“Hi, my name is Amanda Teng and I am a vegan.”

“Huh? What’s a ….*inserts wrong pronunciation*…. vegan?”

“A vegan. Erm, I am a strict vegetarian, I don’t take milk, eggs… any form of dairy product.”

This is usually the reply I give when people ask me what a vegan is.

For those who are more curious, they will inquire more about my lifestyle, the food I am able to eat in Singapore. Some friends will jokingly ask me to eat the grass by the roadside when there is no vegetarian option available for me. Others, who have a better idea of what a vegetarian is, will ask if I take onion and garlic. (In Singapore, some Buddhists do not consume onion and garlic as they are considered “black food”.)

For the record, I enjoy being a vegan in Singapore. There are more food options available right now than before. And I take onion and garlic.

For my interested readers, I have been a vegetarian (on-off vegan) for 13 years of my life, finally making the life-changing decision to go vegan on my 21st birthday.

This was me and Liam showing off the vegan cupcakes (vegan chocolate cake in background) right after we got them straight out of the oven!

For me, taking the plunge to becoming a vegan is all due to the influence of this good friend of mine, Liam. I’ll leave you to read the below article which can also be found at: http://vegvibe.com/VegVibeMar10.pdf

When I was young, I underwent a hole-in-the-heart operation at about the age of 5. I was deem normal and had a “normal” diet. However, there was once I fell sick due to an overdose of chicken wings. I think it was fried chicken wings. At that time, my family just adopted Buddhism as our religion.

As such, my family also converted to a vegetarian diet. My mum would bring vegetarian food for us in primary school as there was no vegetarian stall.

In my secondary school, there was no vegetarian stall. As such, I survived on my order of “wanton mee, no wanton, no char siew, more cai xin”. Because of this, the stall owners recognized me and due to my frequent ordering, I did not need to repeat my order. :P

Then came junior college. I enjoyed my 1st 3 months junior college as there was a vegetarian stall. And, during peak periods, there would be only a short queue for vegetarian as nobody else ate it unless they were in a rush. My friends would rather queue for other stalls.

However, my “permanent” junior college also did not contain a vegetarian stall. Instead, it was famous for its chicken rice stall. It was not easy to get food. :(

Being I was a vegetarian, I didn’t quite like to eat eggs, and especially, dislike drinking milk, except for those that are strongly flavored. So, there will be periods where I would set myself a mental goal – No eggs for the next 2-3 months. It was on the whole, quite successful.

I met Liam in 2005 when he was just embarking on his vegetarian journey. He just turned vegetarian, but was still eating white meat such as fish. During a inter-school gathering in Australia at a place with lots of roasted meat, Liam and me were the only ones served a special dish. That was how our friendship started.

As I wanted to celebrate my 21st birthday in Australia, we reconnected. I learnt that he became vegan at the start of 2009. I was willing to undergo a vegan diet during the few days I stayed with him.

It was easy.

Thus, I decided that I would maintain my vegan diet when I am back in my home country.

Coming back to Singapore, I found that it was really tough to eat vegan outside. Being a Singaporean, I find it easier to eat out than to cook everyday as eating out is more convenient and less time consuming. The easiest way was to eating vegan was to go to vegetarian hawker stalls and order dishes without eggs in them. But there was not many stalls and you need to know where they are.

It is usually easier if you head to a restaurant where they can prepare your “special diet” meal such as the one below I had in September 2009. But it is more expensive and not suitable for everyday consumption.

Do share with me your vegetarian/vegan journey! :D