Interview with Connie Leung, a recipe developer focused on plant-based cooking and baking. Her happy-go-lucky attitude combined with a plenty of knowledge about plant-based lifestyle results in a gorgeous Instagram account @conniekyleung. We had a chance to sit down with Connie and ask her about challenges and opportunities that she faces on her path to a balanced life.
Who is Connie Leung?
I am a full-time Non-Perishable Specialist for a health food company. On the side, I do Instagram for my own enjoyment, as well as for other companies.
On social media, I develop plant-based recipes in attempt to inspire others to cook simple, quick, and nutritious food in their own homes.
My passion is healthy plant-based cooking and baking. During my free time, I enjoy connecting with local vendors and foodies, which gives me both inspiration and insight in the latest trends.
Where does your passion for food and cooking originate?
My passion for food started back in 2010 when I became lactose intolerant. This led me to lean more towards a plant-based diet which is 100% dairy-free. I discovered foods I had never encountered before (ex. nutritional yeast) which I truly love now!
Eating out became rather difficult. I would never know how restaurants handled my food. They could, for example, cook my dish in butter or use a pan that was not properly cleaned from the previous use.
I also had experiences where I mentioned that I was allergic to dairy, but was still served cheese on my pizza. Being frustrated, I ended up spending most of my days off attempting to cook at home, discovering dairy alternatives at grocery stores, and attending workshops/sessions in order to broaden my view towards what the market had to offer. And… voila! I fell in love with creating my own plant-based recipes!
Golden Mylk Pineapple Dessert Hummus
You are so good at taking photos of the food you make. How did you learn to do that?
Thank you! I actually never learned how to take pictures and I never tried to imitate the really impressive images that you can find on Instagram. Instead, my strategy is “go with the flow”. I find that the more I think or plan a photo, the worse it comes out.
My mom often tells me “happy-go-lucky” and I completely agree with her! In my opinion, people who are carefree tend to be the lucky ones with a smoother path in life. The same applies to my photography – I simply do whatever my hands tell me to.
It seems like you love experimenting with food, where do you get your inspiration from?
Oh yes, I absolutely love to experiment with food! Inspirations can come at random times, such as when I am on a bus, or getting ready for bed…
From time to time, I enjoy browsing images on www.findingvegan.com. From there, I would choose one of the recipes, use it as a guideline for my culinary experiments, and play around with the ingredients; such as adding a pinch of this or removing a pinch of that. To my surprise, the results often exceed my expectation, in a good way!
Mandarin Orange and Cacao Spelt Cupcakes
Who are your favourite chefs/cooks/foodies that you follow on social media?
My favourite foodie friends include:
As for amazing chefs, the ladies below have such colorful pages on Instagram. Their pictures and healthy cooking definitely inspires and motivates me to be just like them!
Take us through your creative process in the kitchen.
I try to come up with dishes that would utilize the ingredients that I have on hand. If I have a lonely broccoli in my fridge, I would try to find a delicious pairing and create a dish around the “couple”.
This approach helps me to:
1) Clear up some of my ingredients before testing out new ones;
2) Use my creativity working around the constraints;
3) Achieve zero waste.
What are the challenges that come with plant-based lifestyle?
My personal biggest challenge that I still haven’t overcome is finding a common ground with my parents.
Detoxifying Activated Charcoal Beiju
It is very difficult, as in many Asian cultures meat is considered the only source of energy. My grandma used to say: “You need to eat meat in order to grow taller and be stronger. If you do not eat meat, you will be skinny, weak, and short”. Superfoods such as chickpeas, spirulina, moringa, nutritional yeast are alien to my parents. It’s been a lengthy process of sharing knowledge and experience with them, but I am not giving up.
Matcha Spinach Spelt Waffles
You’ve been using MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton Sea Salt for some time now, what do you think about it?
I really like it! First thing I’ve noticed is how different the various flavours taste. To me, MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton salts feel more coarse than usual sea salt, so it gives the illusion that it will be saltier. But in reality, the combination of the unique texture and spices really brings out the flavor in my dishes.
My favourite flavour is Marine Phytoplankton. I particularly love the smell, it reminds me of the ocean. I also love using the Liquid Sea Salt on my favorite comfort food – popcorn.
Panko breadcrumbs (I use gluten-free)
Nutritional yeast/vegan parmesan
1) Pulse the cauliflower in a food processor until it has the consistency of rice.
2) Sauté it with water in a pan.
3) Add the nutritional yeast/vegan parmesan, panko, onion, garlic, pepper.
5) Add the flax egg and mix everything together.
6) Using a small cookie scoop, shape into tater tots and roll them in more panko.
7) Preheat the oven to 400F. Place the tater tots on a cookie sheet, spray generously with cooking spray (it makes them crispy).
8) Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
After baking them, and while still hot, I immediately sprinkle them with MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton sea salt. This way, you get the saltiness in some bites. If you mix in the salt in the batter, the entire tater tot will be salty and taste-wise one dimensional.
For more creative recipes and colorful photos follow Connie @conniekyleung.
Do you have a question for Connie? Or maybe you want to suggest a person or a topic for our next blog post? Leave a comment below!
Arantza and Benjamin, founders of MARPHYL Marine Phytoplankton
Images by Connie Leung, used with permission.