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Lauren Gravett, co-owner of Sister Srey Café and raw food adherent.
Lauren Gravett, co-owner of Sister Srey Café and raw food adherent. NICKY SULLIVAN

Cooking up a storm over raw food

Sister Srey Café is building its health credentials with a new selection of raw food options, marking the beginning of a more health conscious approach at the popular riverside restaurant.

Raw food is noted for its clean fresh approach to ingredients and preparation, and is a growing worldwide trend among foodies and the health-aware.

Though its forms may vary, the basic underlying principles are that ingredients should be organic, fresh, and raw – featuring fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds, fish, meat and, in some cases, eggs and dairy products.

To qualify as ‘raw,’ ingredients should not be heated above 40- 49 degrees centigrade during their preparation. The movement also eschews foods that have been pasteurised, homogenised or otherwise processed beyond the simplest levels required to extract the food.

“Raw food allows us to have options for the café that offer the best possible nutritional value in the fruit and vegetables that we serve,” said Lauren Gravett, one of the two Melbourne sisters behind the café.

“Food isn’t blanched to the point that the nutrition is taken out, so it’s fresh, it’s organic, it’s really served in its purest form.”

Advocates for raw food contend that cooking extracts beneficial enzymes from food while creating toxins that are harmful to the body. Different forms include raw vegetarianism and veganism, raw meat-based diets (imagine plenty of sashimi and steak tartare), fruitarians, juicearians who reduce their diet to juices, and even sproutarians who subsist on a diet of sprouted seeds.

For Gravett, the benefits are already clear.

“I’ve been following the principles for the last several years, as I’ve had allergies and skin problems,” she said. “And I’ve always found that diet is the most important thing in making yourself feel better from the inside. So I thought, ‘Why not include it on the café’s menu’?

“I don’t always follow it strictly but when I do, I really notice the difference. I feel so much better and have lots more energy. As someone with allergies, I know how important diet is and I really want to make sure we have something for customers who have any similar concerns.”

Healthy options have been a strong element in Sister Srey’s philosophy from the beginning, hence the juices that are served. But for Gravett, the introduction of raw foods marks the beginning of an overall healthier approach to the menu planning.

The detox salad and bliss balls - a plate of goodness that tastes good too.
The detox salad and bliss balls - a plate of goodness that tastes good too. NICKY SULLIVAN

“We have to keep all of our customers in mind, so there will always be the burgers and things like that. But health is definitely the future of where we’re going. It’s what I love doing,” said the 26-year-old, who plans to study naturopathy when she gets back to Australia.

Raw food options available now include a crunchy ‘detox salad’ ($4), made up from pepper, raw carrot, red cabbage, kale, pineapple with a lime and coconut dressing, together with two ‘bliss balls’ which are dense balls of nuts, fruit, dates and shredded coconut.

Those with a sweet tooth need not fear abandonment.

A passion fruit ‘cheese’ cake ($3) is packed full of milled nuts and coconut on a crunch nut and fruit base, and topped with a passionfruit reduction.

Gravett also highlights the café’s ‘bowl full of goodness’, which is not strictly raw, but adheres to the principle’s other guidelines, namely fresh healthy ingredients that are used in their purest forms.

“We cook the falafel in coconut oil, and use coconut oil in a lot of our dishes. It’s the most unbelievable product, and does good things for almost every part of the body, including digestion and your metabolism,” Gravett said.

Some of the other ingredients associated with raw food, such as sprouted seeds, are harder to come by in Cambodia or are too expensive here.

The idea to introduce raw food was inspired not only by Gravett’s personal experiences, but also by a chance encounter with Janella Purcell, a nutritionist, author and television presenter with a large following in Australia.

“I’ve always idolised Janelle because her whole ethos is to bring everything back to nature.” said Gravett. “She came in to the café one day last year, loved our menu, and we’ve been keeping in touch ever since. We email regularly, and she sends us her recipes for our customers. She’s fantastic.”

Gravett, who will be heading to Australia for a break in mid-October, also plans to meet other nutritionists and health advocates to get more ideas for the future.

“I want to keep it on our specials, so that we can keep it fresh and exciting.”

As long as the café doesn’t change the passionfruit cheese cake, this writer will be happy about that. ​



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