One woman’s amazing vegan journey

(Left) Ilnara with Sayuri, Sammy and Ghaniy.

Veganism used to be popular among hippies and animal rights protest group, but this is no longer the case as the lifestyle has seen a rise in its popularity in the past decade.

It is believed that the rising trend of veganism goes hand in hand with the increasing number of products for consumers with food allergies and other dietary restrictions as well as the increasing awareness of issues surrounding animal agriculture.

While the decision for one to become vegan is often personal, there are commonly shared moral reasons such as animal rights and environmental sustainability as well as for its health benefits.

Ilnara Mukatayeva, founder of The Raw Kitchen Company (Raw Kitchen) has been a vegan and living the plant-based lifestyle for over seven years.

The 28-year-old wishes to share the beauty of the lifestyle and what it has to offer through the various products including meals and beverages that Raw Kitchen has to offer.

Moreover, her pleasant journey in becoming a vegan has also encouraged her to continue and share the lifestyle with her husband and two children.

Going vegan

Vegan flourless brownies.

Ilnara said she made the decision to switch to a plant-based diet before it became mainstream.

She was inspired by a Kazakh couple she met during a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching way back in 2014.

She said the couple had shared about their plant-based lifestyle and this planted a seed of curiosity in her mind.

“The couple shared about how they were eating raw, I initially thought that they meant raw meat and seafood. It was just a short few hours’ hangout, but it was enough to make me want to go vegan.

“By the time I landed in Kuching, I started doing research and reading more on veganism, raw food and how it was beneficial for health. Since then, there was no turning back and I decided not to consume meat anymore when I got married later that year,” she said.

Ilnara admitted that she had some concerns about switching diets given her health condition.

However, she decided to take a nutrition course from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in the United States to learn and gain more knowledge on the matter.

A vegan taco salad bowl.

“I am from Kazakhstan so it is very hard to find plant-based food there because of the predominantly meat eating culture.

“I have a rare blood clot issue which causes bruise marks to easily develop all over my body. I must avoid physical exercise because of how bad it can get. Thus, I knew I had to be extra cautious when it comes to switching diets. 

“Over the course of two years of taking the nutrition course, I became more confident as well as knowledgeable. This prompted me to completely ditch meat and seafood to become a vegan,” she said.

Ilnara pointed out that she noticed positive changes in her body at the beginning of her journey as a vegan.

She enthused how grateful she was that Borneo Island was blessed with bountiful harvests, making access to fresh fruits and vegetables easy.

“When I cut down meat and animal products from my diet, my body started to detox and get rid of toxins. Juicing helped me to speed up this process too with minimum challenges.

“In less than a month, I started feeling much lighter, more conscious and alive. I personally felt so active that I could not sleep much in a good way!

“Back then, the only things I found challenging was socialising because I did not have any vegan friends plus there were no vegan options in the eateries. So, there were times I felt uncomfortable   having to carry my food everywhere,” she said.

A family of vegan

Ilnara said it was up to her two children — four-year-old Sammy Kiew Mukatayev and one-year-old Sayuri Kiew Mukatayeva — to choose whether they wanted to be vegan or not. 

She added that a vegan was aware about the food he or she consumed, how it impacted the ecosystem and one’s general health.

“I also went for a short course on child nutrition prior to having children. I think it is important to educate ourselves before we can educate our children.

“My husband and I never force our kids to be vegan. If they want to try things like seafood or eggs, we do not stop them as long as it is not highly processed packaged food.

“My children eat a lot of raw fruits and vegetables. They like their tempeh (a traditional Javanese food made from fermented soybeans), beans, kale and especially green juices,” she said.

Ilnara added that it had been an amazing journey teaching her children about the vegan and plant-based lifestyle.

“I am confident that they are getting all of the vital nutrition they need to thrive from a well-planned and varied vegan diet.

“Moreover, we are simultaneously and effortlessly doing our part in safeguarding the environment and planet for my children’s future as well as for many generations to come,” she said.

Raw: Powered by plants

A vegan mushroom burger.

Raw Kitchen, established in 2015, specialises in cold press juices, smoothies, superfood and raw vegan food.

“We want to bring raw flavours to our customers’ lives and nourish their souls by making connections between food and hearts.

“Raw means in the natural and authentic state so we thrive on serving our customers with flavours out of the ingredients’ natural form,” she explained.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Raw Kitchen introduced its weekly meals plan that is plant-based, handmade from scratch without processed ingredients and from organic produces.

Ilnara said this was one of the ways to introduce to the people in Kuching on an array of delectable vegan and plant-based meals.

She disclosed that the response for the weekly meals plan had been encouraging with customers constantly renewing their subscription.

“The pandemic has impacted many people and businesses around. Raw Kitchen is also affected because we are only located in the shopping malls. Despite these challenges, the pandemic made us come out of our comfort zone by introducing new plant-based menu like flourless brownies, vegan cinnamon rolls and gluten free pastries, to name a few.

“Most of the customers who subscribe to the weekly meals plan are not vegan, but they absolutely love our food. Some of them cannot even believe that the meals contain no meat or dairy products whatsoever.

“We came up with the plan because we wanted to provide those who are busy with working from home the ability to enjoy healthy, nutritious and delicious meals. It is for our customers’ convenience as we also do home delivery,” she explained.

Among the meals that Raw Kitchen offers are mushroom pot pie, handmade lasagna, taco salad bowl, vegan meatball sub, margherita pizza with assorted veggies and many more.

Ilnara pointed out that Raw Kitchen was eager to show its customers that any dishes could be switched to vegan and still taste great.

On Raw Kitchen’s future endeavours, she said it would continue to expand its arrays of plant-based food such as breakfast options, guilt free and gluten free dessert as well as salads.

She pointed out that Raw Kitchen would also continue to be more innovative and creative, with health being the main centric of new creations.

“We aim to be a one stop vegan solution for all health-conscious people, may they be vegan or non-vegan.

“It is important to understand that when you switch to a vegan diet, you are protecting your health. It helps in reducing the risk of getting cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity just to name a few of chronic diseases,” she said.

Ilnara also advised those who were interested to know more about vegan and switching to a plant-based diet not to be shy in asking questions.

“It is always a good start to do some reading, researching and even watching documentaries. I find researching on the topic of ecosystem sustainability and how it is connected to the food on the plate we consume can be a real eye opener

“You can always start off with one vegan day in a week,” she said.

Raw Kitchen be reached at +014-9933007 or @therawkitchenmalaysia on Instagram and Facebook.