I wrote this vegan Malacca guide originally in light of a week spent in this charming UNESCO World Heritage city. Malaysia is one of the easiest places in South East Asia to find vegan and vegetarian food, and I was thrilled to be back in Malacca this year to see what I had missed the first time around. As it turns out, I missed a lot! Below is a new and revised, more complete guide including restaurants and self-catering options. There are still a few places I failed to visit, so who knows, maybe there will be a take-three next year!
1. MAN YUAN FANG
Clean and bright Chinese restaurant serving a lot — A LOT — of vegetarian and vegan fares. This is one overwhelming menu! I ordered the KFC veggie chicken (I had to!), deep fried enokitake mushrooms, stir-fried sweet potato vine with yellow bean sauce and stir-fried fish with sambal. Nothing is labelled as containing eggs or dairy, but I thought my selection was safe. Apparently it wasn’t, but my diligent waiter came and asked if I was indeed vegan after I placed my order. Do ask before you order to be safe. The enoki mushrooms were freaking weird. There was a drizzle of what tasted like the stuff you use to write messages on birthday cakes on it (maybe the original drizzle sauce was our un-vegan selection, resulting in a dodgy substitution?) Everything else was really good! The fish and the chicken were nice and crunchy and possibly the least offensive mock meat I’ve ever had. The chicken tasted a little like what I remember of McNuggets! The delicious greens were the only dish that wasn’t deep-fried, so this was very much junk food, but I really enjoyed it for what it was.
2. GEOGRAPHER CAFÉ
Very touristy restaurant in the heart of the most touristy street of Malacca. Expect annoyingly loud music and lots of Asian tourists taking photos of their food (and a few westerners too… hallo!) Lots of vegetarian and vegan options clearly marked on the menu (I like that all the ingredients are listed!) I ordered the longton (rice cubes, okra, cabbage, turmeric, lemongrass, tempeh) and the curry ramen (curry powder, rice noodles, cashew nuts, pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, sprouted long beans, eggplant, beancurd puff). Although both very mild in flavor, I really enjoyed my food. The broth of the ramen was actually made with nut milk, which is something a little different when you’ve been shoveling coconut curry for so long. I found the longton a little bland, but nothing a side order of sliced fresh birds eye chilies can’t fix. The broth was nice and creamy, and it was great to have something that is not laden with MSG for a change. I found the drinks to be quite expensive. Tourist prices.
3. GURDWARA SAHIB MELAKA
I became a bit of a regular at this place. The welcomeness of the Malay Sikh people and the food are both stellar. Sikhs the world over have a very strong sense of community and organize “langar” every night, a practice where volunteers in the gurdwaras cook a free fully vegetarian (they use dairy but there’s generally vegan options in there too) meal for anyone who cares to join, regardless of their faith, gender, ethnicity, or financial status. Everyone is welcome, the only condition is that you cover your head and take off your shoes before entering the hall. You can go ahead and wash your dishes – and other people’s dishes at the end as a small token of appreciation. You can also make a small donation in the prayer hall. A fantastic experience. Free.
4. HUI YUAN VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
This place last year had an a la carte menu, but it seems to no longer be the case. There is only self service buffet, which is of superior quality than Fo Kwang. Pay per eyeball at the register. Don’t forget to visit G Teik vegetarian supply next door. Around 5RM for a meal.
5. CHIN HUA VEGETARIAN FOOD
Self-service vegan Chinese Buddhist buffet. Open at night and on weekends. Cold when I visited but cheap and healthy (in some case). Around 5RM for a full plate of food.
One of my staples in Malacca. The banana leaf with 3 veggie toppings, dhal, a mountain of rice and papadum is 4RM. Great location just by the roundabout leading to the old town and as such it is always bustling. Fast and friendly service. The masala thosai is another one if my favorites and it is cooked in coconut oil, not ghee. Boisterous cafeteria-like ambiance always filled with locals and tourists.
7. SHUI XIAN VEGETARIAN
This was the closest vegetarian restaurant to where I lived and, as a result, the one I visited most. My opinion of it changed depending on what was on offer, but one thing I came to realize is that everything is wayyyy too salty. It has to be msg. That said, I still enjoyed this restaurant. The short menu showcases vegan versions of popular Malaysian dishes. Try the vegan chicken rice ball (a Malacca specialty consisting of boiled chicken and dumpling-like rice balls), the laksa (a spicy coconut noodle soup) and the mee rebus (a sweet and sour noodle soup) for a sample of traditional Malay dishes. Look out for the daily specials: Monday’s spicy spaghetti is the bomb! Closed on Sunday. Around 5RM per meal.
8. FO KWANG
The price went up from 2RM to 2.50RM since I last was here, but it is still the best bargain in town after the Sikh temple. Make sure you have some of the tofu and cabbage curry in the large pan on the right hand side, my favourite (it’s quite spicy).
Directions // Foursquare // Facebook // Website
9. SOON WONG VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT
Located right next to Dream Hotel a little way out of town, Soon Wong appear to be quite new (it’s not on Google Street View or Happy Cow) and is open from 6am til 3pm. I got here at 2:45 and they were cleaning up, so I had to eat the leftovers, but damn! These were some good leftovers! Sweet crunchy tempeh and green veggies for the win! It’s just a short bicycle ride from Bukit Cina, and there is a fruit stall that is open late on the way there with a good selection of local produce. 4.50RM for a big plate of food and rice.
