Vegan Guide to Malaysia

Here’s our Vegan Guide to Malaysia, a country with a fabulous mix of cultures where the food has influences from India, China and Europe creating some of the best vegan food in the world.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Malaysia on our Vegan Food Quest to find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world, mainly because it’s a total paradise for the food loving vegan traveller.

We can't stop eating when we're in Malaysia - so much amazing vegan food!

We can’t stop eating when we’re in Malaysia – so much amazing vegan food!

If you’re looking for good vegan food in Malaysia and you can’t visit everywhere then our Vegan Food Quest top places to visit for exciting vegan food are Georgetown in Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka (but the rest of the country is awesome too!).

Vegan Guide to Malaysia.

Nasi Lemak

‘Nasi Lemak’ is Malaysia’s national dish and it’s eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Translated ‘nasi lemak’ means ‘fatty rice’, not an appetising name, but it comes from the rice in this dish which is soaked in coconut milk before being steamed (and anyone who’s tried it will tell you it’s delicious!).

The vegan version consists of rice, fried peanuts, cucumber, spicy tomato and chilli ‘sambal’ (tomatoes and chillies cooked and pounded together to make a spicy condiment) and vegetable side dishes or curries.

Vegan variations can mainly be found in specialist restaurants but we also found a hawker stall in Malaka that did a vegan version and street vendors who were happy to just sell us the vegan parts of the dish without the animal products.

'Sabah Style' vegan nasi lemak where the rice is cooked with turmeric, served with 5 spice braised tofu.

‘Sabah Style’ vegan nasi lemak where the rice is cooked with turmeric, served with 5 spice braised tofu.

Takeout vegan nasi lemak; amazing coconut creamy, pandan scented rice with cucumber and peanuts to garnish.

Takeout vegan nasi lemak; amazing coconut creamy, pandan scented rice with cucumber and peanuts to garnish.

Vegan Food Quest favourite places for Nasi Lemak? Simple Life in Kuala Lumpur and Yummy Garden, our favourite food court in Malaysia (Jalan Ujong Pasir, Melaka).

Nasi Campur

Another dish found everywhere in Malaysia is ‘Nasi Campur’ (pronounced ‘nasi champur’), which translated means ‘mixed rice’, nasi campur restaurants are everywhere and the food on offer is displayed ‘buffet style’ where you can see and select what you want.

You just have a look at what’s on offer, request steamed rice and either help yourself to dishes or someone will do it for you. You pay for what you eat and the vegan options are often the cheapest which makes it a great budget option.

We found this huge selection of vegan treats in a nasi campur restaurant in Mersing at Restoran Syed Ali.

We found this huge selection of vegan treats in a nasi campur restaurant in Mersing at Restoran Syed Ali.

Vegan Food Quest favourite place for Nasi Campur? Restoran Syed Ali (a 24 hour restaurant in Mersing, the jump off town for Tioman island).

Laksa

No cuisine guide about Malaysia would be complete without mentioning laksa, a spicy noodle soup with ‘tofu puffs’ floating around.

We had to find a vegetarian restaurant in order to get a vegan version of this in Malaysia and when we tasted it we were hooked. It’s one of those dishes with many regional varieties and secret recipes that have been handed down through generations so it often tastes different depending on where you eat it.

The best we tried was tangy, sour, creamy, rich and spicy hot with chillies all at the same time, with hearty noodles and little tofu sponges soaking up the delicious soup, sometimes there’s even a few sprigs of fresh mint in there.

Laksa really is vegan food from the gods.

We’ve only found vegan laksa in vegetarian restaurants in Malaysia but we wish they’d sell it everywhere because it’s so tasty!

We’ve only found vegan laksa in vegetarian restaurants in Malaysia but we wish they’d sell it everywhere because it’s so tasty!

Vegan Food Quest favourite places for Laksa are Be Lohas at KLIA2 (they have a branch in Kuala Lumpur too), Veggie Planet in Melaka, Water Lily Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

Tahu Sumbat

‘Tahu Sumbat’ means ‘stuffed tofu’ and is a tasty little street food that you’ll find if you wander around markets and food courts; it’s made from fried tofu cubes which are then sliced open and stuffed with sliced cucumber and bean sprouts then drizzled with spicy chilli sauce.

Tahu sumbat, or stuffed tofu, one of our favourite street food discoveries!

Tahu sumbat, or stuffed tofu, one of our favourite street food discoveries!

Vegan Food Quest favourite place for ‘Tahu Sumbat’? our favourite food court in Malaysia called  Yummy Garden Food Court, Jalan Ujong Pasir, Melaka.

