New Dubai restaurant dishes out delicious and healthy vegetarian fare
If there’s one thing Krishnakoemar Khoenkhoen wants you to understand ahead of the opening of his Tidjoori Bio/Organic and Vegan Café in Dubai Marina today, it’s that choosing a vegan or vegetarian diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being healthy.
“Unless you’re eating at Tidjoori, of course,” he says. “We’re the exception.”
The 46-year-old Indian is a vegan who got sick of the lack of healthy options that fit his lifestyle choice. “I travel a lot for business and there are always vegetarian restaurants – mostly Indian – but they are rarely healthy – they fry everything and use too much oil and salt. They are not the type of restaurants I like to go to,” he says.
“My wife came up with the name Tidjoori – it means treasure chest in Hindi – and that’s exactly what we are.”
Dubai-based Khoenkhoen, who grew up in the Netherlands and now works as an agricultural consultant in India, Hong Kong and China, launched the Tidjoori brand in 2003, developing products and a restaurant chain that is organic, vegan and – most importantly – healthy.
Ingredients that feature heavily in the cafe’s recipes include quinoa, beetroot, spinach, kale, avocados and plenty of olive oil. Tidjoori will also stock a wide range of its products for sale at the restaurant – everything from organic flour and pastas to non-dairy mayonnaise and olive oil.
“There is definitely a need in Dubai for this,” he says.
“People are becoming more conscious of what they put in their bodies and what we want to do is not only feed people, but educate them as well.”
The education will involve proving to patrons that vegan food can be delicious, healthy and satisfying – it’s all in the method of preparation. And the Tidjoori experience will prove that choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet doesn’t mean depriving oneself of treats: burgers, fries, pastas and desserts all make an appearance on the menu.
Tidjoori’s South African chef Siraaj Allie, 34, is a meat lover who had one main stipulation when developing the dishes that he would serve in the restaurant: “Every recipe, every dish – I would eat myself. I’d only serve something that I would confidently eat and enjoy, so believe me, it all tastes good.”
That might be hard to believe, considering the cheesecakes and omelettes feature a tofu base; the Cowgirl Burger is not made with meat but mashed vegetables; and the pasta Bolognese is devoid of beef. However, when Tidjoori managed a stall at the Dubai Food Festival last year, the queues were long and the food disappeared faster than it could be dished out.
“People couldn’t believe the food was vegan or vegetarian,” says Khoenkhoen. “Everyone loved it. That’s how I knew I had to open a restaurant in Dubai.”
The cafe’s interior has been designed to complement the health-conscious menu: lots of natural wood and an open kitchen, although he says installing a fryer was redundant.
“The only thing we’ll use that fryer for is the felafel – even the fries are air-cooked, it makes them crisper,” he explains. “And that’s the thing: vegan food does not need to be boring and it does not to be fried.
There is so much variety in what we serve that even meat lovers are going to love our food. We’ll launch a line of vegan ice creams soon and we’ll have a really delicious avocado ice cream that people are going to love.”
• Tidjoori Bio/Organic and Vegan Café is in Dubai Marina; open from 8am to 10pm daily. Visit www.tidjoori.com
Updated: February 7, 2015 04:00 AM