What’s it like being a Young Vegan in Singapore?

Being a young vegan in Singapore, I am often mistaken as a junior college/poly student. People tell me I look like I am 17-18 years old.

Being a female, I love it when my looks does not match my real age. 😀

Of course, this means that sometimes I am taken lightly by people who believed they are more experienced than me, when they are in fact, younger than me.

It can get a bit frustrating sometimes. But we can’t all have eat our vegan cake and have it too right? 😛

For people who are curious about my age: I am 23 years old, and will be turning 24 this August.

I have shared my story on how I became vegan on 31 Jan 2012. In it, I mentioned how the influence of me turning vegan was due to my aussie friend, Liam. He showed me how easy it is to prepare vegan food at home.

Of course, eating vegan food is easy. But making it, or even having easily accessible vegan food here in Singapore is a challenge.

When I first arrived back in Singapore, it was the start of a new semester back in university. So I could get food from the school canteen as there are vegetarian stalls.

However, after eating healthily in Australia for 11 days, my body did not enjoy the oily food that was being served by the vegetarian stalls. Now, this is where the misconception of vegetarian food in Singapore arises – food must be oily to be tasty.

Why do I say this? Singapore is a food (meat) paradise. Almost all of our well known dishes are high in sodium content, high in (saturated) fat and contains bad cholesterol. Such that our government has to get hawkers to cook healthier versions of their signature dishes.

On the 6th day, I could not take it any longer. I decided to remake the vegan homemade tofu salad that I enjoyed in Australia:

Yum. 🙂

But making this salad took up a lot of my time. Maybe because I had to search for organic broccoli, organic sweet potatoes and prepare them. Or maybe, because it is more convenient to consume a meal outside instead of having to prepare food, bring food out, carry it, consume it, and bring the container back home to wash clean.

Anyway, I brought a tupperware to bring the homemade vegan tofu salad I made to uni the next day so that I could eat it during lunchtime.

I had my lunch by myself, without my usual group of friends as I did not want to explain too much about bringing food from home. Why did I do that?

When I was in primary school, I remember my mum bringing food for me and my younger brother. All I could remember was disliking the fact that my mum came to my school everyday.

Why so? On hindsight, I did not recognize the fact that I was so lucky to have a mother who cares about my diet. At the age of 10-11 years old, I gained an infamous reputation in my school that my mother always brings food for me.

It was not nice. At that age, most of us want to “fit” in with our peers, and enjoy “junk” food, such as potato chips and what nots. We also wanted to get up to mischief. If your mother visited you in school everyday during break, and will happen to “run” into your (form) teacher(s), all your movements will be reported to your mother right?

I guess whatever experiences we have when young, leaves an imprint on our mind stream. So that was the reason why I ate my lunch alone that day.

Even so, being a youth, I am also highly conformed to peer pressure. I want to “fit” in with my friends. Many, if not all of my friends, were not vegetarians. Whenever we try to organize a group dinner, they will jokingly push the blame to me, that because of my vegetarian diet, they cannot eat a lot of places. Thus, when I turned vegan, I did not widely publicize this change as I did not want to draw more unwanted attention to myself. I try to attend gatherings as much as possible – just don’t order any food there.

So how did I manage to withstand all these “negative” influences and maintain my vegan diet?

This is because I stumbled across a video where newly hatched male chicks were sorted on a factory line belt and flung into a blender alive, where their meat fed back to the mother hens.

This is the driving force behind my maintenance of  a vegan diet. I would highly recommend you to watch this:

 

After watching such a video, I can no longer live in ignorance eating any form of meat/dairy products that are easily available. I would rather go hungry than to even contribute to the suffering of these animals.

Of course, I have to be realistic – if I specially ordered my food but its mistakenly served to me with some milk/egg in it, I may eat it. Because I do not want to waste food. But if there is meat inside, I would definitely send the dish back to be re-prepared.

Being in Singapore, I have to learn to be flexible – is it better to eat the meal or return it back to the kitchen where the food will be dumped? Its a dilemma.

My friends would often tease me – so what if I don’t eat meat? There are so many other people who eat meat. Its not like me not eating meat makes a huge difference.

Personally, I partially agree with what they say. However, I always tell my friends that no matter what my choice is, at least my conscience is clear. Even if I am just a single person who is maintaining a vegan diet, I believe that somehow, at least an animal somewhere did not die to be on my plate. At least there is one less demand for meat. So hopefully, the supply of meat will also be affected.

I may not be an influential person like Bill Clinton, but at the very least I can make a small contribution.

