Alchemy in Ubud started as a popular vegan salad bar, but quickly transformed into a holistic empire with a focus on conscious eating. Surprisingly enough, the ‘green’ food served at Alchemy is creative, fun and gets even the stubborn meat-lovers hooked. We caught up with Shanti Allėn, the girl behind the stove, to find out what her magic is.
Where do you come from and how did you end up in Bali?
I grew up in a self-sufficient vegetarian commune in northern Sweden. What brought me to Bali was a vacation to a tropical island, and what made me stay in Ubud was the health paradise I found here. With a bounty of organic vegetables and raw vegan fare on every corner, there is simply no reason to leave!
Before Alchemy opened its doors there were plenty of healthy food cafés in Ubud. But Alchemy became some sort of revolution – how did it happen?
The “conventional” food system has become such a mess, people are getting sicker, the world is getting more polluted, and animals are being mistreated. I think most of us are fed up, ready for a change and a positive solution. Alchemy has become a formula for participation in this solution, and it´s super easy. Just come here and eat delicious food, and we´ll do the work on your behalf by selecting and preparing the ingredients ethically in every aspect. Simply by eating here you can radically transform your health, support organic farming, create a harmonious world, vote against corporate manufactured food substitutes such as MSG, aspartame, processed sugar, pesticides, GMOs, and distance yourself from unethical animal farming.
Alchemy is not just a cafe but a full-circle “factory”. You grow, cook, preserve. Tell us more about things we can´t see!
It all begins with growing our own vegetables in our organic farm in Jatiluwih in the mountains of Bali. We have found that the only way to ensure that everything maintains this high quality from beginning to end is to simply produce everything from scratch ourselves. Therefore we blend our own vegan mayonnaise with cold pressed olive oil, pickle our own cucumbers, culture our own sauerkraut and coconut kefir, slow-dry our own tomatoes, and the list goes on. We use beet, turmeric and green leaves for natural food colouring. This way we know where all our ingredients originate from, and this is how we can guarantee that there are no artificial preservatives, colours or additives allowed at any step of the production.
In every successful business there are small things that make it stand out. What are yours?
If you are a fan of our salad bar, you can eat it every day without getting bored, because of the variation of salad toppings, changing from day to day. And we take our mission seriously: think vegan parmesan that tastes as good as the real one, any seeds you can imagine and freshly whipped dressings. We also make it a priority to serve large portions so you leave feeling satisfied. We truly care about our customers as if we were feeding ourselves and our children. In fact my own children have grown up on Alchemy´s organic green juice since their first baby bottle, and still drink it every day. I have eaten at Alchemy myself almost every day from the day we opened, and I have left sickness behind for good. I am so grateful for the radical health transformation I have experienced, and wish everybody could have the same opportunity.
Vegetarian food is a very special discipline. You cannot just add cream and bacon to cheer up a dull dish. What are the key principles to healthy but fun, creative cooking?
The key principles to vegetarian cooking are similar to mainstream cooking, to achieve balance using the 5 basic flavours: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. It´s true that you cannot add cream and bacon, but you can replace those ingredients with wonderful plant-based alternatives. Cream can be replaced by coconut cream. Bacon can be replaced by coconut or eggplant bacon. Butter can be replaced by coconut oil. The key principle we follow is to achieve the same delicious flavors as you would with “conventional” cooking. The diner should not even realise the food is vegan because there is no lack in flavour.
If one wishes to try turning their own kitchen into a healthier place, what should his first steps be?
The first step to succeeding with a healthy kitchen is to throw away things that don´t serve your healthy lifestyle and replace them with an abundance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, herbs and superfoods. Continue to keep your pantry well stocked with the best in wholesome basics, to make healthy food preparation convenient. Get used to valuing your health. It can take practice! If asked to pay slightly more for organic, non-GMO, raw or ethical goodness, whisper our magic mantra:“I’m worth it!”
Guilt-free dishes that can convert even the most stubborn carnivore?
I would say try our famous BLT. Chewy coconut bacon wrapped in fresh crispy lettuce, with sweet tomato slices, bbq sauce, vegan mayonnaise, and home made pickles. It is finger-lickin’ good, without guilt!
What are your guilty pleasures? Sinful enough to justify that vegans are real human beings too?
Quitting pizza and cheese was the hardest thing I ever did, and it took me several failures until I became fully vegan. But now that I have gotten over my cheese addiction completely I never look back. I will eat potato chips some time though, if they are non-GMO and free from MSG. All my other guilty pleasures I have replaced with vegan, healthy options, such as vegan ice cream and milk shakes, raw vegan cakes and raw chocolate.
The wisest culinary advise you´ve ever been given?
Good music, quality ingredients, a glass of wine, and a great time experimenting in the kitchen, is a winning formula. But the best culinary advice I ever heard were these words by Sophia Loren:
“The most essential ingredient of all homemade food is love for those you are making it for”.