During my childhood summers in Melaka, I was usually met with sentiments of concern bordering confusion. I wasn’t a particularly troublesome child, just a vegetarian one. Sure enough, during each family meal, my dirty little secret would be aired out to all. Fronted by a smorgasbord of beef rendang, chicken rice and chilli crab, fretful expressions were often exchanged. It appeared I would starve.
Being the sole vegetarian in a family of staunch meat-eaters had its drawbacks, but it wasn’t entirely without its perks. I’d eat fragrant nasi lemak, buttery roti and ketupat with satay sauce (no chicken, la!), all in extra portions because my relatives pitied me and my non-carnivorous ways. Still, I was proud to be able to enjoy my culture. Plus all those carbs.
It wasn’t until I ventured from Melaka that I realised Malaysian vegetarian food wasn’t limited to carbs. In Kuala Lumpur, I discovered the joys of salt and pepper tofu and gado gado salad. And that was just the start. Here’s where to go.
1. The Origin
The city of KL is a mixing pot of cultures and The Origin is a delicious testimony to this. The natural food eatery features vegetarian meals from a fusion of cuisines including Japanese, Thai and Nyonya. The highlights? The hearty rojak, a unique nourishing herbal soup and the don’t-knock-it-till-you’ve-tried-it passionfruit sauce tofu.
2. Dharma Realm Guan Yin Monastery canteen
Being only a short walk from the Petronas Towers, Dharma confirms you needn’t search far and wide for a hidden gem. The Buddhist temple overflows with wholesome curries, mock char siew and sweet stir fries. There are around 50 different dishes in the canteen priced at only RM7 each! For the newbies, the monastery is the ideal spot to sample vegetarianism and discover your meatless meal style.
3. The Ganga
This tucked-away Indian eating house is the place for you to enjoy colourful, spicy vegetable curries balanced with fluffy naan bread and rich mango lassi. The eatery even has a “Malaysian Favourites” section offering classics like nasi lemak and kway teow sans the meat.
4. Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe
If you’re seeking a more casual affair, Beyond Veggie is a must. With several branches scattered throughout the city, you can fit in a veggie feed while shopping up a storm. Some of their generously portioned meals include spicy Tom Yum pizza, crunchy Kam Heong style beancurd cutlets and drool-inducing teriyaki soba.
While the name alone might be enough to nab your attention, the culinary delights do a pretty good job too. WTF – What Tasty Food – is a haven for lovers of comfort food. Some of their vegetarian specials include tangy tandoori eggplant bruschetta, zesty soup with lemon and coriander and the flavoursome “OMG” burger, a treat packed with gram pancakes.
6. Water Lily Vegetarian
One meal at Water Lily and you might agree that meat isn’t all that. This haunt boasts the softest steamed veggie buns you could ever want, plus they’ve got an extensive bean curd menu with 15 different varieties to try.
So, in a city known for beef rendang and asam pedas, it turns out KL isn’t a bad place to unearth your herbivorous side.