Startup of the Week: Changing eating habits for a healthy life

Updated 18 November 2019

Startup of the Week: Changing eating habits for a healthy life

  • The vegan diet provides the full amount of protein, and the nine essential amino acids that the body needs

The Vegan Dinosaur is a weekly cooked vegan meal plan service, established by a 26-year-old Saudi entrepreneur Mansour Barri.
“My goal is to show people that vegan food is not boring, it is actually delicious,” Barri told Arab News.
“We try to use whole foods in our dishes as much as possible, such as homemade peanut butter and plant-based milks. In addition, we love to experiment with mock meats such as seitan, which tastes exactly like meat when seasoned correctly, and we will be adding homemade tofu and tempeh to our menu soon.”
Barri became a vegetarian when he was studying in Ireland three years ago. “The reason behind this choice was because I had anxiety and panic attack issues at the time. When I spoke to a friend about this, he suggested a plant-based diet.
“After some research, it appeared much healthier than the regular food I was eating at the time. After that conversation, I became a pescatarian for a year, and then shifted to vegetarianism and now to veganism. Since then, my life has changed a lot; I became more aware of my body and its needs, my mind is clearer and I became more aware of the environment and its issues.”
When he returned to Jeddah, he faced problems eating since there were not many vegan options available.
“I tried to subscribe to different meal prep food providers, their vegan options were not that nutritious nor tasty. Therefore, I started cooking for myself; sometimes I would bring food to work or cook for my friends.”
The feedback he received encouraged him to start his own business. “This encouraged me and had me experimenting with different recipes. I tried to combine different foods from different cultures such Italian, Indian, Thai, West African and Portuguese. I also tried to ‘veganize’ some of the meat recipes, such as the pasta bolognese, and turn it vegan by adding lentils instead of meat.”
Barri said the number of vegans has increased in the Kingdom over recent years.
“I believe there has been a huge shift in the Saudi perspective, especially among the new generation regarding the environment and environmental awareness.
“The vegan diet provides the full amount of protein, and the nine essential amino acids that the body needs. This can be done by combining grains such as brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat with beans such as black beans, red kidney beans and different types of lentils.
“The body needs only 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. Eating two servings of rice, two servings of beans and one serving of oats is more than enough to meet the daily required amount of protein that the body needs.”
The healthy vegan diet contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, “and because of that, they tend to be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and fiber, and are also low in cholesterol and saturated fats.”
Customers can reach out on Instagram (@the.vegan.dinosaur) for orders. Their current weekly plan includes two meals and two snacks a day, and can be delivered anywhere in Jeddah.


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne madeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Madeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne madeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.