This post was written by Pamela Nowicka
Penang has food for everyone, and intrepid vegetarian Pamela Nowicka was pleased to discover some charming options for those looking to go meat-free, and can reassure any carnivore that all-veggie meals don’t have to be boring.
Those of us whose are vegetarian, and people who would just like to try some super-delicious food, are in for a bit of a treat in Penang.While hawker stalls and plush restaurants alike seem to struggle with the concept of all-vege meals – many produce their “vegetarian” dishes in chicken stock – scratch the eatery surface, and a cornucopia of excellent veggie restaurants bubble up.
It took me a while to find my veggie feet in Penang. Assailed by the scents of duck and rice (my previous go-to Asian meal), I’d wander hungrily down Chulia Street, often settling for an egg sandwich or meat-less pizza in an attempt to fill up. Neither of these options is ideal if you’re trying to be vegan.
My first veggie discovery was The Water Drop, a lovely café/diner run by friendly and kind Buddhist volunteers along King Street in Georgetown. It was here that I was introduced to a fiery Tom Yam soup and freshly blended juice (without sugar). Local office workers try out vege versions of noodle and rice dishes in the calming ambiance of wooden floors and spiritual writings.
Spurred on by this first success, my next vege discovery was The Leaf Healthy House, a bright and airy café on Lebuh Penang, with a mix of Western-style pasta, veggie burgers, and Malaysian food. And don’t forget the amazing carrot, beetroot, apple juice that was as good as a meal in itself.
For a more homely feel, Warmland (open for lunch with a choice of three daily set menus) rapidly rose to the top of my George Town vege restaurant hit parade. Rice and various vege curries are served by more Buddhist volunteers in this joint, and the place also sells cute handmade cats and dogs. Once I’d adopted the locals’ habit of phoning ahead to secure the Red Rice Set, I found my food needs could be easily met for around RM6 per tasty meal.
Next stop is Tanjung Bungah.What to do on those regrettably frequent days when the last thing one wants to do is cook? As luck would have it, the answer is only a few shops down from the IWA clubhouse.
Permai Village Café – Vegetarian Delights is a gift from the gods for any foodie. Run by the slim and smiley Carol, this laid-back and calming eatery has become a home away from home for me. Carol has a comprehensive menu featuring Western dishes like pizza, which had my (meat-eating) companion in raptures. As well as an a’ la carte menu with Western, rice, and noodle dishes, there are two daily specials including an Indian/Thai/Nonya set and local staples like nasi campur and nasi lemak. Sometimes, there are cakes at Carol’s: look out for strawberry cheesecake and caramel cupcakes.
On a friend’s recommendation and, in the interests of research, I tested the food at the Adventist Hospital Cafe in Pulau Tikus. After a couple of circuits of the ground floor, a helpful staff member gave precise directions – “turn right at the Pharmacy and cross into the next building” – so I was able to locate it.
Here, a bright and welcoming canteen is filled with cheery orange furniture that cater to happily munching medics and civilians. Signs dotted about extoll the benefits of healthy vegetarian food.
During my visit, I started my journey through food heaven with brown rice (white is available too), and then it was just a matter of choosing from around 30 different veggie dishes in a typical canteen set up. I opted for something creamy and yellow (a curry made with tempeh, okra, aubergine, and a coconut milk), pumpkin, beans, and greens. My eye was then caught by juicy-looking chips, and I felt honour-bound to add them to my tray.
Everything was outstandingly good and perfectly complemented by the grain-separate brown rice. And the chips? All I can say is that it was only the barest modicum of self-control that kept me from going back for seconds (or thirds) of those moist potato wedges.The whole meal was RM7, and enjoyed in an atmosphere that was peaceful and not, despite the location, clinical.The environment was conducive to hanging out and having a quiet time, and I’ll certainly be back.
Source: Penang International February 2013 -March 2013
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