Vegan Food Quest – Veggin’ Out and About In Southeast Asia!

MELAKA — A FOODIE DESTINATION IN MALAYSIA!

by Caryl Eyers

 

 

As we landed back in Kuala Lumpur after our stay in Bali I was already missing the Balinese food. Our last visit through Malaysia meant we got to try some great new vegan food and revisit some old favorites.  I was hoping this visit would be just the same.

After a few days, we boarded the bus and headed south for a couple of hours to Melaka, another of Malaysia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. Much like Georgetown in Penang, who got their UNESCO listing on the same day, Melaka is a great foodie destination in Malaysia with the mix of Malay, Indian and Chinese heritage producing some of the best food you can find in the whole country.

 

Welcome to Melaka

Welcome to Melaka

Our Vegan Food Quest had some great successes during our visit to Melaka, including finding a vegetarian restaurant that served the tastiest vegan laksa we’ve had. We’ve only managed to have this once before when we got take-out from a small outlet of the ‘Simple Life’ (a chain of healthy restaurants) in KL, but the version served by the team at Veggie Planet was so much better! It tasted really rich and spicy with a good sour flavor and the portion was so huge that we even had enough to take home for dinner. I love laksa but it’s so hard to get a vegan version in Malaysia because of the addition of shrimp paste and either meat or fish stock, so it was very exciting to find this place. We also loved their curry which came with the added treat of tempe.  Plus, the staff were really friendly and worked hard to create a peaceful environment in the the restaurant. An all round excellent experience!

 

Vegan Laksa at Veggie Planet

Vegan Laksa at Veggie Planet

 

Speak Softly Sign At Veggie Planet

Speak Softly Sign At Veggie Planet

 

Melaka has a really small ‘Little India’ area which is nowhere near as big, vibrant and exciting as the one in Georgetown. We tried a couple of restaurants where the food was OK but not amazing and then we discovered ‘Restoran Selvam’ and found that we were no longer able to survive a day without visiting there for something to eat.

 

Selvam Indian Restaurant

Selvam Indian Restaurant

 

It’s the kind of place that we found a lot of when we visited India; functional, busy and cheap, but serving food that is out of this world. Most Indians here really understand being vegan too (we just describe it as pure vegetarian) and so I always feel in safe hands when eating in these places. The best option in terms of value (and excitement too!) was the banana leaf curry. For $1.25 you get the following experience: a banana leaf placed is placed in front of you.  A man comes around with a huge bowl of rice and uses a smaller bowl to scoop it onto your banana leaf.  Then he comes back with buckets of three different curries and ladles them onto your leaf, plus some sweet, tangy and crunchy cucumber salad. He returns a final time with a giant bucket of papadums. He stacks these up on your leaf and away you go. You can eat until you are full, requesting more of anything you like which is a great experience, but terrible for those of us who are a bit greedy… we never once left without being absolutely stuffed!

 

Eating A Banana Leaf Curry

Eating A Banana Leaf Curry

 

As everything is already made and waiting in huge buckets for you, the service is incredibly speedy, but as this place was always so busy we never worried that our food wasn’t fresh. They seemed to be constantly replenishing supplies to meet the steady flow of customers throughout the day. They also change the vegetable curries each day, meaning even though we ate there every day after discovering it, we never had the same meal twice. We got to sample delicious okra, bean and squash curries, as well as an outstanding beetroot curry which really took me by surprise.

As well as the banana leaf curry, they also serve very good quality dosas (with unlimited coconut chutney and lentil sambar!) and ‘paruppu vadai’ (deep fried lentil cakes). They were really too good to resist, spiced with fenugreek, chili and curry leaves.

 

Dosa With Buckets Of Chutney

Dosa With Buckets Of Chutney

 

We spent the rest of our time wandering around the old town looking for ‘kuih’ which is a Malaysia term meaning small snack. There are lots of kuih that are sweet and so can be eaten as desserts. These are perfect when you’re full from your lovely banana leaf curry but just fancy something sweet on the way home!  There are also lots of kuih that are made from 100% vegan ingredients which is even better.

 

Wandering Around Melaka

Wandering Around Melaka

 

The best we found were called ondeh-ondeh, which are little glutinous rice flour dumplings, filled with ‘gula Melaka’ a dark palm sugar that turns into a delicious, runny molasses when the dumplings are cooked. After the dumplings are boiled in water, they are rolled in fresh coconut, all ready for you to pop into your mouth and wait for the explosion of warm gula Melaka. If I had to sum them up in one word? Delightful!

 

Eating Ondeh Ondeh At The Night Market

Eating Ondeh Ondeh At The Night Market

 

Ondeh Ondeh

Ondeh Ondeh

 

Our next stop on the Vegan Food Quest takes us to Tioman Island in search of some tropical paradise. How will the vegan food measure up to the great finds in Melaka? You’ll have to wait and see!

 

VeganMush Caryl has recently left her beloved home in England to brave new worlds in search of adventure and exotic vegan foods throughout Southeast Asia. Join Caryl as she goes Veggin’ Out and About through Southeast Asia! Check out Caryl’s blog!

3 Comments

  1. Alexander that curry was amazing! Lots of people here in Malaysia do include ‘no onions and garlic’ in their version of vegetarian and vegan, normally Chinese-Malay Buddhists that either eat this way full time or just observe meat-free days on the 1st and 15th day of the lunar calendar. There are while restaurants that cater to this style of food and it does taste great somehow… A lot of them serve mock-meat as well as tofu dishes and it’s pretty impressive what they can do! Indian-Malays seem to understand the term ‘pure vegetarian’ as meaning no ghee or curd (yoghurt) but they are pretty good at asking how you like your food because generally people speak good English in Malaysia. I love these banana leaf curries and have eaten so many of them during the Vegan Food Quest travels, they are full of garlic, chilli and onions as well as mustard seeds, curry leaves, tumeric… The list of spices and flavours go on and on! But they aren’t for people avoiding these things for spiritual reasons. Good for travelling vegans though 🙂

  2. Alexander

    That curry place sounds amazing. Doesn’t curry usually have garlic? Pure usually means no garlic or onion which sounds like it’d be hard to make tons of curries under said restriction.

    • Danielle Bussone

      I have never heard of the no onion/garlic restriction in curries. I’d love to know your resource on that information. “Curry” in general refers to a blend of spices and can vary from region to region. Indian curry is different from Thai, which is different from Polynesian, etc. I guess since onions and garlics are herbs, technically, they may not make the cut. However, every chef I know includes garlic in their curry blends, usually ginger as well, and often onions. Who cares what they call it, as long as it’s healthy and delicious?!

Leave a Reply to Danielle Bussone Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive weekly news and updates from VegginOutAndAbout.

You have Successfully Subscribed!