Artisanal Vegan cheese are finally available in Bangkok.
I have to admit that I can’t complain about the variety of vegan food in Bangkok. There are many vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, and it is easy to find meat substitutes. I even stopped making my own tempeh because a Thai brand started selling it at decent prices in some supermarkets. But Bangkok was still lacking vegan cheeses. Not anymore.
A short intro
Let me start by introducing you to Edoardo Bonavolta, chef of Luce Restaurant at Easting Grand Hotel, and vegan-ish food lover. His story started as many other chefs, studying the traditional culinary art, and coming from the meat-loving Tuscany, veganism was not in his dictionary.
His journey started by chance when he decided to take a short personal course on raw cuisine with chef Jillian Love, without actually knowing it would be all vegan. Nonetheless, he got interested and started including some elements of raw cooking in his dishes.
As for many others, some health issues made him rethink the way he was eating. He started noticing some problems with his kidneys and decided to change his diet, to eat cleaner and healthier.
He went back to Italy for a while and read a book by Michele Riefoli: “Mangiare sano e natural con la dieta Veganic” (Eating healthy and natural with the Veganic diet), which gave him some ideas to improve his diet.
The next step was joining the Living Light Culinary Institute in California for an intensive course on raw cuisine which introduced him to vegan cheese making and other fermented foods.
Back to Bangkok, chef Edoardo, together with his kitchen staff, planned a raw food menu for an entire month, receiving a great feedback both from critics and customers.
Meanwhile he started experimenting at home with vegan cheese making, producing higher and higher quality nut-based cheeses.
His base is almost always made of cashews, sometime mixed with almonds and/or macadamia, blended and injected with probiotics to start the fermentation in a controlled environment. His three masterpieces are white truffle, porcini mushrooms and chilli flavoured cheeses.
Stay tuned for many new fermented products coming from Barefood.
Finally, a new vegan menu is available at Luce Restaurant until the end of June and you should definitely try it. Here it is my short review of the vegan cheeses I had the chance to try and the dishes of the vegan menu at Eastin Grand Hotel.
Vegan Cheeses Review
I had the chance to try the 100% cashew-based white truffle, porcini mushroom and chilli cheeses.
Firstly, I have to say that the quality has improved immensely compared to Edoardo’s first experiments. Before the sourness of the fermentation was very strong while in the last batches the flavour is quite balanced. The consistency is improved, too, coming very close to that of other spreadable cheeses, like goat cheese. I say goat cheese, because that’s the closest cheese I can think about, with his strong personality and distinct flavour.
Regarding the specific cheese, the porcini mushroom one was probably my favourite because it had that strong umami flavour of mushrooms and a different consistency between the external layer and the inside, due to the fermentation and the exposure to the air.
Second place for the white truffle, with its balanced and delicate flavour, while the bronze goes to the chilli cheese, because Thai chillies tend to overcome the flavour of the cheese.
Raw & Vegan Menu Review
We started off with a Raw Gazpacho, very refreshing and light, perfect for hot weathers and to get in all the micronutrients you need.
Then we moved to our second dish, The Beautiful Mind, a wonderful mix of raw sauerkraut, melon, blueberries, cashew and olive oil mayo, and flax and chia seeds crackers. I was surprised by this dish. The sourness of the sauerkraut was well balanced by the richness of the mayo and the freshness of the melon and berries. And those crackers are to die for!
Next on the list That’s not a Caprese!, a raw version of the famous Italian dish, this time prepared with fresh almond cheese, cherry tomatoes emulsion, raw pesto, beef tomato, capers and sun-dried tomatoes. This dish fully captures the Mediterranean tastes of the traditional caprese salad, with the bonus of a delicious fresh vegan cheese and raw pesto. Definitely my favorite.
Starting to get full, but moving on the simple yet deliciously balanced Rice & ‘Shrooms: a mix of rice, champignon mushrooms, truffle vegan cheese, black truffle and coriander. Elegant in its simplicity. The truffle vegan cheese gives the dish an extra kick.
Moving on to Pici and Veggies. Another very simple dish, prepared with homemade wholewheat pici pasta, grilled vegetables and grated vegan cheese. This felt like a dish my nonna could prepare! Very homely.
Last but not least Mango Passion, a raw cheese cake with vanilla coconut cream, mango cream and passion fruit. Very refreshing, although the base was slightly bitter covering some of the cream flavors.
I am extremely happy to see more and more fine dining restaurants experimenting with vegan cuisine and it is great to see a professional chef like Edoardo Bonavolta, leading the way of artisanal vegan cheeses in Bangkok. I can’t wait to see the next products coming out of Barefood!