Similar to many countries across the globe, veganism is on the rise throughout Malaysia. Both long-time plant-based restaurants and up-and-coming veg eateries serve amazing cruelty-free eats, while a growing selection of diverse plates can also be found at traditional meat-serving businesses as well. Located just north of the equator in Southeast Asia, sunny Malaysia’s blending of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and indigenous Orang Asli culture is apparent in its diverse cuisine. While variety abounds in the nation, chili peppers are a commonality across dishes, making the food just like the weather—super hot. Whether you have time to explore the best vegan restaurants in major cities or you’re just grabbing a quick bite during an airport layover, here are the best places to find vegan food in the country.
1. Kuala Lumpur
Many foreigners begin their food journey in the heart of Kuala Lumpur (KL) at the lively street-food central known as Jalan Alor. Though the dozens of hawker stalls might look daunting, the neighborhood offers great vegan options such as cendol—a sweet dessert made with rice flour and coconut milk—and goreng pisang (deep fried banana fritters). Fresh fruit abounds, especially at night, when travelers can smell durian, a local favorite. If you can’t find a place to sit around the main street, walk around the corner to Blue Boy Vegetarian to enjoy hearty noodle dishes such as the spicy mee curry or the assam laksa, a tangy soup available vegan only when ordered at a vegetarian restaurant due to the traditionally prepared fish stock.
Sticky tropical humidity and frequent rainy outbursts often leave KL locals in search of air-conditioned shopping and eating establishments. Colossal shopping centers connect most of the city, and while hanging out at the mall might not be on your list of things to do in KL, some of the best vegan restaurants are located within the maze. BMS Organics has various locations throughout the city, but most are found in shopping malls such as the popular Bangsar Mid Valley Megamall. Skip the stores and head to level 3, where you’ll encounter a modern earthy atmosphere with organic vegan food galore. Enjoy a range of cleansing fresh fruit juices such as the apple, carrot, and grape Eyesight Booster or the lemony Immunity Enhancer. For heavier fare, try one of the creative entrées such as the soy cheese-baked spiral pasta or the spicy black pepper sauce steak. There’s also a BMS Organics at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport for some quick nasi lemak, Malaysia’s tangy national dish.
Before you leave the capital, make sure to stop at the up-and-coming LN Fortunate Coffee near the Mont Kiara shopping center. Opened in 2015, LN (Loving Nature) has quickly become a favorite establishment for local vegans. Much more than coffee, LN Fortunate offers unique dishes seldom found in Southeast Asia including lasagna with spinach cheese, grilled tempeh with mustard tahini, and mashed potato pesto sandwiches. For dessert, treat yourself to one of nine different homemade ice cream flavors including Matcha Green Tea, Mangolicious, and Black Sesame. Try it alone, on a waffle, or on fresh sourdough in the Ice Cream Mini Bun Trio.
Compared to the country’s capital, Ipoh is far less of a popular tourist destination. Nestled in the Kinta Valley in north central region of the peninsula, locals will commonly greet one another with “sudah makan?” (“Have you eaten?”) as a way to ask “how are you?” While the relaxing and scenic atmosphere of Ipoh is a stark contrast to that of Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh’s vegan food is a fair contender. For those in the mood for traditional Chinese food and Japanese sushi, Fu Tien Vegetarian Restaurant is a favorite among the local Buddhist population. Always packed with customers, Fu Tien’s signature “Golden Dragon” roll includes carrot and kampyo (a type of gourd) topped with fresh mango, and while nasi ayam (chicken rice) can be found at nearly every street corner in Ipoh, Fu Tien’s Hainan Chicken Rice infuses ginger and soy protein to create a healthy, cruelty-free traditional staple.
Other cities in Malaysia offer plenty of plant-based eats, but this northwest island is a vegan haven. While wandering through cobbled alleys with modern street art, you might find yourself stumbling into a colonial shophouse and discovering a vegan restaurant such as Sushi Kitchen. With walls adorned with anime-styled cartoon faces and Sharpie-scribbled professions of vegan solidarity, travelers feel at home while sitting on chairs or floor cushions around communal-style tables. Embrace the coziness with a simmering soup like the sweet potato in thick gravy, the Saporo clay pot noodle, or the organic spirulina curly noodle. Save room to try a variety of the restaurant’s namesake: the sushi, including the top-selling “Global Warming” maki made with radish, Japanese cucumber, sesame seeds, and homemade vegan mayonnaise.
Located next to the airport, Cloud Dreaming Vegan Cake House is a must-visit before you leave Penang. While mouthwatering charcoal veggie burgers such as the Energy Mushroom and Mashed Potato Burger are amazing, the cakes and desserts are what truly distinguish this popular establishment from its contemporaries. The variety of decadent cakes changes, though crowd-pleasing styles include the fluffy chocolate with green tea cream, the vanilla with fresh crunchy apples, the lemon “cheesy” cheesecake, and the blueberry chocolate cake.
Karly Placek is a travelling digital media maker with an unwavering love of spicy noodles.
Photo courtesy of Life of Goodness