Indian food

It’s fair to say that when in Malaysia, we’ve eaten some of the best Indian food we’ve ever had, thanks to the well established Indian communities that can be found in places like Georgetown in Penang, Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. They all have ‘Little India’ areas of town where you can go and seek out a great vegan meal.

‘Banana Leaf Curries’

Anywhere serving good ‘Banana Leaf Curries’ where you can get a banana leaf piled high with steamed rice, dhal and vegetable curries as well as poppadum and cucumber salad are to be cherished in our book.

Every vegan’s friend in Malaysia - a banana leaf piled high with tasty, spicy curries which is topped up until you're full.

Every vegan’s friend in Malaysia – a banana leaf piled high with tasty, spicy curries which is topped up until you’re full.

Vegan Food Quest go to place for a banana leaf curry? Selvam Restoran in Melaka.

Southern Indian Masala Dosas

Dosas are light, crispy pancakes made from fermented rice flour, filled with a spiced semi-mashed potato filling, served with sambar (lentil stew) and coconut chutney. Eat them morning, noon and night and don’t be shy with that delicious coconut chutney, spiced with curry leaves and mustard seeds.

We could happily eat a masala dosa every day for the rest of our lives and never get bored of them.

We are in love with dosas.

We are in love with dosas.

Vegan Food Quest favourite spots for dosa are Woodlands Restaurant in Georgetown, Selvam Restoran in Melaka and Saravanaa Bhavan in Kuala Lumpur.

‘Parripu Vadai’

Parippu vadai are deep fried lentil cakes spiced with curry leaves, chilli and other spices. A popular Indian snack food often sold on the street, it’s common to find these vegan treats in Malaysia too (and common to find us stuffing our faces full of them if we see them).

Watch them being made on the street and then eat them all up.

Watch them being made on the street and then eat them all up.

Vegan Food Quest favourite place to score some parippu vadai? Just wander around Little India in Georgetown, Penang or Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur or go to Selvam Restoran in Melaka.

Popiah

Popiah are spring rolls (either fried) or fresh, wrapped in a wheat flour pancake; it’s amazing to watch people making the fresh popiah ‘skins’.

They are one of our favourite snacks and easily made vegan because you can see what’s being put in them and ask for any of the non-vegan ingredients to be left out (usualy egg, shrimp or meat or even lard, but also check any sauces that are added).

The tastiest we had were filled with chilli sauce, hoisin sauce, lettuce, tofu, minced garlic, bean sprouts and stewed jicama (a delicious sweet turnip, but do check it hasn’t been cooked in any animal fat).

A wheat flour ‘popiah skin’ is packed full of tasty vegan things like tofu, spicy sauce and crunchy salad before being rolled up.

A wheat flour ‘popiah skin’ is packed full of tasty vegan things like tofu, spicy sauce and crunchy salad before being rolled up.

Filling, delightful pancake rolls which can be made vegan.

Filling, delightful pancake rolls which can be made vegan.

Vegan Food Quest favourite popiah? You’ll have to get off the beaten track and go to the local night market in Ujong Pasir, Melaka to find Baba Charlie Nyonya Kuih.

Mock Meat

Most places where there is a Chinese-Malay Buddhist population have an all vegan restaurant serving up mock meat versions of local dishes. You can find meat-free versions of Malaysian cuisine made with mock meat and tofu in abundance, as well as lots of spiced vegetable dishes, rice and noodles.

No need to worry about any meat here and they’re usually really cheap too.

Mock meat vegan satay, it’s amazing what can be done with mock-meat.

Mock meat vegan satay, it’s amazing what can be done with mock-meat.

Very cheap and very delicious, our meal here cost us about 40p.

Very cheap and very delicious, our meal here cost us about 40p.

Vegan Food Quest favourite mock meat restaurant? Fu Guang Vegetarian Restaurant in the Cameron Highlands.

Sweet Treats (which are often 100% vegan)

‘Ondeh-Ondeh’

Ondeh-Ondeh are little glutinous rice flour dumplings filled with ‘gula Melaka’, a dark palm sugar that turns into a delicious, runny treacle 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 treacly sweetness.

Slightly chewy on the outside with an explosion of runny, treacly like paln sugar in the middle; we can’t resist eating ondeh-ondeh when we find them.

Slightly chewy on the outside with an explosion of runny, treacly like paln sugar in the middle; we can’t resist eating ondeh-ondeh when we find them.

