Eating vegan has a lot of misconceptions: that it’s bland, that it’s a trend, and that it lacks nutrition and protein. I’m not vegan, but Malaysian restaurants have stepped up their game that makes me love plant-based food. It can be as fun as mango sushi or jackfruit curry, or as simple and accessible like “chap fan”. So I’ve tried and tested from various restaurants, and none of them were sponsored so you know I’m spilling the tea. Here are the 10 plant-based dishes that I recommend you should try, whether you’re vegan or not.
I tried… Hakka Lei Cha Rice, which is a broth made from ground tea and herbs, accompanied with vegetables, rice or noodles, nuts and tofu. Don’t be intimidated by the intense green colour, the tea-based broth is wonderfully balanced, bright and herbaceous. You can opt for spinach noodles, if you want all things green! Everything is made fresh with whole foods, free from preservatives and MSG, which makes it so good for you.
Check out Big Big Bowl Hakka Kitchen’s Facebook.
I tried… the signature Nasi Lemak with Rendang, and it’s the real deal. Lion’s mane mushrooms have a great, meaty texture and can absorb all the flavourful spices that make this rendang so legit. Besides flavour, Sala also opens up people’s perceptions of vegan food: with a bit of creativity, it can taste like a lot of things we’re used to, and can be achieved with all natural ingredients.
Check out Sala’s Instagram.
I tried… the “Juno” Falafel Wrap, which debunks common complaints about vegan food: it’s filling, juicy, and so not bland. I’ll admit: I work here but I promise I’m not biased! It’s especially satisfying when a lot of non-vegans or skeptics end up loving it too, because of the herbaceous, juicy falafels and bites of fresh dill. This falafel wrap is normally with a dairy-based sauce, but the chefs are happy to change it into a bright, plant-based basil oil.
Order online or check out Fin’s Instagram.
I tried... Vegan Sushi, Fried Tempeh and “Jealousy” Soup. While Japanese cuisine is typically associated with seafood, Supe Vegan got really creative with their plant-based ingredients by using crispy “G-Ken” floss made from soybeans (get it, chicken), mango sushi and curried tempeh. You might need to order a couple of things for it to be a substantial meal, so try a bit of everything!
Check out Supe’s Instagram.
I tried… Mee Hoon with Mixed Vegetables, a quick, humble meal but so satisfying. Chap Fan is the O.G vegan go-to place, with their variety of affordable vegetables, carbs and flavourful mock meat, and then you’re good to go. Tze Ern takes it one step further by clearly indicating which dishes have dairy, eggs and onions so it’ll be easier to pick out vegan dishes that suit your dietary needs!
Order Tze Ern online or find them in Publika.
I tried… Coconut Curry with Jackfruit, which was like a wholesome Japanese curry packed with chickpeas, eggplant and carrots. It might seem weird to use jackfruit in a curry, but hear me out: jackfruit is used in a lot of vegan cooking, as it can mimic the texture of “pulled” meat, absorb a lot of flavours, and has a bite to it. You’ll barely notice you’re eating a fruit, but this curry is on the sweeter side, and the spice level is mild. Try it with their turmeric rice!
Order Jojo’s by Joloko online.
I tried… Vegan Mac & Cheese, which is made of a hearty pumpkin and cashew sauce, with spinach, tempeh and oyster mushrooms. You can hardly tell there’s no cheese or thickener, as they got really resourceful by using a nut-based sauce to get that creamy texture. If you’d like to try your hand at cooking or gift it to a friend, you can also order their Home Kit with all the same ingredients.
Order Kanteen online.
I tried… Dry Laksa Ramen, which includes ramen noodles, deep-fried tempeh, tofu, bean sprouts and egg (which you can request to be removed), with a hearty mushroom laksa gravy and sambal. Lauk Pauk serves up a fun line-up of contemporary, plant-based dishes that celebrate Malaysia’s diverse flavours, from a bright Ulam Salad to a delicious Sambal Tumis Sayur Kampung.
Order Lauk Pauk online.
You’ve been warned: it’s spicy!
I tried… Kimchi Fried Rice, because kimchi is a vegan’s best friend. It adds a zing and flavour to anything instantly, very snackable, and it’s beneficial for gut health! If you’re looking for a fuss-free, comforting vegan meal - this is your best bet. Halaveg also offers heaps of local plant-based dishes, like bakuteh (let me know if you’ve tried it!), satay and assam laksa.
Order Halaveg online.
Named after their vegan friend, “Nicole”!
I tried… Nicole’s Vegan Pizza, which is surprisingly hard to find in KL, so I was happy to try this one from Phil’s Pizza! The main culprit that makes it difficult to make pizza plant-based is cheese, which isn’t used in this little number. Instead, it’s made with a nutty pesto sauce, roasted capsicum, fresh spinach and cherry tomatoes. Enjoy it with their house sodas!
Order Phil’s Pizza online.