So whatever negative criticisms I face from those friends of mine, I try not to let it affect me and instead, focus of the positive aspect that I am helping and doing my small part for the animals, society and Mother Earth

And because of that, I am thankful for the friends who treasure our friendship and choose to stand by me, respecting me for my choice(s). 🙂

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20 thoughts on “What’s it like being a Young Vegan in Singapore?

  1. hi can i ask is it harder to become a vegetarian in SG than in Aussie? Why is that so? Is social support or price of fruits and vegetables (not outside food) more significant as a barrier to becoming vegetarian/vegan in Aussie as compared to Singapore? Thanks!!

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    1. Hi meihuitan, it is not harder 🙂 all we just need is the push to go vegetarian, be it health, concern for the environment, or concern for the animals well being. 🙂 Cheers, Amanda

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  2. Hi Amanda! I recently discovered your blog and I wanted to thank you for being such a huge inspiration. As a young vegan too (16 years old hahah) reading this post really helped me to be more proud of my veganism and share it with friends openly 🙂 looking forward to reading more posts on your amazing blog 🙂

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    1. Hi Gina!

      Thanks for the positive comment and giving the inspiration to motivate me to blog more! It is a pleasure to know that you are a fellow vegan too and that is amazing! Please continue striving and I am so proud of you too. You are an inspiration to everyone around you! 🙂

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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  3. Hey Amanda,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about becoming vegan, I have found it really useful and inspiring. I have passed on that heart breaking video to friends who I have been discussing these matters with recently. It cannot fail to shock them, as they don’t seem to be aware of the abuse that goes on, like the majority of people.

    I am going to endeavour to cut out eggs and diary now for sure! I have never even liked eggs and it frustrates me I have made myself eat them on many occasions when parents have forced me to “for the protein”, or I have felt that I should as they are good for me. Drinking milk is just so unethical and makes me bloated. It is so easy to find alternatives now like soya, rice and oat milk. With a bit of effort and research it is not that difficult to have a balanced, healthy and more ethical vegan diet.

    I totally agree with not wasting food either if someone serves it to you unknowingly. I wouldn’t expect people to cook me vegan food when I visit them, vegetarian alone is a big job for many!

    Keep up the good work Amanda 🙂

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    1. Hey Anita!

      Thank you for sharing with me your thoughts, and endeavour to cut out both eggs and dairy from your diet. 🙂

      I agree with you that its best not to expect people to cook vegan food when visiting. However, from my point of view, I greatly treasure those friends of mine who respect my diet, and go out of their way to ensure that the food they cook for me is vegan, even if its just a salad. To me, those friends are true friends! 😀

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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  4. Hi Amanda, I moved to SG from the UK about 2yrs ago, and have been on a health kick lately…while I’m not a vegan, I try to eat healthy and it is so difficult to find anything that is remotely healthy unless you want to travel and pay a lot. For office workers like me, it is really a struggle. I had to go out today, ended up getting Briani, and I was sooo grossed out when I saw how much oil was swimming on the plate that I only ate part of the dish. I think it is time to start packing lunch…
    I’m not sure why so many people here like greasy, salty food…and when it is mixed it with white rice/noodles, it is surprising that many more people aren’t unhealthy or overweight. If enough people demand healthy food, I’m sure more restaurants will start opening to cater to the need…I just hope they will charge a reasonable rate.

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    1. Hello Single Christians,

      What you just mentioned here, is exactly what I feel about healthy eating in Singapore. While I am not a health nut, I try to go for healthier options here whenever I am out (and I am always out). It is not easy to eat cheap (reasonable and affordable) without the huge amount of oil or MSG used in the food. Not to mention the preservatives/pesticides that are contained within the food.

      Personally, I rather spend a bit more on food, and cut down on spending in other areas. I find that when I eat food that are organic, if not as natural as possible, I find that I do not fall sick as often. That way, the money that I saved on medical care is spent on wholesome food. Of course, I love your spirit of packing your own lunch. It is very admirable. I myself find it too troublesome to pack my own lunch here in Singapore, when there are many food choices available here…with piping hot choices (fresher too!). Once in a blue moon, I do pack my own lunch. Do let me know your progress, and your lunch meals! I’m sure they will be delicious! 🙂

      With regard to the demand for healthier food, I noticed that more and more eateries are coming up. However, it is not an easy task for many to survive. Most eateries have to deal with the high cost of rental, staff and ingredients. In the F&B business, the pay is not very high, hours are long, and many of the present eateries are finding it tough to get enough manpower. Hence, most healthy eateries have to charge a higher price to cover their overheads. This leads to lesser customers. Frankly, I am glad that there are many more healthier eateries now in Singapore as compared to last time. One thing we can do is to support these eateries as much as possible…by spreading the word around friends etc. Like yourself, I do hope that there will be more such places opening in Singapore…and that they will charge a reasonable rate so that healthier food can be more available to the masses… 🙂

      Thanks for writing in and sharing your thoughts with me – I really appreciate it!

