Kuala Lampur & Langkawi, 18 – 27 January 2019
After finding a tub of hummus and a non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in my nearest supermarket on day 2, I knew that veganism in Malaysia would be a lot breezier than the other Asian countries I’d visited (At least something was breezy, because the weather sure was not-super hot, humid, and notably breezeless.)
First Meal: Nasi Lemak
Actually, I think a bit of backtracking is necessary, because it may be more accurate to say I knew how much easier it would be the moment I decided to scope out a pre-adventure meal, immediately after I landed in KLIA (Kuala Lampur International Airport). After almost a year of living in China, I’m accustomed to a significant struggle in locating vegan and healthy options and alternatives, so it was a pleasant surprise when I managed to spot a café that checked all boxes, even in the airport. BMS Organics has a tiny store selling healthy organic products-so you can stock up on anything you may need for your trip-and an all-vegetarian café, with plenty of vegan options. The menu has an impressive array, and I decided to immediately delve head-first into colourful, aroma-rich, explosive Malaysian flavours, choosing Nasi Lemak-collectively adopted as Malaysia’s signature food dish.
Traditionally, Nasi Lemak’s ingredients vary, but it essentially contains coconut infused rice, with either deep fried chicken or fish, often with boiled eggs, and is almost always accompanied by curry paste, cucumbers, peanuts and anchovies. My vegan version (the only vegan version I had managed to find throughout the trip) used a soy-based meat alternative to replicate the chicken, and the dish in entirety was soul-satisfying stuff-bonus, it was garlic and onion free too. Despite it being slightly too spicy for my rather wimpy palette, I kept eating it because it was SO GOOD. (It could be argued I was just hungry, but, for the purposes of this post, let’s stick with the former. It really was good.)
[ After a bit of digging-you’re welcome-I found out that BMS Organics has branches situated in many other locations too: https://www.bmsorganics.com/outlet/]
Restaurant at Capri
My hotel in KL, Capri by Fraser, had about three …or four… vegetarian options at their on-site restaurant, and I sampled a vegetable wok dish. I can’t say I was a fan, but that’s not because it wasn’t up to scratch per se, it just wasn’t a flavour that’s my preference. Whether or not it was my cup of tea, I have to admit that its presentation more than made up for what I found lacking in taste.
Traditional Malay Food
Not far off from where I had stayed is a traditional Malay restaurant. The menu was incomprehensible for us mere English speakers, so I went out on a whim and tried to explain that I wanted a fried rice dish without egg, and, additionally, that I needed didn’t want meat at all. Most Malaysians have a rather surprising fluent English ability, so it came a bit of a shock that no one at this restaurant spoke better English. All in all, I’m so grateful to have experienced authentic local cuisine, and after explaining my preferences-that I would have tofu with my fried rice-the end product was actually one of the most satisfying dishes on the trip. Everything about it was perfect: level of spiciness, aroma, flavour, accompanying Malaysian ambience at the restaurant, everything-ESPECIALLY the price. Malaysian food is cheap if you choose to not frequent the high end, tourist targeted restaurants. I can’t recall the name of this particular restaurant, but, if you’re ever in the area, exit Capri, continue straight left, pass the Bangsar South sign and water display, and you’ll soon end up at a tiny, slightly elevated, well-lit Malay restaurant. I have to note, after venturing out to an off beaten path a few days later so that I could interact with monkeys (yay!), I discovered that I would never again manage in procuring any more vegan food from other roadside local Malay restaurants. Sometimes, you only get lucky once.
Other mentions in KL include Beyond Veggie, an extremely environmentally friendly and vegetarian café which has several outlets in different areas. [https://foursquare.com/coolcitycat/list/beyond-veggie-outlets ]
[ Beyond Veggie, Capri by Fraser, Supermarket & Forty Hands location all can be found here: https://bangsarsouth.com/directory/]
A massive Indian community in KL means that there is no shortage of Indian restaurants, and there are ALWAYS vegetarian options because of cultural and religious reasons. Keep in mind that Indian cuisine is very indulgent in dairy, so some of the dishes are not always vegan. Exploring Brickfields, or Little India, proved to uncover many Indian buffets, and not even on my visits to India did I manage to experience such an authentic all Indian food experience. Perhaps, I need to venture out to more local restaurants next time in India?
[The Indian buffet I ate at was at a restaurant called Sri Paandi, Brickfields]
What about breakfast?
I had only managed to find one spot within walking distance of my hotel which offered my breakfast-essential avocado toast, at Forty Hands, The Sphere. The avo was slightly tangy because I believe they may have doused it in lemon juice, but overall, yassssssss.
I had been prepared for nothing short of starvation after reading many alarming blog posts about vegan-less food in Langkawi, and watching rather concerning YouTube videos. Thankfully, this is all untrue. (Or maybe, it’s true for other areas-I was staying in and wandering around Pantai Cenang) I found a few places that offered vegan burgers (albeit, all of those places were sold out when I tried to buy one) and managed to eat at local Malay cafes after explaining my situation. Here, too, is an array of Indian restaurants that sometimes have vegan options and definitely offer up vegetarian meals.
Strongly recommended, though, is The Kasbah, a little traveller’s café that boasts dorm rooms, an amazing aesthetic and volunteer-based staff. Their menu is truly something bomb-all vegan food is marked clearly and I wouldn’t have minded eating here every day. On our first trip to the restaurant, I chose to be explorative and ordered off the Malaysian inspired menu. “Pajeri Terung and Nenas”-basically, an eggplant and pineapple curry with rice and tempeh. SPICY, but good, and definitely the first time I’ve had pineapple in a curry. The second time round, I tried a safer option, the vegan burger, which was spot on.
I’m sure there are other restaurants & cafes worth noting about here too, but I was unfortunately only in Langkawi for three days, & KL for just over a week, so that’s where my experiences and recommendations end. 🙂 Will update next time!
And now, I must bid you adieu x
Love, light aaaaannnnnd peaaace, you tree-huggers.
Happy travelling and message me about your Malaysian x vegan experiences!