Kuala Lumpur is one of those places where, in the midst of a meat-eating nation, you barely have to scratch the surface to unveil an exciting health-minded paradise ripe for exploration. This week is all about #CleanEatingKL! A few days ago, I was able to visit Simple Life, a little chain of vegetarian restaurants who has healthy eating as its core value and is making Kuala Lumpur all the more exciting for me to explore.
What started as a small kiosk in Malacca back in 1992 has now evolved into 11 outlets (all in Kuala Lumpur for the moment) with 2 more on the way. I visited the newest one located at the Sunway Putra Mall, a bright space where it felt nice to just sit and linger for a while chatting with the lovely staff. A friend and I had a bit of a feast at Simple Life and were able to sample dishes from the Malay, Chinese, Western and Japanese inspired fare on offer. Below is what we tasted.
Mixed Fruit Tea
We were first served with this beautiful French press of their signature mixed fruit tea, a delicious, lightly warm peach and passion fruit tea mixed with fresh orange, passion fruit, pineapple, watermelon and apple chunks. I can see why this is their bestselling drink – it is absolutely phenomenal! Order it to share between a few people as it is quite large, and, once empty, you can just get it refilled with more hot water. I’d never thought of having warm fruit juice, but this is a game changer. It is SO delicious!
Organic Lei Cha
Also known as “thunder tea rice” (a reference to the noise made when pounding the ingredients together), Lei Cha is a traditional Hakka specialty I had somehow never heard of before. It’s such a fascinating dish full of history; I’d love to learn how to make it myself. The Simple Life version is an artfully presented tray of multigrain rice served in a large bowl with all the other ingredients in small ramequins around it: peanuts, pickled and fresh vegetables, tofu and a cast iron teapot full of a minty green herbal broth. Our lovely host Chong Kim tells us that you traditionally throw everything in the rice bowl and pour the broth over – I wouldn’t have known! He reassures us that anything goes, and you can really just eat it as you see fit. Once mixed, the presentation loses a bit of its appeal, but it tastes incredibly healthy, nutritious and wholesome. The peanuts add a nice crunch. I really love this and I’m so happy for the discovery! Beware that it is a gigantic bowl of food and is also very filling. It might be a little too big for one person that isn’t so hungry or perfect for two people with a small appetite.
Moving on to something a little more Japanese here, this dish has the appearance of a sushi roll, but since it contains no rice, it feels a bit more like a spring roll. It is a nice light fresh bite filled with carrot, cucumber, sprouts and soy floss, which is a nice crispy addition. I was not so keen on the wasabi mayo that came with it and I wish the waiting staff could have told me exactly what was in there (they assured me it was vegan however), but the rolls were light and fresh and quite delicious.
Fried Organic Beancurd
This dish might look a little boring (it’s just tofu!) but you are in for surprise. Never have I tried a tofu so fluffy and pillowy and marshmallowy. It’s hard to believe it’s actually tofu. The delicately fried crispy outside gives way to an incredibly soft and delicious interior. I didn’t even want to dip it in the accompanying Thai sauce as it was so incredible just as is. I’m generally not the biggest tofu fan, but this was something else. Strangely, the highlight of my meal!
Mixed Fruit Rojak
Rojak is a traditional fruit and vegetable salad commonly found is Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia and I had been dying to try it for a very long time, but alas the dressing is made with shrimp paste in most places – obviously not here. The salad surprised me at first by being freezing cold, but after a while it warmed a bit to room temperature and I enjoyed it a lot more that way. It’s a great mix of flavors and textures: a little sweet, a little spicy, a little tart – I really enjoy those fried tofu balls in there: crunchy! I think I can perceive the taste of daun kesum (also called Vietnamese coriander), a herb I am very fond of and commonly found in laksa, which makes it more complex and delicious. I can’t really compare with other fruit rojak out there since this was my first, but it’s a lovely side dish that I will definitely be eating again!
Fried black pepper udon
This is a lovely, warming dish. It’s chock full with different kinds of mushrooms, bell pepper and cabbage with yummy, juicy, fat, al dente udon noodles – udon noodles are my fave. There is a nice kick from the black pepper which makes a pleasing change from the chili that is so ubiquitous to South East Asia. A large, hearty and comforting plate of carbohydrate goodness. Delicious!
Annnnnndd that’s all we could manage! Not bad for two people, eh? 😉
The food at Simple Life is prepared with great care using no msg, no transfat, no coloring and no preservatives, as well as being low in sugar, high in fiber, low in salt and low in oil. The ingredients are mostly organic and locally sourced where possible. Everything is vegetarian and the dishes containing eggs are clearly identified as such on the menu. The dishes containing dairy are unfortunately not, but you can ask your friendly waiter for the fully vegan options, of which there are many. A lot of the non-vegan dishes can also be made vegan upon request.
All in all, everything I sampled at Simple Life tasted extremely fresh, honest and wholesome with large portions that represent a great value for money, especially so that some dishes are large enough for sharing. The star of the show for me were the mixed fruit tea and the fried bean curd and I am hoping to return to sample more of their great dishes soon! A fantastic option for vegans in Kuala Lumpur.
Many thanks to Simple Life for hosting me and my guest. Be assured that you receive my honest opinion regardless of who is footing the bill.