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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  5. Hi, amanda.
    Glad to read your blog and know your experience with vegan diet.
    I am a vegan too.
    As for eating outside, I always go to the mixed veg stall. Though there are more non-veg there, I still have some choices and the dishes are healthy. The main problem is that they always add some tiny fish or prawn in the veg which make it difficult to order.
    The next one is the Tofo stall which is also located in most foodcourts.
    As for restaurants, I always believe i could always find one vegan dish for myself.
    I joined one meetup group recently, maybe you can join to if you like to meet like-minded people.
    http://www.meetup.com/singapore-vegetarian/

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    1. Hello Yongqiang,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with me. However I would rather get biscuits or bread instead of eating at normal “cai fan” stores as the utensils they used are also used to grab meat dishes. Plus Yong Tau Fu stores are cooked in the fish base as Yong Tau Fu are filled with fishcake. Otherwise I always go for vegetarian stores, which are at least “cleaner” and there are more vegetarian stores now in kopitiams/food court.

      Thanks for your suggestion about the vegetarian meetup group. I recently had the good fortune to meet Neil, who is in-charge of this meetup group. Hopefully we can meet each other soon at one of the meetups.

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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  6. Hi, Amanda.

    Thanks for your seemingly sincere, carefully considered, thought-provoking and intimate reflection. I easily related to it and subsequently, had no reservation about wanting to discuss your points.

    With my experiences, I concur that food providers – especially commercial ones – generally favour oily food. However, note that I used the general term “food providers”. I suspect that oily options are, mostly, not specific to vegetarian, vegan or any diet or cuisine. It is also not confined to any place. Regarding S’pore’s vegetarian / vegan food, I believe that one probably encounters greasy food at most of the relevant hawker stalls. Still, restaurants and homes err in that respect too.

    This apparent penchant for oil is entrenched (perpetuated) through cookbooks with glossy pictures of slick or luscious food dressed with or doused in oil and its ilk, the common cooking techniques and recipies that involve excessive fat, children being served and accustomed to greasy food and more. The disposition towards fat can be cultural and personal. Raw salad, for instance, is almost invariably conceived in Western cuisine as being coated with olive oil. Such salad, after being smoothened, softened and flavoured with some oil, may be more palatable to someone. It matters too that some oils are touted to be better than others and that often unsaid is the calories and total fat which any oil exacts.

    For fussy eaters like me, the search for eateries that avail healthier fare and for healthier products is often despairing and draining (by the way, I’m mostly a lacto-ovo vegetarian so my choices may be fewer than the typical health-sensitive person). Often, the thought of imbibing food that is ‘waxed’ or salty but is otherwise tempting, dampens the desire. The odds for achieving moderate; dietary delight are against us. Yet, the health authority’s promotion of and consumers’ informed clamour for healthier options is promising. Hopefully, food providers will respond accordingly and to an enhanced extent. Till then, self-prepared fare or mass-produced items that at least meet our health and(or) ethical standards seems superior. So, sustain the ‘self-service’ sentiment, Amanda :p

    Lastly, I second your stance that everyone matters. We are individuals who have the right and responsibility to pick or act scrupulously and freely. We should be self-privileging sometimes insofar as we live on our terms whenever we deem that apt. What we decide and do should at least sometimes be meaningful to us even if it is meaningless to others. This is partially as we answer to ourselves as much as or more than to others. Furthermore, as in electoral voting, I believe that our vote for vegetarianism or veganism and our actions in accordance with that selection may be decisive. For example, each of that choice is necessary if we aim to cease the killing and rearing of animals for food. For such an objective, one may be in the clarifying but chimerical circumstance in which one is the only one eating meat. One’s disavowal of meat-eating then terminates the practice till a meat-eater materialises.

