As more Hong Kongers turn to a plant-based diet, we’ve seen a number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants and bakeries pop up in the city. New to the list is Bien Caramélisé, a vegan patisserie that has revamped classic French desserts sans eggs and dairy.
Located in the heart of Mong Kok, the patisserie was started by Jessica Chow, a former pastry chef at Grassroots Pantry and later Nectar. Chow grew up in Melbourne, Australia where she started her professional career as a dietitian before transitioning to being a pastry chef 11 years ago. In 2017, she began developing an interest in plant-based cuisine while she was working in Berlin – a hotspot for vegetarian and vegan restaurants. Upon returning to Hong Kong, she joined chef Peggy Chan at Grassroots Pantry, to head up their pastry team.
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Now after three years of extensive research and experimentation, Chow is ready to strike out on her own, launching a vegan patisserie that offers a healthier alternative to butter-rich pastries. Bien Caramélisé serves an array of classic French favourites like mille feuille, eclairs and pâte à choux – all reinvented without eggs, dairy, white flour and refined sugar.
“I notice that we are missing a high end, French-style plant-based patisserie in Hong Kong, and feel it is the right time, especially during this pandemic, for Hong Kongers to be eating better for themselves and the environment,” Chow tells us.
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Being one of the very few exclusively plant-based pastry chefs in the world, Chow took on the daunting task of trailblazing and creating her own recipes. One of the many successes that has come out of Chow’s lengthy experimentation process includes a vegan-friendly mille feuille, which uses a blend of olive oil, coconut butter, cacao butter and French stone-ground flours to give the multi-layered puff pastry its light and flaky texture; and oozes with creamy fillings from pure chocolate to vanilla custard and roasted hazelnut praline mousseline.
In addition to a long period of trial-and-error, which is especially arduous in a business where profit margins are thin, another major challenge that Chow faces is to debunk the preconception that plant-based pastries are dense, gummy and generally not tasty.
With Bien Caramélisé, she hopes to change people’s perception of vegan desserts. “I want people can come try our creations and enjoy them for what they are, delicious while better for them and the environment,” says Chow.
Bien Caramélisé, Shop D, 1/F, Hentiff Bldg, 160 Prince Edward Road West, Mong Kok, 5239 5198