Veganism isn’t something that is massively celebrated in Malaysia.
Of course, when you have a country that’s a melting pot of cultures and its cuisines usually include protein from animals, it’s difficult for a lot of locals to see veganism as a sustainable lifestyle.
Tempted by the tasty beef rendang, siew yoke and tandoori, it feels almost unlikely that we can have that same satisfaction in food without the animal products.
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However, a viral TikTok influencer named Kristin Tan has proven otherwise by pioneering a new age of vegan-friendly recipes that are presented in a fun, relatable and dummy-proof way.
Nobody likes to be talked-down upon and we feel that that is how veganism has been pushed to Asian households. Through various weird propaganda and condescending PETA ads, many have developed stigmas and stereotypes regarding that way of life.
Kristin however believes that the only way to be welcomed into a household is to just be kind and invited in instead of barging through the door.
And that is exactly what she has done.
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By uploading videos of herself cooking, singing and flourishing her bubbly personality on TikTok, many Malaysians are warming up to the idea of veganism and welcoming that mindset into our day-to-day.
Amassing over 200,000 followers on TikTok, her recipes are not only delicious but they are super easy to make. She has definitely made her way through a tough crowd and now, we’re interested in hearing and learning more about the 17-year-old creator.
In JUICE’s chat with Kristin, she shares her favourite recipes, creators and moments in being a prominent vegan influencer while dispelling some stereotypes that most of us have regarding that lifestyle.
Here’s our conversation with Kristin…
Tell us about yourself as if you were on a date with someone you like.
This question made me smile! I would like to think that I’m comfortable to be around, interesting to talk to and overall, a nice person.
When did you decide to go vegan and what made you commit to that lifestyle?
I decided to go vegan in July 2020, and it was a gradual process. I knew pretty well that I didn’t need meat, dairy or eggs to live a healthy life, but it was the truth about the farming industry and animal cruelty that made me commit to a vegan lifestyle.
@eatwkrissReply to @bennopie in need of new k-drama. pls help :’) ##washedflour ##seitan ##veganchicken ##vegan ##easyrecipe ##singing♬ original sound – kristin
When did you start TikTok and when did you realise you were gaining a steady fanbase on that platform?
I started TikTok in October 2020, but at that time I didn’t know what kind of videos I wanted to create, and it seemed so hard to grow on the platform. In January 2021 I decided to be more consistent with it, and after one of my videos reached 100K views, the rest of my content started picking up and my account grew!
You have a constant flow of content pouring into your channels. How do you manage to curate your videos and come out with interesting recipes to share?
I really enjoy veganising Malaysian dishes because although there is a lot of vegan content out there, there’s not a lot of vegan Malaysian recipes/content. It’s also partly for selfish reasons because I just want to be able to eat my favourite local foods again. But really, there is so much to explore in Malaysian cuisine, I don’t think I will ever run out of recipes to share! I think people also enjoy my content because I let a lot of my personality come through.
Who are some of the chefs/cooks you look up to for inspiration when creating your vegan meals?
Maybe not necessarily chefs, but there are so many food content creators (both vegan and non-vegan) who inspire me! A few of my favourites are Khairul Amin (@khairulaming), George Lee (@chez.jorge), Woon Heng (@woon.heng) and Lisa Kitahara (@okonomikitchen).
On a scale of 1-10, how difficult is it to find tasty vegan options in Malaysia?
I would say 3 – it is easy to find good vegan food in Malaysia! There are many local dishes that already happen to be vegan, like Mee Rebus or Thosai. There are also more and more vegan restaurants opening especially around KL, but even vegetarian restaurants tend to be vegan-friendly too.
If you’re eating out, which restaurants do you usually gravitate to and what do you order?
I have a handful of my go-to vegan/vegetarian restaurants, but most of the time I still eat at normal restaurants. If it’s a mamak, I usually get garlic naan or thosai. At a coffee shop, mixed rice is a good option! As long as the food doesn’t contain animal products, I’ll take it gladly.
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Out of all the recipes you’ve created so far, which ones make it to your Top 3?
A difficult question! I would say my Vegan Char Siu Bao, Purple Sweet Potato Snow Skin Mooncake and Fried Nian Gao Sweet Potato Yam Sandwiches.
So far, what has been your favourite fan/follower interaction that drives you to continue making vegan-forward content?
When someone trusts me enough to follow my recipe and ends up loving the food they’ve made! That always makes me feel really special.
Veganism isn’t that celebrated in Malaysia as it is in other countries, notably in the West. What are some of the stigmas/stereotypes about veganism that you want to dispel?
As a vegan content creator, the stereotype I really want to dispel is that vegan food will never be as delicious as food made with animal products. Clearly, that isn’t true at all.
Because food is such a huge part of our lives, there is also a misconception that being vegan means disconnecting yourself from people and even your own culture. But to be very honest, veganism has taken nothing away from my life. Though it may be a bit more mafan (difficult) when picking a place to eat, people are usually accommodating to your dietary choices.
I’ve connected with many people through being vegan. It has changed the way I view animals and our earth. I’ve gained so much respect for food, not only as fuel for the body but as an important part of my culture and who I am. It’s really quite the opposite.