If you follow me on Instagram (or any other social media for that matter), you’ll know that I got the chance to visit Malaysia last September. Having already ticked Bali and Nepal off my South East Asia travel bucket list, I was super excited to plan for this trip. Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures with a population split whose heritage is split between Malay, Chinese and Indian – needless to say I could hardly wait to try the local fare and immerse myself in the diverse culture. Cue hours spent pouring over Lonely Planet guide books, Tripadvisor.com and Happy Cow making endless lists.
While I can’t imagine any South East Asian country not being vegan-friendly, I must say I was very pleasantly surprised by Malaysia and particularly Kuala Lumpur, or as the cool kids call it “KL” which is where we spent the first leg of our trip.
One trend that seems to have run rampant in the city is juice bars – there were at least 3 or 4 in every main shopping center/district! I would have to guess that it was a result of the Australian influence, but that’s just a wild guess. Anyways, I digress.
La Juiceria was by far the best juice bar we happened upon during the entire trip. Everything from the packaging, to the flavour combinations and quite frankly the sheer deliciousness of their cold pressed juices left me super impressed. We went back several times since it’s located in the Pavillion Shopping Centre which was a stone’s throw away from our hotel, even stocking up on their immunity booster shots for later on in the trip.
Another must-visit in KL is the night market hawker stalls in Bukit Bintang. While the vegan options may seem sparse, it’s a great atmosphere of bustling restaurants and stalls and an enjoyable way to take in the local scene.
Some of the hawkers offered up fried tofu and tempeh, but upon closer inspection I noticed they were a fan of the communal oil cooking method, choosing to fry the chicken, meat, seafood and tofu all in one colorful looking miniature vat. No thank you.
I opted instead for some incredibly sweet and oddly adorable mini pineapple on a stick.
But the real highlight of the night was coconut ice-cream. A local specialty that is in fact dairy-free (just watch out for the toppings as some of them may be non-vegan), and absolutely delicious.
I got mine with coconut shavings and Oreo crumbs. Excuse me while my mouth waters uncontrollably.
Another favourite in KL was a little coffee shop and vegetarian restaurant called RGB and the Bean Hive.
They serve up traditional classics with a veggie twist, and having visited on two separate occasions (within three days, mind you) I can firmly say I’m a fan.
Vegan eggs benedict, sauteed greens and chestnut mushrooms – this was definitely my favourite breakfast of the entire trip.
Vegan carrot and walnut cake – divine.
Another local chain that really impressed me with Simple Life Healthy Vegetarian Restaurant.
The title pretty much says it all, but Simple Life’s outlets offer healthy vegan and vegetarian versions of traditional Malay foods. Nasi Lemak with brown rice, vegan laksa, and soymilk matcha shakes were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to their extensive menu.
I could hardly believe that this is a restaurant that existed mainly in shopping malls of all places!
(disclaimer: I’m not usually once to frequent malls when I travel, but we happened to be in KL when the haze from Indonesian forest fires was particularly bad, so we tried to stay indoors for the first couple of days to avoid breathing in the heavily polluted air)
As for the overall best vegan meal we had in Kuala Lumpur, the honor hands down goes to The Origin.
I cannot even begin to describe how tantalizingly tasty everything was.
Braised organic tofu with raw carrot and zucchini shreds finished with a wonderfully flavourful passionfruit lime and sweet chilli sauce.
Spicy tempeh rendang topped with roasted peanuts and spring onions.
Sauteed garlic mushrooms in a creamy and delectable alfredo sauce.
Thai coconut butternut squash.
No joke, I would go back to Kuala Lumpur just to eat at this restaurant again. I would even go as far as saying it was one of the best vegetarian restaurants I’ve been to anywhere in the world – high praise but well earned no doubt.
As for the rest of the trip, Penang and Langkawi were slightly trickier to find vegan options, but not impossible. Here’s a list of recommended restaurants in both:
- Vegetarian Restaurant Luk Yea Yan – a small Buddhist vegetarian restaurant with a plethora of mock meat options. While I personally wasn’t a fan of those (they tasted far too real for my liking) the vegan Laksa was fantastic.
- JanXDen Greenlife – great healthy and “clean” vegan options including both Western and traditional dishes
- Kebaya – touted as the best high-end restaurant in Georgetown, this restaurant truly provides a five star experience. Make sure you e-mail ahead with at least two days notice to inform them of special dietary needs.
- Dayang Cafe, Berjaya Resort – this was the main restaurant at our resort and I ended up dining there several times for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast buffet has a wide variety of options including fresh fruit, soy milk, cereal and various vegan curries. The regular a la carte menu has a vegan labelled section with a few decent options as well.
- Pahn-Thai Restaurant, Berjaya Resort – great Thai restaurant with a vegetarian menu and many vegan-friendly options. Staff are happy to make amendments and food is extremely flavourful, not to mention the picturesque setting if you dine around sunset. Recommend making a reservation here as it gets quite busy.
- Privilege Restaurant & Bar – a fusion restaurant with a decent amount of vegetarian and vegan options. Worth calling ahead to inform them about your dietary needs and making a reservation as it is one of the few standalone restaurants near several hotels in the area.