Vegan Food Quest favourite place for ondeh-ondeh? Baba Charlie Nyona Kuih at the night market in Ujong Pasir are the best but wander around Jonker Street market and you’ll find them too (although more expensive and not quite as good as Baba Charlie’s).

‘Goreng Pisang’

Fried food is never too far away from us here at the Vegan Food Quest and ‘Goreng Pisang’, or deep fried banana fritters often find their way to our mouths when we’re in Malaysia. Made with a batter of flour and water, these little fritters are really crunchy on the outside with sweet, soft banana on the inside.

It’s great to watch them being cooked in huge vats and then eating them straight away when they are hot!

These are a dangerously tasty vegan treat.

These are a dangerously tasty vegan treat.

‘Cendol’

Another national obsession (just who does serve the best cendol in Malaysia?)  ‘Cendol’ (pronounced ‘chen-dol’) is made from stewed, sweetened kidney beans, pandan flavoured glutinous rice noodles, coconut milk and palm sugar syrup which is all served over shaved ice.

It has to be eaten to be believed and is seriously delicious.

A must try vegan dessert if you visit Malaysia, cendol is surprisingly refreshing and delicious.

A must try vegan dessert if you visit Malaysia, cendol is surprisingly refreshing and delicious.

Vegan Food Quest favourite place to get cendol? oooh I’ts a tough one! There’s a little cafe at 2 Lebuh Armenian opposite the famous ‘kids on bicycle street art’, we loved the cendol here and it was a great place to watch the world go by.

Vegan Luxury in Malaysia

Malaysia has no shortage of places to experience vegan travel, luxury style.

One of our favourite places though is the Renaissance in Johor Baru, which you’ll definitely want to visit if you’re heading down to Singapore or if you just fancy a great vegan luxury hotel stay, the vegan food there is insanely good, both in Wan Li, their Cantonese fine dining restaurant and in BLD their signiature restaurant.

Other places where the luxury vegan food might surprise you is Tosca at the Doubletree Kuala Lumpur who make wonderful vegan Italian food.

Be sure to make contact in advance to give them a chance to make vegan dishes like these that will blow you away.

Delicious filled 'yam ring' at Wan Li.

Delicious filled ‘yam ring’ at Wan Li.

Vegan food art for BLD's Award Winning Executive Chef.

Vegan food art for BLD’s Award Winning Executive Chef.

This awesome cannelloni had all the flavours and textures you might hope for in a healthy vegan interpretation of this classic Italian dish.

This awesome vegan aubergine cannelloni at Tosca was pretty impressive .

You can follow our vegan travel adventure as we ‘find, eat and write about the best vegan food in the world’ by signing up to our monthly newsletter and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Or why don’t you come and stay with us in our very own Vegan Villa in Siem Reap, Cambodia where we can treat you to the best of vegan hospitality and share with you our favourite vegan spots in Temple Town; check out our listing on Airbnb and come and stay if you’re in the area!

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10 thoughts on “Vegan Guide to Malaysia

    1. Caryl Post author

      Thanks Daniel – that’s such a compliment as I feel like we’ve done vegan Malaysian food real justice! It really is an awesome country with some awesome food… just love it there. You have any top recommendations for visiting Malaysia?

      Reply
        1. PAUL Post author

          HI Daniel
          Just had a look at your post and will certainly check out Balik Pulau next time in Penang!
          Regards
          Paul

          Reply
    1. Vegan Food Quest Post author

      hi victoria – you’re so right about vadai, they are just delicious and we can’t get enough of them! love the fried bananas to, in fact, anything fried and vegan is pretty good! we just have to limit our intake of friend snacks as i’m sure you will understand!

      happy travels 🙂

      Reply
  1. Smitha

    Going to Malaysia kl double tree next week and I will surely make a note of the names of vegan foods..was wondering if I will have to go raw. Now this blog seems promising. Do we get lemons ?

    Reply
    1. Vegan Food Quest Post author

      There’s plenty of cooked vegan food in KL as well as some great raw options. Not sure what you mean by your lemons question – sorry! Happy vegan travels 🙂

      Reply
  2. Sea

    thank you for this post! I was thinking of travelling to Malaysia and it’s a relief that there are vegan options that are easy to come by. It really puts me at ease knowing I won’t starve haha

    Reply
    1. Vegan Food Quest Post author

      Hi,
      You definitely won’t stave in Malaysia – especially in KL, Georgetown and Melaka – these are the places where we found the best vegan food!
      Thanks for commenting, we’d love to know if you discover anything else during your trip so stay in touch.
      Happy Vegan Travels
      Caryl x

      Reply

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