June 1, 2016
By Jovita Ang
We all have that one friend who can’t miss a workout, eats clean most days of the week and keeps a healthy stash of unsalted roasted nuts, fresh fruits and dark chocolate bars ( > 80% only). In short, that one friend who has been said to make others in the group question themselves when they’re happily savouring a triple chocolate fudge cake before washing it down with a caramel frappucino.
And in my circle of friends, I happen to be that “one friend”. As you might have already guessed it, mealtimes are occasionally a much longer affair because it’s a “Shall we have some DIY wraps?” vs “Ooo how about that new Korean fried chicken joint?” situation for as long as 30 minutes. In most cases though, we manage to come to a middle ground. On good days, my friends would very kindly join me at some of my favourite lunchtime hangouts. *throws confetti*
Despite my food preferences, I’ve never been one to lean towards a completely raw plant based diet. I still love my portions of warm bread, fluffy white rice and fish cooked in any ways possible. When I first knew of Afterglow, a vegan café specialising in raw food cuisine, I was both curious to find out how much I would enjoy it and how my eat-clean-never friends would receive it. More so the latter.
Meet Naomi, a pasta fanatic and Erman, a pizza and fried-food lovin’ individual.
Naomi: I was worried that everything would taste too “grassy” and that the dishes would lack flavour. The word “raw” didn’t appeal to me as well as it meant that the food will be cold.
Erman: Terrible. Never expected myself to ever dine at a raw vegan restaurant.
The raw food diet has long gained popularity in cities like London, Los Angeles, New York and Sydney. Like it or not, the vegan diet in Singapore is definitely picking up. Though a growing number of health food stores and cafes serving up nut milks and raw chocolate brownies, there are still little vegan cafes out there. And quick to spot the gap in the scene, founders Lionel Ang and Carmen Low set up Afterglow, a vegetarian restaurant with an emphasis on raw and plant-based foods. Its menu carries your usual comfort indulgence of pizza, pastas, burgers and a whole range of options. Except this time, they’re served all vegan.
Pink Soy Latte. $6.
Afterglow does a creative spin on your usual cuppa of joe. This one’s their signature “pink soy latte”, an unusual combination of beetroot, ginger, cinnamon and soy milk. Sooo good. The beetroot flavour was extremely delicate, while the ginger and cinnamon really added depth. The spicy ginger and warm cinnamon notes are all nicely enveloped within a milky swirl of soy milk, gently kicking you awake with each sip. My only problem was how fast I finished mine.
Raw Masala Pizza. $22.
The original version uses a macadamia nut “cheese” but due to my nut allergies, the staff at Afterglow very nicely switched mine to a red pepper base. The pizza base is a dehydrated almond crust, similar to that of a thin crust but slightly denser and more crumbly. Each slice was such a delight! Very light and fresh, bursting with the sweetness of the vegetables. Even die-hard pizza boy Erman gave its nod of approval. Naomi? Well, she reached for a second helping.
Erman, 8 | Naomi, 6 | Me: 9
Raw Zucchini Linguine with Walnut “Meat” balls. $20.
Naomi orders pasta almost everywhere she visits so unsurprisingly, she chose this: a vegan pasta of spiralised zucchini doused in dehydrated cherry tomato sauce with shitake and dates “meat” balls, complete with almond crumble “cheese” shavings. Her verdict? “If only the pasta wasn’t so watery.” The zoodles got slightly mushier as we ate into the middle of our serving.
Given zucchini’s high water content, it might have been better if the zoodles were drained before tossing it with the tomato sauce. I would very gladly pop those “meat” balls all day long though. Each one was packed with flavour and held together well. The shitake mushrooms also gave it a meaty punch, making each bite a very hearty affair. In case you were wondering how this fared for Erman, he stopped after a mouthful.
Erman: 5 | Naomi, 6 | Me, 7 (Yes to those vegan balls!)
Quinoa and spinach “hash brown” burger. $20.
“Romaine lettuce as buns,” it says on the menu. We totally missed that part out. Erman couldn’t help but laugh when the burger was served. “This is the burger I ordered?!” Not quite the burger he’s used to… Both Naomi and Erman thoroughly enjoy the quinoa and spinach patty. “It does tastes like hash browns,” he concluded. To help you better understand how the patty tasted, imagine having a well-seasoned tofu scramble. The sweet potato wedges and coleslaw were a perfect 10. Wedges were baked till soft enough, and the coleslaw an addictive crunchy and tangy profile.
Erman, 5 | Naomi, 7 | Me, 7
Herbal beverages aren’t usually their cup of tea (no pun intended).
After three main courses and three hot beverages, “vegan food doesn’t taste that bad after all”, I quote Erman.
Like all cuisines, vegan food when done well can taste equally good, if not better. But owners Lionel Ang and Carmen Low recognised that good food alone will not draw non-subscribers of the raw food diet in.
And they sure did. Afterglow is yet another chic addition along Keong Saik Road, its interior cosy and warmly lit, complete with dark wooden furnishing. The front of the store also doubles as a retail showcase for several sustainable lifestyle products. Eating healthy doesn’t warrant a complete abstinence from your favourite guilty pleasures. If raw vegan food makes you cringe, take baby steps. Instead of a “meat-free” Monday, opt for just a “meat-free” lunch. Or not, switch your fizzy soda to a cold-pressed juice. It’s the effort you bring to the table that will lead to a change.
Time to schedule in my vegan lunch date for this week.
24 Keong Saik Road
Opens everyday except Sundays
Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays & Saturdays
12pm-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm (kitchen last order at 9.15pm)
Wednesdays & Thursdays
5.30-10.30pm (kitchen last order at 9.15pm)