By Stevie Go
In 2016 Hong Kong has averaged more than one addition per month to its all-vegan restaurant list. Over the last 12 months the number of vegan eateries in the city has doubled. Here’s the deal.
January – Veggie SF had been in business since January 2010 as a lacto ovo vego restaurant. In January 2016 this 1950s San Francisco style diner upgraded to all-vegan. Owner Paul said, “Older and wiser. Initially we set up mainly on religious reasons. As we’ve learned more it’s now more about animal compassion. Vegan is the way to go.”
March – Loving Nature had been operating as a coffee shop in Kwai Hing for a year. Then they moved to new premises allowing them operate as a cafe. As an affiliate of the Malaysia based LN/Loving Nature chain, they are all-vegan.
March – A second LN/Loving Nature affiliated presence opens in Hong Kong. Under the banner of LN Fortunate Coffee this Sai Ying Pun eatery gets the punters in for spaghetti, bagels, sandwiches and waffles. And of course coffee.
April – Veggle Cafe opens as the first all-vegan eatery in Kwun Tong. The chef is from the now demised Life Cafe. Veggle trumps Life Cafe though since Life Cafe wasn’t all-vegan. Western style food.
June – A change to the investors at what was previously Queen of the East vegetarian restaurant in Causeway Bay. Queen of the East becomes Benzhen Vegetarian but with the non-vegan ingredients removed as part of the re-brand. Benzhen retains the Buddhist philosophy of its predecessor.
August – Ohm opens in Sheung Wan marketing itself as all-vegan, all organic, all fair trade. A place for a beer or a coffee but also with a small food menu.
August – After going into partnership with the people from Alpha Living Planet, Beauty and Juice in Kwun Tong migrates to all-vegan. The migration completes in August with an all raw food vegan menu.
August – The Chinese University of Hong Kong opens an on campus vegetarian restaurant. The contract is won by the people behind Luen Wo catering. They go one better than making the food all-vegetarian. They make it the first all-vegan restaurant at any of Hong Kong’s universities. The restaurant is named Vegether.
September – How many people a year ago thought Kwun Tong would become a vegan restaurant hot spot? The Veggie opened in September 2016 to be the third all-vegan eatery opened in Kwun Tong this year. Unlike the two previously mentioned places in Kwun Tong, The Veggie is a Chinese food place. It’s a pretty fancy one at that. Exquisite ingredients are imported from ecologically oriented farmers in the fresh air of Yunnan province.
September – Anything But Salads declares the last non-vegan ingredient removed from their menu. This is little surprise since they have been edging that way for some time. They also refurbished their presence in Sheung Wan the month before to convert it to a cafe.
So ten new places for all-vegan dining have appeared in Hong Kong this year by the end of September. That is an average of 1.1 per month. Extending the time window slightly further. One year ago, there were 11 all-vegan cafes and restaurants in Hong Kong. Veggie Mami made that number 12 in October last year when they declared they had upgraded to all-vegan. Thus in the last 12 months the number of vegan eateries in Hong Kong has doubled.
In some regards this increase should be no surprise for a city of Hong Kong’s size. Tech savvy Hong Kongers are wired up and tuned in to worldwide trends. There’s the forces of resistance though pushing against the trend. The meat/dairy/egg/fish/sea food industry have highly financed lobbyists and Merchants of Doubt keen to spread anti-vegan propaganda.
Even in Hong Kong there are some slightly surprising forces pressing against all-vegan dining. In talking with the leadership team behind the recently opened Soul Concept in Wan Chai the question had to be asked: Why does the menu include lacto vegetarian food? The answer? Because they asked a certain green Hong Kong entity for advice. That entity advised them not to be all-vegan.
There will be setbacks along the way. Popular Vegetarian was a sad all-vegan loss at New Year to what was likely exorbitant rent increases. At some time another place will close or revert to non-vegan. The overall trend is overwhelmingly clear though. Hong Kong is following the trend from other parts of the world. All-vegan restaurants are increasingly part of the HK dining scene and will be here to stay.
The growth rate so far in 2016 of Hong Kong all-vegan restaurants will rival anywhere on earth. There’s currently 21 Hong Kong all-vegan eateries elevating themselves above other restaurants that claim to target healthy, compassionate, environmentally-minded customers. What will be the next addition to the list?
Stevie Go is the creator of the vegan blog hkveg.wordpress.com. He is also the Chief Organiser of meetup group Meat Free Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong Ambassador for the happycow.net worldwide directory of healthy eating.