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Grilled oyster mushroom and tofu with lentil, asparagus and long bean salad. Photo supplied
Grilled oyster mushroom and tofu with lentil, asparagus and long bean salad. Photo supplied

1961 crew stumble into veganism

The 1961 crew have been at it again, and this time they’ve come up with a vegan venture, which they kind of hit upon by accident. But once they’d started down the path, they discovered a world of flavour they never expected and, at Vain Vicious Vegan, they’re hoping the rest of the world will join them in the adventure.

The idea came about by accident, when preparing for the opening of the current exhibition of street art from Nepal for which the curator and artist both requested a vegan menu. The request initially provoked more than a little uncertainty. 

“Chef Seiha Chomnab – who is an avowed carnivore – scratched his head,” said Loven Ramos, co-founder of the 1961 Gallery and Coworking Space. “But when he did the research, he was thrilled by the amount of amazing recipes out there, and we also helped him experiment with turning non-vegan recipes into vegan ones.”

The experiments worked and the food was snatched up during the opening of the exhibition, with guests expressing amazement that the food was actually vegan. 

“The lightbulb moment came to us when we realised that vegan food is not just the same old boring salad or mushroom risotto. We would love to push for it as an accessible way of eating. We don’t aim to convert anyone, but more to open the doors into this exciting universe,” said Ramos, who is himself pesco-vegetarian.

Vegan panini with potato wedges from the 1961 crew. Photo supplied
Vegan panini with potato wedges from the 1961 crew. Photo supplied

The restaurant is part of the gallery – with its striking 1960s architectural flair – so the decor is determined by whichever exhibition happens to be showing at the time. 

Some of the specials they’ve developed so far include grilled oyster mushroom and tofu with lentil, asparagus and long bean salad ($6), and zucchini panini with potato wedges ($4).

Coming up with creative new ideas has not been as challenging as the team first feared. They’ve had to buy separate utensils so that they are not contaminated by the food being prepared for East of Narnia, also in the same building.

“We thought it would be difficult to come up with creative ideas, but it’s actually a great process,” said Ramos. There are limitations, but we also unearthed a whole range of possibilities and alternatives.”

The restaurant opens this evening, in tandem with the opening of the exhibition Fragments, Art from the Forgotten Realms, featuring work by Jana Hoon, Arjan Moro and the Wat Preah Enkosa Khmeng Art Collective. Omar Diaz (aka Amro) will DJ. The exhibition opens at 7pm.

Vain Vicious Vegan is located on the Upper West River Side, Siem Reap, and will be open Wednesday to Monday from 11am to 2pm and 6pm to 10pm.

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