Oct 2016
<em>(Photo by ISO staff) </em>

New Facades, New Functions by the Pool

On CUHK’s Central Campus, teachers and students alike can get coffee, shop for groceries, go for a swim, get a haircut, go to the bank, or buy souvenirs at the multi-purpose complex of Benjamin Franklin Centre and John Fulton Centre. In late 2014, the Benjamin Franklin Centre student canteen, the Pool Side Café, and the John Fulton Centre Canteen were closed one after another. Left vacant for almost two years, the poolside came back to life in the new academic year 2016, ushering in a new vegetarian restaurant, Vegether, and the student co-op CU Happy Corner. 

Veggie Just As Yummy

Apart from the usual traditional Chinese fare like veggie char siu or Lohan vegetarian stew, Vegether offers even more exotic and mouth-watering dishes including Thai iced-tofu curry, braised potatoes with fenugreek, and secret-recipe veggie hamburger steak. With this, head chef Ms. Siromani Ling is looking to change public preconceptions about vegetarian cuisine. ‘Vegetarian dishes are often regarded as lacking in taste or nutrition. So I tried to come up with an extensive menu that is both delicious and healthy. Take mixed vegetables with nutritious sauces for example. One of the ingredients, nutritional yeast, is rich in vitamin B12. As for the veggie hamburger steak, you will find grains, beans, nuts, vegetables inside, with beetroot for colouring. Absolutely nutrition-packed!’ she remarked.

<em>Clockwise from top left: green-bean-sprout salad, baked potatoes with spices, mixed vegetables with nutritious sauces, and baked tofu with citrus sauce</em>
<em>From left: partner of Vegether Stella Shuen, head chef Siromani Ling, and director Chiu Wai-ka  (Photo by ISO staff)</em>

Mr. Chiu Wai-ka, director of the restaurant and a registered Chinese medicine practitioner, emphasized the importance of balanced nutritional intake to a vegetarian diet. ‘In Chinese medicine, the colours green, red, yellow, white, and black correspond to the liver, heart, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. Black beans, black fungus and black sesame, for example, are good for the kidneys. The one thing that many people have against a vegetarian diet is the lack of protein. But in fact, beans are a great source of protein which is even healthier than animal protein. An understanding of the properties of different plants can help you get the same level of nutritional value as you do from a meat-eating diet,’ explained Mr. Chiu.

Vegether’s menu is strictly vegan, which means plants are the only ingredients used, while eggs, milk or honey are off limits. According to Ms. Stella Shuen, a partner of the restaurant, apart from promoting vegetarian cuisine, at the top of their agenda is environment protection. ‘Going vegetarian is much more than a healthy diet. It’s about being responsible to other people and treating other creatures with respect. You do it not just for your own spiritual well-being, but also for the love and protection of Mother Nature,’ she said. 

A Shop Where No Money Changes Hands

Taking up half the space of the previous John Fulton Centre Canteen, CU Happy Corner is a student co-op dedicated to promoting community economy. Featuring an orange colour theme, the small shop is full of items for exchange, including toy figurines, bric-a-brac, household and stationery items, clothing, etc. The price tag is ‘50’ for a coffee cup and ‘160’ for an alarm clock. Actually the numbers represent the unit of exchange–Time Credits rather than dollars.

The Time Credit is the only currency acceptable at CU Happy Corner. Co-op members can use their spare items to accumulate Time Credits, which can then be exchanged for other items. For instance, an electric rice cooker can be exchanged for 80 Time Credits, which can be used for a suit jacket.

<em>(Photo by ISO staff)</em>
<em>CU Happy Corner members Tsang Tsz-ho (left) and Latvia Ng (Photo by ISO staff) </em></em>

Exchange of services is another new initiative at CU Happy Corner. Members with special skills can get 60 Time Credits per hour teaching interest classes while others can spend their Time Credits to join. Latvia Ng, a founding member of the student co-op, said, ‘The university community is packed with skilful and knowledgeable people. If Computer Engineering majors are willing to offer computer maintenance services or Nutritional Science majors give advice on the nutritional values of different foods, specialized knowledge can be spread more freely on campus, and can help everybody live a better life.’

Up till now, various student-taught interest classes, ranging from street dance, yoga, to comics, have been organized. Tsang Tsz-ho, an Environmental Science major and chief coordinator for the interest classes, recalled, ‘The motivation of the participants as well as the tutors gave me a pleasant surprise. All in all, these classes have generated an even more positive response than the usual paid classes.’

Ms. Vivian Ho, Director of Campus Planning and Sustainability, is glad to see the revitalization of campus life brought about by the two new facilities. ‘The university campus is not only a lab for students to experience life, but also an ideal testing ground for sustainable development projects. I believe the launch of the vegetarian restaurant and the student co-op will encourage more innovations and practices in line with humanistic values and a low-carbon lifestyle,’ she said. 



The Sustainable Campus e-newsletter is published by the Information Services Office and the Campus Planning and Sustainability Office, CUHK.