Inspired by the creative vibes that make up the culture of Penang, Tammy TingTing and her partner Jonathon Behan decided to set up a new café there with a twist—it functions as a yoga studio as well.
Wholey Wonder is a café that serves plant-based whole food in Penang that incorporates a yoga studio in the space upstairs.
Located at Hin Bus Depot Art Centre, the café was launched in November 2016 and has already introduced a detailed menu with savoury foods, smoothies, and desserts.
Tammy herself is a vegan and yoga teacher. By combining both of her passions together, she hopes to shape Wholey Wonder as a one-stop wellness hub.
Since her younger days, she enjoyed watching cooking shows and it has helped greatly in creating her recipes. Choosing to trust her own tongue’s instinct, she is not one to follow recipes by the book.
She also likes to play with different ingredients, spices and herbs in particular, to create something different for the palate.
Her vegan Poke Bowl is one of her own personal homemade recipes, using Konjac as replacement for the fish, because it has a similar smell.
It was just two years ago that Tammy got her yoga teacher certification, and she has since wanted to promote the advantages of a healthy lifestyle that come with the practice.
“We are providing a haven of health and positivity in the heart of Penang in our unique space.”
As the main chef and operating manager of Wholey Wonder, Tammy comes up with the recipes herself and has given it her own touch of creativity while maintaining the path of health.
“For the burger patty, we use chickpea mixed with spices, herbs and quinoa. As we don’t use eggs, flax seed is what we use as a binder, so it doesn’t fall apart. Dessert-wise, we use cacao butter, nuts, plant-based milk, and date paste, for our raw cheesecake.”
They also have a Briyani Quinoa where quinoa is used to replace rice. The dish is imbued with the natural flavours of spices and served with cauliflower, carrots and mushrooms.
“Since we launched our new menu, our Nourish Bowl and caulifredo zoodles have become our customers’ favourite dishes. Apart from savoury items, the rainbow cheesecake and superfood smoothie bowl are among our popular dishes as well.”
“We believe we eat not to just fill up, but nourish your body. That’s why we source the highest quality ingredients that are free from meat, dairy, GMO’s, and anything ‘artificial’.”
To support this idealogy, most of their food and drinks are made from scratch.
“In Wholey Wonder, our focus is not just vegan food but plant-based whole food which is minimally processed. Everything is made in-house from scratch using the fine and best quality ingredients. The only thing that’s not made in house is our pizza crust.”
For the uninitiated, vegan food is free of animal products and byproducts. Plant-based whole foods takes this a step further by not including processed food like white flour and refined sugar into their menus.
Even their desserts are guilt-free for health and of animal byproducts. Their rainbow cheesecake is made from cashew nuts and the 4 layers are made of fresh fruits—red dragon fruit, mango, blueberries and spirulina. The crust is made using almonds, date paste, and chia seeds.
It’s common knowledge that plant-based foods are pretty expensive, therefore their main struggle is nailing down a price that will please customers.
“There are those that understand what we are doing and are happy to pay the price. But those that don’t, just come in the café, look at the menu, and leave without giving us a chance.”
“We have customers that left us 1-star reviews without trying our food, simply because our prices are more expensive compared to the local restaurants.”
Drawing the right crowd in is hard enough, but they face an even bigger obstacle in raking in a profit.
Currently in the midst of breaking even, they still lose money some months.
They do not earn much from the yoga studio, as most of their sales comes from the café. Their profit margin ranges around 80/20.
Unfortunately, they were hit twice in less than 3 months during the Penang flood in November. Some of their dry foods were destroyed and they had to close down temporarily to clean up in the aftermath.
None of their friends were affected by the flood, but the families in the nearby area were the ones that were heavily affected. The team didn’t have much manpower nor resources, but still contributed help by sending dry food and extra donations.
Despite the slow response, Tammy isn’t letting that deter her from planning to expand to KL and Singapore in the future.
She also plans to start hosting retreats for the yoga studio—cooking lessons, meditation, and kickboxing.
It’ll be interesting to see how far this little café can go; whether they can take off in the shadows of F&B giants and their oily (yet sinfully delicious) food that dominate the streets of Penang.
Feature Image Credit: Wholey Wonder