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Table Talk: Riswanto offers organic vegan dishes

By Julie Robinson
Chip Ellis
Indra Riswanto prepares most of the organic vegan dishes he offers for takeout without using any heat. He sells his freshly prepared dishes Thursday through Saturday from a refrigerator tucked into the corner of a shop on Hale St.
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 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.He plans to introduce desserts soon, probably starting with a raw cherry cheesecake from cashews. He's also working on raw apple cake, raw pumpkin pie, raw cacao fudge and chia seed pudding.All of Riswanto's menu is free of dairy, eggs, animal, gluten and processed products. Most items are raw and not heated above 110 degrees. The menus of most Charleston restaurants do not feature many raw, organic and vegan items. Riswanto hopes to capture a niche market of diners who make dining decisions based on health, environmental and ethical concerns."Business is good," he said. "Usually, 85 percent of the items are sold out by Saturday."Riswanto prepares his food on Wednesday evenings and stocks the refrigerator at the store on Thursdays. He also works as a cook at Bluegrass Kitchen, where he appreciates the owners' emphasis on organic, fresh and local foods.Healthy Life Markets, located in Drug Emporiums in Charleston, supply many of the organic ingredients he purchases for his foods. Sally Miller, a raw foods instructor who owns Eats of Eden, special orders other items for him.
Diners may take out Riswanto's food, or dine alfresco at the two bistro tables and chairs sitting in front of the store.Riswanto Organic Food-To-Go is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 202 Hale St. Visit or call 304-343-4253.Reach Julie Robinson at or 304-348-1230. 
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