    I eagerly await comments from you or anyone else. Thanks aplenty. 🙂

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    1. Hello Passer-by, thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge with me. It is great to know that you are a lacto-ovo vegetarian who strives to eat at eateries that provide healthier food and carry healthier products. I can fully empathize with your experience. For me, I will try to search for vegetarian eateries online in the area I will be in so that at least I have an option. If I can’t find any, I will bring a snack bar for some food so that it can keep my stomach occupied. Otherwise, some fruits would do fine too. Just a quick question, have you tried eating at eateries such as Nutrihub, Honzen and Yes Natural? They are just some examples of places that serve such food. If you have, do share with me your experience – I would love to hear it! 🙂

      I think I can understand your analogy. Humans like to fit in. So if everyone does not eat meat, then the one who eats meat will switch to a diet that is what the rest are eating. The power of conformity? Although this prospect of everyone on Earth is a veg*an sounds really appealing to me (How awesome that I don’t need to search for vegan food since all food options are vegan – yayyy!), I still believe that everyone’s diet ultimately is their choice. We can share with others the benefits of a vegan diet, and if they choose it, its admirable. If not, we can still respect each other’s choices and live in harmony. 🙂

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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      1. Hi, Amanda.

        Thanks for your reply.

        You enquired about Nutrihub. I patronised Nutrihub about a year ago and I was ambivalent about it. Perhaps I expected excessively. Indeed, its website might foster in readers the impression that it is a sanctuary where nutritious food is served and where spirit and body will be reinvigorated or redirected positively. Certainly, I was also my usual fussy self.

        I ordered a meal. I cannot remember the exact dishes or ingredients. Still, I recall having had sides of vegetable, a serving of brown rice and a small bowl of soup concocted with some bean and maybe other ingredients.

        Thankfully, none of the ingredients was fried. The soup also seemed oil-less. The amount of salt used was acceptable too.

        I would have been pleased if the dishes were blanched or steamed and that oil was omitted. The serving portions also might be small for some people. It might then be slightly costly to these people.

        Despite my reservations, I am comforted by Nutrihub’s concept and philosophy. I sense the staffers’ sincerity in furnishing healthier fare. The lady who attended to me tried to accommodate my requests for less oil to figure in my order. She even accosted me while I consumed and asked about my thoughts on the dishes. Of course, I patronised when the eatery had few customers. Thus, I enjoyed attentive and prompt service.

        I also only sampled one small segment of Nutrihub’s menu. Thus, my overall opinion of Nutrihub should differ with a taste of its other offerings.

        Perhaps you will visit Nutrihub and share your relevant experience with readers of your blog. I am intrigued about your take on Nutrihub. You should consider patronising the establishment in the late afternoon; from about 2pm-5pm. You may then better chat with the operators, have a quiet meal and enjoy superb service. You can call the outlet or view its website to learn the day’s meal.

        I inferred from your post(s) that you are an undergraduate. If I inferred rightly, I’m curious about your thoughts on your tertiary institution’s vegetarian options. My experience with a university’s vegetarian canteen stalls is that they charge much lower prices than other eateries. That is commendable. Their dishes are often simply designed and cooked. Depending on one’s preferences, that may be fine or frustrating. I note that apparently, bloggers who review vegetarian/vegan cuisine tend not to highlight school canteens’ stalls. Thus, some gems may be missed.

        Thanks 😛

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      2. Hi passer-by, I am glad that you really enjoyed your dine-in experience at Nutrihub. I’ve eaten at Nutrihub when they were located at Orchard Plaza. As you mentioned, their staff are really sincere, which was evident when I ordered my meals at there. We usually engage in a little chat about the healthy food. My all-time favorite is their seaweed roll, made of raw vegetables (with vegan mayonnaise) is my favorite meal for studying. Looks like I have to make a trip down one day to their new location at Chinatown! 🙂

        Actually, I am currently about to enter university again, but this time as a graduate student. I really enjoyed eating at my undergraduate’s vegetarian stalls as frequent customer that the uncles and aunties will greet me. Actually, I am currently discussing with one of the university vegetarian stall whose carrot cake I really enjoy eating at the most reasonable price of 50cents! Hopefully I will be able to share it with my readers, such as you! 🙂

        I’m really grateful that you took your precious time to share with me your thoughts. Please do keep them coming!

        Cheers,
        Amanda

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  7. Hey Amanda, nice to see another young vegan in Singapore. 🙂 Hope there will be many more of us in the near future. I just wanted to say that I’ve actually found it quite easy to find good vegan food in Singapore, though of course not without some research before going out. Even when I don’t do my research though, I’ve found it quite easy to vegan-ize my food. Perhaps you could give my blog a read the next time you need inspiration to eat out 🙂 http://veganash.wordpress.com

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    1. Thank you Luke! I love your Hungry Ang Mo posts too. Your site is really well managed and I am learning from you. 😀

      Cheers,
      Amanda

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