PETA Asia in 2016 (second only to Taipei, Taiwan), the plant-based movement is gaining momentum. Informal eateries tend to have a vast range of options that cater to the city’s sizeable population of vegetarian Buddhist and Hindus. The desire for meat and dairy alternatives is being further driven by concerns about animal welfare, health and the environment.
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Singapore’s own biotech company, TurtleTree Labs, and winners of The Liveability Challenge 2020, is championing the way for lab-grown milk as an alternative to cow’s milk, while the Singapore Food Agency in March approved lab-grown meat for human consumption.
According to abillion, over two-thirds of its users do not identify as vegan but clearly, consumers are demanding more plant-based options. Over 500 restaurants in Singapore currently offer vegan and vegetarian dining options to cater for the full and part-time veggies with more than half of the food outlets featured in this top-ten offering hybrid menus.
So, what is on the top-ten menu?
1. The Kind Pho by The Kind Bowl
This plant-based version of the signature Vietnamese chicken soup is served with silky flat rice noodles in a spiced umami broth. Its shredded and marinated “no-chicken” seitan is made of wheat gluten, and accompanied by grilled oyster mushrooms, sprouts, fresh herbs and lime. Customer @mariatirador attests to its authenticity on abillion: “Tasted like a chicken pho as I remember it.”
2. Chilli Krab Burger by VeganBurg Singapore
Alexander Tan, founder of Veganburg, said that when he brought the world’s first 100 per cent plant-based burger joint in Singapore, his customer base was 70 per cent vegetarian. Now, 80 per cent of his patrons are non-vegetarian — a testament to Singapore’s growing interest for plant-based dining. An ode to a local favourite, this burger features a crunchy patty topped with a sweet and tangy chilli crab sauce, along with Romanian lettuce, coriander, and a generous scoop of creamy vegan aioli.
3. Unagi Maki by Herbivore
Established with a vision to create Singapore’s first fully vegetarian restaurant, Herbivore serves an exciting array of Japanese and Western fusion cuisine. The unagi maki offers a convincing plant-based alternative to a fish-based maki. “I don’t know how they do it but the unagi is super flavourful, sweet yet savoury, and just the right amount of crisp ones to complement the chewiness of the rice” says @aishahalattas on abillion.
4. Mexican Fajita Wrap by Genius Central
Reviewed by popular Singaporean food blogger Seth Lui, Genius Central “serves up honest-to-goodness dishes that are prepared with utter care and finesse.” Its food packs highly nutritional and organic ingredients into their plant-based menu. Their mexican wrap offers a variety of fresh guacamole, tomato and corn salsas and crispy potato chunks with a house-made smoky mexican sauce.
5. Katzoo by Sunny Slices
Sunny Slices offers a tasty vegan-alternative to dairy-laden pizzas using fresh vegetables and plant-based Impossible meat to recreate Italian favourites. The Katzoo is topped with their house vegan bulldog saucem nori, seseame seeds, Katsu ‘chicken’ chunks, white cabbage and vegan kewpie mayonnaise. Customer @sarahcyh gives it five stars on abillion and writes: “I cannot say enough good things about this!!…I LOVE the vegan Kewpie mayo!!!!”
6. Plant Power Breakfast by Privé
Singapore’s Privé Group is working to increase its plant-based menu options to cater for the demand from vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. “The plant power breakfast was created to give a delicious plant-based alternative to the usual meat-centric big breakfast plates served in cafes,” Yuan Oeij, owner and chairman of Privé Group, told abillion. “I’m thrilled that both vegans and omnivores have embraced this dish.”
7. Veganlicious by Shake Farm
With a delectable variety of workout shakes and DIY salads, Shake Farm caters to plant-based fitness junkies and is conveniently located in the heart of Singapore’s Central Business District. For those looking for a protein hit, this colourful bowl comes packed with baby spinach, tri-colour quinoa, sweet and smoky roasted carrots and squash, red ion, cherry tomatoes, mixed seeds, dried cranberries, beetroot hummus and lemon vinaigrette. Customer @wordpainterx on abillion adds. “I was especially impressed by the artisanal smoked paprika cashew cheese handcrafted by Nut Culture, which was perfectly creamy, rich, and savoury!”
8. Kimchi Jigae by The Boneless Kitchen
If you’re a fan of Korean cuisine, be sure to check out The Boneless Kitchen which re-creates animal-free traditional Korean recipes. Furthermore, they’re a socially-inclusive workplace that hires special needs employees. Customer @fxk on abillion writes, “the family loved it. Boneless kitchen serves lovely Korean-style dishes. They’re vegetarian and extremely vegan friendly.”
9. Afterglow Kimchi Avo Rolls by Afterglow
This flagship dish was what convinced owners of Afterglow to fully realise their restaurant. Fermented for seven days, this maki roll is coupled with coarsely ground almond: a creative carbohydrate-free substitute for rice. It is also topped with creamy avocado, sesame seeds, and the restaurant’s housemade chilli sauce. “My non-vegan friend said she would come back and just order five plates of this.” says @shinghui on abillion.
10. Vegan Protein Bowl by Avorush
As the name suggests, this healthy eatery is for avocado diehards. Having made the list two years in a row, the Australia-based food company seeks to share dietary choices from down-under without compromising on flavour and health. One of their co-founders even doubles up at the restaurant’s nutritionist. “This place won one of our Top 50 Vegan Dishes of 2020 and they haven’t slowed down in introducing amazing new vegan options like the spicy edamame and spicy bulgar. And of course the Cajun spiced tofu which is still absolutely divine!” says abillion’s founder, @vikas.