Directions // Foursquare // Facebook // Website
10. VEGE GOOD
This bright and airy a/c restaurant was very quiet when I visited. The owner and chef is a lovely lady. Very large menu of mock meat, mock fish, vegetable, tofu, rice and noodle dishes all available in small, medium or large portions, perfect for loners like me or large groups of people for the sharing. They also have brown rice – quite a treat in this part of the world! I wish there had been people with me so we could have sampled a greater amount of food amongst us (and I really wanted to try the oat-based mock fish, but at 14RM a pop it felt a little extravagant all to myself). I went a bit wild anyway and ordered the soy goose (5RM) (what on earth..?), tom yam soy fish (9RM) and potato vine greens (7RM). The vines were served with a copious amount of ginger and tasted a little charred and absolutely delicious. The goose was just a feather light, crispy fried tofu skin served on a bed of fresh cucumber with a drizzle of sweet dressing; a lovely contrast of flavors and textures. But the star of the show was definitely the tom yam fish: a crispy seaweed exterior encasing juicy and flaky tofu, swimming in a spicy, sour and complex broth and topped with al dente peppers, stewed tomatoes and daun kesum (a herb – also known as laksa herb or Vietnamese coriander – that I am obsessed with). Potentially the best dish I have sampled in Malacca. Highly recommend.
11. YE SU LIN
This restaurant is located a little out of the way, in the middle of nowhere, but still just a 5-10 minute cycle from the old town. It’s a bright, clean and modern space that invites lingering to sample several of their veganized traditional Malay dishes. The mains are all rather expensive, between 11 and 15RM. I was super excited to see otak otak on the menu, a staple street food of grilled fish cake, made of ground fish meat mixed with tapioca starch and spices then wrapped in banana leaf, that is ubiquitous to the Malacca weekend market. The owner was extremely friendly but didn’t speak great English, so I wasn’t able to know what was in the dish, but at least I know there wasn’t egg and dairy. The (very) small otak parcels came piping hot and were fragrant with lemongrass and served with a spicy and a tad too salty potato curry, lovely charred green beans and rice. For the price, it was a very tiny dish that left me craving for more.
Although not perfect, it was an original meal and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
12. NATURE VEGGIE
Located in the same strange industrial park as Ye Su Lin, Nature Veggie is open from 10am to 8:30pm and has both a la carte and buffet option. Nothing is especially stellar here, but I did enjoy their mock fish a lot (laksa herb! Yum!) and the prices are good. Beware that not everything is vegan (there are a few buttermilk this and that’s on the menu). 5 to 12RM for a main from the menu, 4 to 6RM for the buffet.
Directions // Foursquare // Facebook // Website
13. VEGGIE PLANET
Situated quite far from any touristy stuff, but I took advantage of my visit to the Malacca Straits Mosque to come and sample the food. There are a few big malls nearby, so it’s a good rest option if you’re out and about shopping. The restaurant interior is beautiful, especially the room to the right of the entrance — the open air kitchen reminded me of Chelsea Market in NYC. The menu is mostly Chinese-Malay with a few western items thrown in for good measure. There is no dairy, but several dishes contain egg — they are clearly indicated however. The prices are cheap by western standards for such quality food, but the juices were really expensive. I had the nasi lemak and the energy rice porridge. Both were good, the tempeh in the nasi lemak especially so (crunchy and coated in Indian spices), and the rice porridge was wonderfully nourishing — full of veggies, herbs, tofu and sesame oil. Well worth the detour.
14. NEW CENTURY ORGANIC MART
Also a cafe that serves 2-3 options of fully vegan local dishes daily (no menu). A peaceful a/c shop with a couple of tables. Nice selection of Pukka tea, organic cereals, seeds and grains, a few natural supplements, organic peanut butter and sauces of all sorts, and a small fridge full of organic vegetables. Lovely.
15. AEON BANDARAYA GROCERY STORE
A fancy grocery store with a large organic/natural/vegan section located in a mall not far from Malacca Sentral and Tesco. Find all the usual dried legumes, quinoa, supplements and oils you would find in any western health food store. The non-organic produce is also worth a look.
16. G TEIK VEGETARIAN SUPPLY
No fresh produce here, but a very interesting selection of Malaysian and Asian ingredients. I found some nice laksa and tom yum paste to take home, and fancy (SIC) vegan instant noodles to take on my bike tour. I saw that they have vegan chicken feet! Small selection of health products and one of the few places in
Malacca that has Marmite (unfortunately no Vegemite). Located right next to Hui Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant.
17. ZENXIN ORGANIC FOOD
I stumbled on this lovely little shop while riding my bike around town. They have a small selection of
organic fruits and vegetables, some eco-cosmetics, natural jam and peanut butter, as well as your usual health food store staples: grains, nuts, seeds, and all that.
18. BABA CHARLIE NONYA CAKE
Nonya kueh’s are traditional Malaysian cakes made of sticky rice flour, coconut milk and sugar. And this is where they are made! You can actually find those yummy vegan sweets all over town especially at the weekend walking street on Jonker, but it’s great to visit the factory and have a little chat with the lovely ladies who make them. Beware that not everything is vegan, so it’s best to ask around. These cakes are not extremely sweet and rather filling – I quite enjoy having them for breakfast once in a while… 😉
The red pins are restaurants I unfortunately didn’t have time to visit. Click here to enlarge the map.