Doughing it for the environment

Vinisha Khemani

Better Breads

SINGAPORE - Going green does not mean becoming a militant tree-hugger - Vinisha Khemani makes it fun and tasty.

On a typical day, the ex-pharmaceutical researcher tends to her garden full of fruit trees and vegetables; or she uses the space for her educational programme Green Dots, which explores the green movement with tots and tweens.

Now, she has also started experimenting with baking vegetarian and vegan breads, and with an Asian twist. Some of the recipes even call for produce harvested by her green fingers.

The first-time F&B entrepreneur has been doing taste-tests with friends and family since March this year, and is currently in talks with two interested parties who are looking to ramp up production. Her recipes will be tested in commercial ovens come August to refine formulations.

"While being green is in, it's amazing how being vegetarian is still a challenge for consumers - not many pure vegetarian options exist in eateries apart from salads and soups, and even the breads served are often dead carbs and non-nutritive," observes Ms Khemani. "Also, many children of these times conveniently leave their lettuce and vegetable sides at meal times - this is a serious health and environmental issue."

And she often finds vegetarian and vegan options limiting, which is why she has looked to the medicinal philosophies of Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine herb pairings for inspiration.

"It's a distinct gap in the market," she remarks. "International mainstream media does not do justice to the repertoire of possibilities with Asian vegetarian ingredients nor flours."

Such ingredients include anything from beetroot, fennel and dates to less-commonly seen Indian borage leaves, carom seeds and fenugreek. Most recipes are also flavoured with spices such as paprika, oregano, and Mexican tarragon; as for the sweet breads, Ms Khemani uses natural sugars like jaggery and gula melaka. No eggs, saturated fats, processed ingredients and preservatives will be used.

As of now, the breads are expected to be priced at approximately $2 to $3.50 for a 70 to 80 grams bun, and up to $18 for 500g loaves. They are practically meals in themselves - 30 per cent of the dough comprises vegetable or fruit purees and gratings.

There are no plans to start her own chichi boutique bakery because "the rentals are exorbitant", explains Ms Khemani; instead, she intends to focus on distribution to cafes around Singapore, or start home deliveries through online retail options if there's demand for it.

"I wish to make vegetables and fruits palatable to all ethnicities while remaining accessible and affordable," adds Ms Khemani. "If consumers can continue being discerning in their choices, there will always be Better Breads - or better food options - right around the corner."

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