FOOD AND THE CITY

Calgary vegan YouTuber brings plant-based Korean spin-offs from screen to plate

A local YouTuber has brought her vegan cooking channel to life with a new cafe serving up her favourite Korean dishes, veganized.

Rose Lee teams up with mom Vera to serve up an entirely vegan and Asian-inspired menu

Rose Lee showcases her Korean fried tofu and sweet potato, featuring her aunt's sauce recipe. The dish is a vegan spin-off of the popular Korean fried chicken. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

A local YouTuber has brought her vegan cooking channel to life with a new cafe serving up her favourite Korean dishes, veganized.

Rose Lee started her YouTube channel, Cheap Lazy Vegan, in the spring of 2015 while she was living in London.

"It was just for fun, but it picked up pretty quickly," she said. "At the time, there wasn't much out there about vegan cooking that was easy and affordable."

By the time Lee returned home to Calgary a year and a half ago, her subscribers were in the hundreds of thousands.

She started making YouTube videos full time, building a following of almost 400,000 people who signed up to catch her new releases every Wednesday and Saturday.

Earlier in January, Lee joined forces with her mom, Vera, to bring her dishes to life through a cafe they called saVeg, which just opened in a space on the main floor of the Heavens Fitness building on 11th Avenue S.W.

'I want to bring my love of vegan food from the computer screen to your plate ... with the help of my favourite chef — my mom!" it says on the saVeg website. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

There aren't many vegan restaurant options in Calgary, she says, and yet the demand for vegetable-based meals and snacks is steadily growing.

"I want to bring my love of vegan food from the computer screen to your plate ... with the help of my favourite chef — my mom!" it says on their website.

"They're vegan spin-offs of popular Korean foods," Lee said of their menu, which has many vegan versions of dishes she grew up with.

"My aunt used to own a fried chicken shop, and we figured we could make it vegan. We got the sauce recipe from her and use tofu and sweet potato." 

The house special at SaVeg. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

"Right now, it's just me and my mom," Lee said, noting they just hired their first staff member.

The casual, friendly space is an animal product-free zone with counter service and about a half dozen tables.

She said some people have difficulty finding it, but despite its location on the main floor of a gym, anyone can come in and sit down or order something to go.

The saVeg cafe is located on the main floor of the Heavens Fitness building, at 637 11th Ave. S.W. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Lee and her mom have joined forces in the kitchen, but Lee still continues to run her YouTube channel.

"I guess I have two full-time jobs now," she says, laughing.

Clearly there's a demand for plant-based meals that are fast and delicious, and if Lee is any indication, her dishes provide some pretty great energy, too.

About the Author

Julie Van Rosendaal

Calgary Eyeopener's food guide

Julie Van Rosendaal talks about food trends, recipes and cooking tips on the Calgary Eyeopener every Tuesday at 8:20 a.m. MT. The best-selling cookbook author is a contributing food editor for the Globe and Mail, and writes for other publications across Canada.