My parents lived in Cambodia under the communist Khmer Rouge government when Pol Pot was the leader in the late 1970s.
At the time my parents decided to flee their home country, my mother was pregnant with me. She soon ended up settling in a refugee camp in Thailand. While she was there, her water broke and I came into the world.
Automatically, I became a Thai citizen. Even though my cultural heritage is Cambodian Chinese, Thai culture has been in my blood since birth. My family never stayed in Thailand for very long. We came to Australia when I was about two years old in 1989.
I remember how I just fell in love with Thai cuisine and experienced such a strong connection to it.
I grew up in Australia and life continued as usual. After I left school, I moved to Western Australia to learn how to cook Thai food from my uncle and his friend who both had Thai restaurants. I remember how I just fell in love with Thai cuisine and experienced such a strong connection to it.
I stayed in WA for two years and later returned to Sydney, and have continued to cook Thai food ever since.
My first health brush with plant-based foods
While I was in WA, my grandmother became sick and her condition got worse after I returned to Sydney. She had arthritis, dementia, type II diabetes and was also overweight. I felt like I had a duty to you help her to regain her a sense of health.
I could see that when she ate really bad food from time-to-time she would really suffer health-wise. She wouldn’t be too happy the following day and you could see a change.
I did some research and discovered that giving her plant-based foods could help her with her issues. I wanted her to maintain a quality of life. To me, it doesn’t matter how long your life, it’s all about living life as well as you possibly can.
So I used to blend up a lot of fruits and vegetables and give her soup and fresh juices. Over time, to our surprise, by following a plant-based diet where she ate mostly fruits and vegetables and a little bit of meat, she regained some of her health and lost weight.
Around the same time, I faced my own health challenges. I was overweight at around 100 kilos, had chronic fatigue and eczema. I increased the amount of plant-based foods in my diet and did several juice fasts. Eventually, my weight came down and my eczema vanished.
This massive change in my health led to me changing my diet to become fully plant-based around five years ago. Two years later, my wife and I started our food stall serving contemporary, plant-based Thai food with influences of South East Asia. The stall travels throughout NSW, from Wollongong to Sydney, the Central Coast and Newcastle.
Plant-based foods don't need to be bland
Through the stall, our aim is to educate communities that vegetarian and vegan food doesn’t need to be boring or lack a sense of culture. We believe that using Thai cooking techniques, we can make plant-based meals taste just as good as traditional Thai dishes using animal products.
We use faux chicken that is soy-based in all of our dishes. Our stall’s menu includes vegan popcorn chicken and plant-based satay chicken skewers, choo chee chicken, sweet and sour chicken, BBQ chicken, and sweet potato and yam spring rolls.
...my message is simple – if you can, try to incorporate more vegetables in your life as part of your weekly routine, because it will change your life.
But our food is not strictly for vegans or vegetarians – it’s for meat-eaters as well who want a break from eating meat all the time. The idea of the stall is to encourage people to at least think having a plant-based meal once a week to boost the amount of nutrients in their diet but to also have a meal – like the Thai foods we serve – that also taste really good.
So if you’re open to it, you’ll find that plant-based foods don’t all have to be bland. You also don’t have to turn to veganism to eat more vegetables: you can just incorporate a meat-free day into your lifestyle.
But whatever you do, my message is simple – if you can, try to incorporate more vegetables in your life as part of your weekly routine, because it will change your life.
Substituting a biscuit crumb for a macadamia and date one gives a nutty crust base for the rich caramel and chocolate layers.