Being Vegan, Vegan Being: Joy Yishuai – Founder of More Than Veggies.

Tempeh rendang – veganised version of a Malay dry meat curry (my recipe)

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name’s Joy, I am from Singapore. I work as a designer for @abillionveg and blog at @morethanveggies in my spare time.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I have been vegetarian since 3 years old as my parents were Lacto-vegetarian. In Singapore it’s not rare to find vegetarian families due to religion and tradition. I first tried out being vegan at 18 because I had a lot of gut issues. After stopping dairy, I felt so much better, learned of the other reasons and was more motivated to stick to it.

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

Stopping dairy cheese and cow’s milk was easy as they were not part of my usual diet. In Southeast Asia, we have plenty of access to good soy and coconut milk anyway.

For clothing and bags, I tried to avoid buying nonvegan items with my own money. There were times when my family gave me leather items which I simply refused to use. After starting to be more financially stable, I could buy and support vegan brands. 

For other items like home and self-care products, I can’t be in full control of what’s bought for the household (it’s extremely expensive to move out in Singapore). Now, after I became financially stable, I could buy vegan skincare products for myself (which are more expensive because they are shipped from other countries), but other household products like detergent, etc. are bought by my family.

Do you make any exceptions for yourself or if you are married with kids – your family, when it comes to veganism?

I’m not married and don’t want to have children due to the high cost of living here. At family gatherings, I simply tell them beforehand and they usually can prepare something. 

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

Maybe when they are old enough, they should know the process of how their food is made, including plants so they know the effort put behind food and can appreciate it.

What does being vegan mean to you?

I live by Vegan Society’s definition – “veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

Yes, I think everyone who believes in something that is scientifically proven to be good for the world has a responsibility to share and inspire others. Activism can be done in many forms, just need to find the right way for you.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

Just as empathetic to myself, because everyone starts off as non-vegan.

Any recommended Vegan books?

Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen recipe book is my favorite! I really look up to her as vegan Asian recipe books are rare and still a minority compared to a large amount of vegan Western content out there. I’m writing my own cookbook which shares about veganized Asian comfort foods like bak kwa, clay pot rice and rendang. It should be in stores by the end of this year.

Tempeh bak kwa – a type of Chinese jerky, veganised with tempeh (my recipe)

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

@abillionveg is a fantastic social activism app that’s good for vegans and non-vegans alike. Every review of vegan dishes or products raises USD$1 for animal welfare groups, and each review is sent as feedback to restaurant owners. In major cities like Hong Kong and Singapore you can use the “near me” function to find vegan dishes near you.

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

My absolute favorite is videos from Peaceful Cuisine because they are so beautiful, gentle and calming.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

NomVnom at Clarke Quay, Singapore. Fantastic view of the Singapore River with awesome Singapore-style fusion food like burgers, pizzas, noodles, rice sets, and cakes, etc. Brought many non-vegan friends there and they loved it too.

nomVnom at Clarke Quay’s truffle lion’s mane burger

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

I love making dark chocolate brownies for people, I’ve had great feedback with them. Everyone loves chocolate and sweets, everyone appreciates good food whether it’s vegan or not. It’s a fantastic way to open a conversation about vegan baking and share that eggs and dairy aren’t absolutely necessary to make baked items tasty.  

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

Keep an open mind and try new things! Remind yourself why you started. A lot of new vegans give up because they can’t find something they really enjoy. 

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

Growing and active. It’s about 10x more active than the year I started (2009). There are a couple of vegan festivals around the year, lots of potlucks and gatherings. Singapore is a small country so it’s easy to meet fellow vegans and go out together to eat great food. Recently we’ve got pretty good media coverage too.

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Keep an open mind, everyone is vegan for different reasons, what matters is that they are vegan, or trying to be now. 

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treats other humans too?

Yes, because being kind to others and you are also important. Only in recent years, I’ve learned the importance of self-love and self-care due to the culture I am brought up in. If I won’t say “You’re useless and bad” to an animal or other people, I shouldn’t say it to myself too.

What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

@beekeeperparade has high-quality vegan bags made from upcycled fashion industry fabrics, they are sold in Singapore via @everydayveganshop. They also support Cambodian schoolchildren, who have a special place in my heart as I’ve volunteered in a school in Phnom Penh before and can’t forget the lovely kids and teens.

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

Actually none, I’m really happy with what I have available in Singapore. One of my life goals is to live as minimally as possible.

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

Some of my extended family members are pretty toxic. They somehow take offense that I don’t eat the same things as they do and use that to body-shame me because my body type doesn’t fit into the definition of good in their culture. Thus, for such people I just try to avoid as much as possible, I’ve tried to have open conversations with them but it’s impossible since they don’t even try to listen. So, I just decided to let them be and focus my energy on people who are open to listening instead.

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