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

ENJOYING “CREATURE” COMFORTS ON TIOMAN ISLAND, MALAYSIA!

by Caryl Eyers

 

 

Since the last Vegan Food Quest update, we’ve spent a week on Tioman island in Malaysia and then journeyed back to Melaka (also in Malaysia). It’s been a thought provoking part of our trip, as well as one that found us eating some seriously good vegan food.

 

FVQ tioman island

Tropical Tioman island on the East coast of Malaysia

 

The highlight of our trip to Tioman was getting to experience the beauty of the natural world by swimming with a sea turtle in the wild. This was not an organized trip where a boat drives around looking for wildlife and then drops anchor so tourists can jump into the water to take photos. We were just swimming with our snorkels along the reef, when we saw a green turtle feeding on the coral.

We swam with it for over an hour watching how gracefully it moved and how peaceful it seemed. It was a truly beautiful experience but also heartbreaking to know that the species is endangered because of threats caused by humans. Having watched how freely it swam through the sea, miles upon miles of ocean to explore, we wondered how people can keep them and other sea creatures in captivity?

 

Swimming with a green turtle in the wild, such a beautiful experience

Swimming with a green turtle in the wild, such a beautiful experience

 

After Tioman, we returned to Melaka and quickly began to settle into local life. People in Melaka are some of the friendliest that we have met and it’s been easy to find out more about life here. After talking to people in our local health food store we found out about a ‘green festival’ that was happening near us. Although it was a small event, the passion and enthusiasm of these Malaysian environmentalists was huge. Their focus is mainly on organic food and products that are kind to the environment (like making your own enzyme water from kitchen waste to replace cleaning products). We had some very interesting conversations about the link between veganism and the environment.

As part of their outreach work, they were trying to encourage people to eat a more organic, vegetarian diet and had some great vegan food to offer. They served a healthy version of a kind of fruit rojak,  a Malaysian fruit salad with a spicy sauce.  Also, offered was a vegan version of a salad called ‘yee sang,’ which is usually eaten during Chinese New Year celebrations. This was a welcome gift and we loved the fact it was served on recycled cardboard trays with recycled spoons — no planet unfriendly plastic and polystyrene here!

 

Discussing veganism over a planet friendly lunch with new friends is a great way to spend time!

Discussing veganism over a planet friendly lunch with new friends is a great way to spend time!

 

Discussing veganism over a planet friendly lunch with new friends is a great way to spend time!

Our new environmentalist friends told us all about Eco Enzymes and blew us away with their passion and enthusiasm.

 

Our neighborhood has a weekly night market where we go to stock up on fruit and vegetables and wander around the stalls that sell little treats to eat. The great thing about this market is that everything is fresh and there’s so much to see. No longer is weekly shopping a chore; it’s now more of an adventure of sights, smells and sounds, not to mention new tastes.

A favorite treat are the fresh ‘popiah’, wheat flour pancakes (made with no egg) filled with bean sprouts, lettuce, fresh cilantro, cucumber, minced fresh garlic, tofu, chili sauce and stewed jicama. Popiah aren’t normally vegetarian, let alone vegan, as they often have a whole array of animal products in them but we are lucky that Charlie, our local popiah seller, makes a vegetarian version that he is happy to make vegan for us.

 

 Fresh popiah being made at the night market

Fresh popiah being made at the night market

 

 Popiah have an awesome array of flavors and textures: Sweet, spicy, crunchy, soft… who said plant-based food was boring?!

Popiah have an awesome array of flavors and textures: Sweet, spicy, crunchy, soft… who said plant-based food was boring?!

 

One of the reasons many people choose a plant-based lifestyle is because it is healthier for you. A lot of people assume that because you are vegan, you must be healthy. Sadly it actually turns out to be very easy to be an unhealthy vegan, especially when you’re traveling. Everywhere we go there seems to be an abundance of readily available, deep fried vegan snacks. Not only is this kind of food really cheap but the vendors are positioned in strategic locations at time of day when you just fancy a little something.

Take these ‘pisang goreng’ or banana fritters, it has proven near on impossible to walk past the stall without picking up a few.

 

 ‘Pisang goreng’ of banana fritters are often found being cooked at the side of the road or in an open air food court

‘Pisang goreng’ of banana fritters are often found being cooked at the side of the road or in an open air food court

 

These little banana fritters are nearly impossible to resist

These little banana fritters are nearly impossible to resist

 

And if we do manage to have enough willpower to walk by these, we have to walk by Mr Kumar, selling vadai – more delicious fried snacks, this time originating from India but widely available in Malaysia. He’s so friendly that we always like to stop and chat and he always gives us a bag of vadai which are lentil cakes that are spiced with chili and curry leaves and then deep fried, or small lentil donuts that, yes you guessed it, have been deep fried. There’s something wonderful about eating fresh vadai, served from the back of Mr Kumar’s motorbike, accompanied by a mouthful of fresh green chili, but its probably fair to say that they don’t have a regular place in a healthy whole-food, plant-based diet.

 

 Mr Kumar selling vadai, not part of the healthy eating plan but so delicious!

Mr Kumar selling vadai, not part of the healthy eating plan but so delicious!

 

We’ll be leaving Melaka soon, hitting the road again on our Vegan Food Quest to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world. Next stop: back to Kuala Lumpur to test out some luxury hotel restaurants and then on to Java in Indonesia where a whole new vegan cuisine awaits us — hopefully!

 

 

Caryl Eyers 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!

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