CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Indra Riswanto feels much better than he did when he first moved here from the Sumatra Islands, Indonesia, in 2004 and discovered American fast food. His constitution, which was accustomed to a diet dominated by vegetables with occasional, sparse servings of meat, rebelled against his newly adopted diet.
"I enjoyed fast food," he said. "Then, I was sick for a while, and my doctor asked me about my diet before I moved here. That's what my body was used to. This was too rich."
Riswanto, 36, resumed cooking the way his mother taught him, with lots of lightly cooked vegetables, and soon felt better. He took his healthy cooking a step further when he studied vegan and raw cooking at Living Light Culinary Arts Institute in California. Raw foods nourish a body better than cooked because the heat destroys enzymes and nutrition.
He returned to Charleston, where he caters and cooks for private clients in their homes. For $20 an hour, plus the cost of supplies, Riswanto prepares vegan dishes, both cooked and uncooked, in a client's own kitchen.
"I brought this to this community because I want to let them know that it wouldn't hurt them to eat healthy," he said. "I have nothing against meat or cooked food, but I feel better eating this way."
A catering client suggested that he open a takeout business, which inspired him to jump into the retail market.
Riswanto Organic Take Out opened four months ago at 202 Hale St., where he sells organic vegan dishes prepared in a mostly raw manner from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He shares space with Mission Savvy, a clothing and accessory store and Eats of Eden, a raw food supplier. A rotating menu of items priced between $5.50 and $10.50 changes weekly, as listed on his website www.riswantos.wordpress.com.
The Asian fusion menu always includes pate, vegetable salad, raw soup and a chef's choice. The menu last week featured a spicy cashew spread served with fresh salsa and raw blue chips, sprouted mixed lentil and vegetable salad, dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with sprouted brown rice and pine nuts) with Tzatziki cucumber almond yogurt, raw corn chowder and raw kraut. The chef's special was a vegetable salad with ginger tofu and almond dressing.
Unbaked pizza? Stirred, but not fried vegetable teriyaki? Uncooked pasta and creamy sauce? Riswanto makes them all. The vegetable linguine is made from spiral sliced squash, zucchini, beets and carrots. The pizza crust is ground nuts, sweet red peppers, salt, pepper and cumin, combined and spread on a tray to dehydrate.
Sound a bit odd? Try it from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 20, when Riswanto hosts a raw/vegan carry-in featuring tastes of his dishes. Guests are encouraged to bring their own raw or vegan dishes and recipes to share. The event coincides with Art Walk.