7 Quick but Useful Lessons from a Vegetarian-Turned-Vegan

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Some people are able to adapt to the vegan lifestyle quickly, while others find themselves doing it gradually (or in stages, or after a series of discoveries and revelations). Dr Ng Wai Lek, the founder and owner of vegan restaurant nomVnom, belongs to the latter. (More on this below.)

Now he’s fully immersed in it, thanks in part to the delicious food he makes at his current nomVnom outlets at Clarke Quay and Tai Seng. The menu is extensive (with around 26 burgers, nine pizzas, and an array of soups, salads, drinks and desserts), and all offerings are made fresh with all-natural, vegan ingredients, free from preservatives and artificial flavouring.


You can easily have a vegan feast


Still, becoming vegan can be a process of trial and error. Good thing we can learn from Wai Lek’s experiences, so we can navigate the path towards veganism and the cruelty-free, zero-waste life even better.

1. Real, meaningful change takes time
Wai Lek was a vegetarian for 26 years. “I turned vegan after I opened my first nomVnom outlet at Raffles Place four years ago,” he recalls. Interactions with other vegans, as well as watching documentaries, helped him switch to veganism.

2. Solutions are usually a click and a call away
He still struggles sometimes at the grocery. “With many food items, I need to check the ingredients carefully, even for the different emulsifiers and E labels,” he admits.

“Most of the time, I need to verify things through Google or ask vegan friends about them, to make sure that I don’t accidentally eat animal products.”


Keep your phone close for a quick search (Photo by Tinh Khuong)


3. It’s okay to be vigilant

“Eating out with friends can be a struggle too, as I’m fussy about food cross-contamination. I’d usually choose to eat at a full vegetarian or vegan eatery,” he adds.

4. Find a vegan restaurant you can call your “own”, and you can always rely on
This is so you don’t have to constantly figure out what to eat and where.

For instance, what does Wai Lek love the most about nomVnom? “The food, because it’s tasty and I always eat there,” he says. “I also love the cosy feeling and ambience, together with the lovely customers and friends.”


Many people would agree


5. Have important numbers on hand

Like for food “emergencies”. Why? There will be instances when you don’t want to go out or cook, and just feel like staying in and relaxing.

“We have a wide range of vegan dishes. Customers can always order them for delivery and have this lovely meal at home,” Wai Lek suggests.

“We’re constantly creating new dishes and phasing out non-popular items so that we can maintain good quality food for our customers.”


A few taps and you’ll have your food in no time


6. To achieve quality, you have to put in the work

“Due to a lack of vegan ingredients and suppliers, we had to make some food from scratch and create new recipes that would be better than the non-vegan versions,” Wai Lek stresses. It’s non-negotiable.

7. Travelling as a vegan is easy – if you know where to go
It pays to do your research. But if you need ideas: “I love to travel to vegan-friendly countries, in particular Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia,” Wai Lek enthuses.

“My most memorable trip was to Taipei, where there are many wonderful places to eat.”


Is Taipei your next destination? (Photo by Thomas Tucker)


Are you also a vegetarian-turned-vegan? What other tips can you share, and what other lessons have you learnt, so far? Email us!


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Charmaine Baylon

As long as she has her dogs – and can read, write and daydream as often as she wants – then life is good.


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