Posted by: jauipop | June 27, 2008

Being a Vegetarian in Malaysia

As we all know, it is pretty tough to be a vegetarian in most Asian countries (and quite a few European ones too) because of a mix of culture and habits.  Sometimes, being a vegetarian gets you labelled as a freak or just strange because there is a lack of understanding about vegetarian diets and how one can actually survive quite well on it.

Just recently, my partner and I took our friends to a restaurant in Bangsar called Woods Macrobiotic.  The restaurant/shop is pure vegan and organic which is great.  The food is tasty and satisfying (although a bit expensive) and even though the atmosphere is a little bit stark and the staff can be a little bit fidgety about service, it is a great concept and should be supported.  For any of you who want to visit, it’s on Jalan Telawi 2 next to Devi’s Corner (across the road and closer to Bangsar Village II from La Bodega).  I recommend the pesto spaghetti, fried rice, the 5 noodle set and the millet curry set.  Even the desserts are egg/milk free!

My friends are meat eaters and aren’t all that big on vegetarian food.  I guess for some, it’s a ‘novel’ idea to have a dish or a whole meal that is just purely meat/fish free.  I know that I have been a bit off and on being a vegetarian, but i absolutely hate it (ok, hate may be too strong a word – dislike) it when the people around me make it a big deal about the vegetarian thing and complain when there’s a vegetarian at their dinner table.  Look, we vegetarians are quite adaptive creatures and we’ll tell you when the restaurant choice is not on (for example, if there no vegetarian option at all, or if the restaurant is solely focused on meat).

On the other hand, I tend to get a bit preachy about it (especially when prodded and asked about why on earth would I choose NOT to eat meat).  Whenever I give my reasons, it seems to get a bit drawn out.  I really need to create some sort of summary for myself and rehearse it so that I can automatically give a short answer whenever asked.  That’s what I need to work on.


Restaurants also need to start upping their game for vegetarians.  Recently, a vegetarian friend of mine went to Alexis for lunch.  Alexis is an expensive cafe/restaurant/bistro that has a couple of outlets around KL.  The food is mostly western with some selection of local favourites.  One would think that a restaurant of this calibre would have meat-free salads on the menu (and robust ones at that), but no, sadly, my friend had to specifically order a salad without the chicken or the turkey bacon bits.  What came back was a pitiful plate of cos lettuce and cheese.

When he spoke to the waiter about adding a few more items (ie. olives, tomatos… ANYTHING!), the waiter went off to the kitchen and came back only to tell him that it would cost RM8 extra to add those things, even though they took away the meat from the dish.  When doing a cost comparison, why would it cost more to add vegetables to a dish that was already worth less than the menu price?  You would figure if that was the case, there should have been a discount on the dish because the meat had been taken away.  But that’s the mentality here and there is no flexibility for vegetarians or anybody with a ‘different’ dietry need.

I’m sure there are some restaurants that do have flexibility and options, so perhaps you readers can comment back as to where vegetarians can go (with their meat eater friends) and still have a good meal.

Sometimes, the best answer would be for restaurants to cater to all their clientele and a simple “V” next to the vegetarian options would suffice.



  1. A list of vegetarian friendly restaurants in Malaysia:

  2. Last nite i went out to a surprise birthday dinner for a friend at TGIF and although it’s happened many times before, i think it’s finally getting to me. As i read the menu cover to cover (twice over) i felt my frustration build up as there was NOTHING i could eat, being a vegan. All the others were munching away on their mac and cheese and buffalo wings. Luckily my boyfriend who is a meat eater but very supportive,helped me look into the menu and together we made a pseudo vegan dish (and after specifying exactly what CANT go on the dish my dish came sprinkled with cheese on top, as expected). They were very nice though the waiters, they removed my cheese for me and the dish (tomato basil pasta with mushrooms instead of chicken) was actually delish!

    You’re right, people dont want to hear a long, drawn out discussion on why meat eating isnt good for u, especially when they arent in the least bit aware or interested in this subject so u will most likely appear to be a freak (in my case a vegan freak who doesnt only turn down dairy products but horoors of horrors, even alcohol!). My aim is just to create the awareness, to plant a tiny who ever may be receptive. Out of the hundreds you reach out to, maybe u’ll make one person’s vegetarian light go on. It’s often a tough thing to do and if the person(s) are not close to me, i dont bother too much because otherwise it truly does seem like i’m preaching and nothing puts a person off more than a preacher.

    Here’s a link that’s interesting : Oprah’s 21day vegan challenge. Some podcasts on here talk about veganism and dealing with family and friends and the various ethical reasons to avoid meat + dairy in your meals.
    On days where it’s frustrating to be a vegan, things like these really help.

    In a surprising way, the more opposition i get from people, the more i am determined to be a vegan. My parents who initially didnt understand what i was doing and thought i was harming myself are now considering being vegetarians themselves! 🙂 So i think we just need to adopt a “thick skin” and know that while we may be upsetting those people who know not of the crimes against animals that they commit, their upset is nothing compared to the animals that have to suffer just for the sake of their taste buds.

  3. Ahahah, its so entertaining to read you guys post. I go through exactly the same scenario day in day out. Firstly, being a vegetarian is like a torture. Torture not when i eat veg food, in fact i enjoy eating it & happy looking at the contains of my plate every time i eat. But its a torture answering those ignorant or shall we call them YET TO REALIZE people. I had been called by so many names, sammi, preacher, bla bla bla n worst even by my loved one. Finding pure veg food in Malaysia, phew.. There’s no much choices you have. Yup there are few places that serve both, but i prefer not to encourage that. My salute to all vegetarians and vegans especially out there for this noble way of life. Lastly bless those who are not vegetarians to understand and feel whats the fuss is all about.

    • Agree with you!! Happens all the time, but hopefully more and more vegetarian joints that strive to cater for the meat eaters in carnivores will pop up. we’re opening one very soon opposite KLCC. Just working on the menu now, but you can definitely visit the cafe, which is vegetarian (some vegan dishes and a new menu with raw foods will be coming soon).

      Details at or

      In the end, we know the reasons of why we’re vegetarian/vegan (even if it’s 95% of the time), so we just have to stay strong. Sometimes, there’s no need to answer people and just have a standard response that is all in one sentence – saves you energy and also prevents them from calling you a preacher.

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on juicer recipes.


  5. Sooo.. Have i offended my vegetarian/vegan friends when i asked them why they choose not to eat meat? I didn’t mean to judge or anything, but i’d like to understand them more, especially those who have no religious obligation to be vegetarian/vegan. Now that i know better, i’m planning to be semi-vegetarian (meat/fish/egg for once a week or less). but so far, i’m not yet successfully 😦 could you please gave me some tips? I mean, when i ordered tomyam vegie, it has chicken on it, when i asked for mee hun goreng without meat, they have eggs on in. and my family never had a meal without meat. it’s been two weeks since i decided to be semi vegetarian and i had meat EVERYDAY!

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