Chewy mouthfuls of an intense burst of flavor that amps up your health? Yes, please! This is what Happy Bites, a one-woman show from Hong Kong, was serving up at The Conscious Festival Hong Kong. The raw, gluten-free and vegan superfood Ballz are carefully handmade with ingredients like cacao nibs, Medjool dates, walnuts, rose petals, goji berries, and matcha.
Yvonne Ng, the owner of Happy Bites, created her recipes using nutritionally dense superfoods and her gut feeling of what’s delicious. “I only make things that I would want to eat. When you make food, it’s an art and so personal to you.”
The items she creates are deliberately “under processed” with no added preservatives. They are also an easy and portable way to charge up energy, curb hunger pangs and get your vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants from an organic source.
“The nuts and dates are unevenly chopped so you can chew the textures and know that it came from a plant”, she says. “It’s also reminiscent of the handmade snacks that your grandma lovingly made for you.”
As a certified holistic health coach, she’s particular about the ingredients and sources directly from suppliers to ensure their USDA organic and non-GMO certification. Looking for inspiration, we talked to Yvonne about how and why she took her Instagram project and turned it into a full-fledged business.
You are what you eat, and the transferred vibrations in what you eat
Yvonne believes that you should be able to taste and feel the energy and emotions of the chef in the food, and so she creates a happy and positive environment in the co-working kitchen with music. During prep, she’s dancing to Drake’s ‘Best I Ever Had’ and The Black Eyed Peas ‘Meet Me Halfway’ and affectionately encourages her loved ones to also channel good energy into the Ballz.
Making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle
Her health journey began while under pressure studying for exams at Boston University. On top of this, her grandfather had just passed away and she was coping with grief and anxiety. After her weight dropped drastically from 60kg to 42kg, her periods stopped for a few months at a time. Neither Western or Chinese doctors could not identify the problem, so she sought her own path and recovered following a course in traditional TCM medicine and at the same time discovering that she hadn’t processed her emotions or taken time for self-care. Her breakthrough really came after moving to NYC for work where she was exposed to a vegan lifestyle with the prevalence of healthy cafes.
She recalls, “In Hong Kong where I grew up, people think you’re a monk or hippie if you’re vegetarian. But in NYC, I realized that vegan and vegetarian food wasn’t bland or lacking nutrition. It was colorful, contained powerful nutritional profiles, and most importantly, it felt cool rather than different. I began exploring more with vegan food and the transition was natural. When something feels good (like exercise), you just go back to it naturally”.
It’s no secret that huge lunches and binge eating have a tripartite effect on you; physically, mentally and emotionally. Yvonne acknowledges that physically, there wasn’t any change with a vegan diet but the biggest difference she felt was mental. “I feel lighter in my mind and emotions,” she said. “I used to have a lot of negative noises in my head, but now I really can zone it out and just have a more quiet mind. I felt more at peace inside.”
As a picky eater, Yvonne wanted to produce healthy plant-based food for like-minded people
Yvonna moved back to Hong Kong a few years ago and dived into baking homestyle cakes for friends and family. After receiving repeated requests for her unique diabetic cakes, she decided to take her hobby the next level and turn it into a business – it was a ‘why not’ moment that came from her desire to create something of her own. Instead of cakes, she decided to create Ballz because “they’re easy to make, easy to store, and can be a snack or dessert.”
However, with no F&B experience, she faced challenges ranging from managing costs to packaging, and even sourcing ingredients. “I made friends in this business who were very generous to share resources and give me advice. We helped each other out and today I’m able to even mentor smaller businesses. But this business is not for the weak hearted. I have sacrificed a lot of my personal time and sometimes I wonder how I’m going to manage everything but the positive feedback from customers makes up for all the hard work.”
Innovating new recipes is an on-going process with her
Yvonne is always asking her customers what they like and now she’s begun experimenting with making low sugar and Keto Ballz with ingredients like Earl Grey and peanut butter. “Because the flavors are so intense and indulgent, you feel very satisfied after having just one or two Ballz. And they’re completely guilt-free.”
She also incorporates the sustainable philosophy in her business
“I work with a plant-based brand called Vegware for all my packaging, and as far as possible, it’s reusable boxes for retail and catering partners. At events like The Conscious Festival, a lot of my customers actually BYOB to buy our product and I always compliment them for their efforts.”