The day I stumbled into Heart's Choices Thai Vegan Cafe after hot yoga (with "yoga brain" in full effect) I knew in my gut there was something very special about this place. It wasn't until today that I truly understood the reasons why.
First, let me make a few things clear:
- I am NOT vegan
- To be honest ... I wasn't entirely sure what it meant to be vegan (i.e., dietary veganism is the act of "refraining from consuming animal products, not only meat but also eggs, dairy products" - Wikipedia)
- I was under the impression all vegan food had the same taste and texture as saw dust
- I NEVER expected to "crave" vegan food!
This "mom and pop shoppe", owned and operated by husband and wife team Nan Thammanatr and Eahly Shirley, brings something truly special and unique to the city of Calgary ... aside from the most delicious Thai food you've ever eaten (vegan or not)!
Inspired by Nan's passion for the fair and humane treatment of animals, this quaint little restaurant is so much more than just delicious homemade food. Nan (the inspiration for the Heart's Choices brand) is a philanthropist, innovative thought leader and compassionate woman with a great love of animals. Heart's Choices is the vehicle she uses to share the benefits of a vegan lifestyle while providing her customers with delicious (and nutritious) alternatives to eating animal-based products.
About Nan Thammanatr
When you first walk in the door you can't help but notice Nan's smile and welcoming demeanor. As you get closer to the counter your mouth waters as Nan hands over a sample of what she just finished cooking ... with an overabundance of love and care. All it takes is one taste to forget the word "vegan" on the front door!
But ... don't judge a book by its cover. Nan is a woman with an amazing life story that goes beyond her flavourful food. Born and raised in the 1940s, in a small town outside of Bankok, her life has been dedicated to serving others. With her start in the military, she then followed her heart and helped others as a life counsellor for 28 years. A life-changing moment in 2004 directed her towards relief efforts in Thailand, where she orchestrated fundraising efforts to rebuild small communities over the next five years. It wasn't until 2010 that she followed her heart (again) and dedicated her time and effort towards her passion for the fair treatment of animals. "Heart's Choices" became the brand of homemade vegan food that she and Eahly began selling at the Calgary Farmer's Market.
In November 2014, they opened Heart's Choices Thai Vegan Cafe to loyal customers and locals in the Southland area ... and the rest is history! In fact, it's not uncommon for them to have visitors from out of town (i.e., out of province or from other countries) that visit their location just to taste their Thai-inspired vegan fare!!
Aside from everything on the menu being vegan the only other common thread is the amount of flavour Nan lovingly infuses into every dish. Their Thai-inspired (with many gluten-free options) menu includes a wide variety of tastes and textures so I would recommend the combination plates with coconut rice and organic green salad. My personal favourites include the Thai Green Curry, Pad Thai, Sweet Ginger Tofu, Tom Kah Pak (spicy coconut soup with Kaffir lime and lemongrass) and the Som Tam Salad (green papaya, tomato, garlic, lime juice and tamarind). The gluten-free cupcakes and macaroons are a definite MUST if you need a little "something" for dessert!
Also, for those of you who are simply looking for good quality vegan ingredients to stock your pantry, freezer or fridge Heart's Choices also has a selection of items on the shelf and deep freeze.
A Vision for the Future
Although Nan and Eahly have just opened up this location less than year ago they have a vision for the future. They would like to continue to educate others about flavourful alternatives to animal-based foods by opening up more Heart's Choices locations across the country. These would be retail locations similar to what they continue to offer at the Calgary Farmer's Market every weekend (vegan ingredients and frozen, homemade vegan meals).
If you would like to see images from Heart's Choices Thai Vegan Cafe you can check out the images on social media using the icons at the top of the page.
(This post was originally published on www.sixfootcanasian.com on July 26, 2015)