Eating Plant Based in Malaysia Part One – Detailed Images and Journal

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I’ve done a lot of posts about how I stick to eating a plant based diet when I travel.  I’ve eaten this way for a long time and I’ve never had a problem avoiding meat, dairy and eggs while exploring the world.  Oil is a different story.  It’s harder to avoid oil when you eat outside of your house / town / country.  My solution?  I enjoy the hell out of my trip instead of stressing out about eating some oil.  Problem solved.

Traveling to Asia is no different than any other trip, it’s just a fuckofalot further away.  Luanne, my wife and co-founder of Clean Food Dirty Girl, is from Malaysia (south of Thailand and north of Singapore). She was born and raised in the capital, Kuala Lumpur (KL), and moved to the United States in 2002.  Her family is still in Malaysia, so for the past 10 years that we have been together, we have traveled to see her family at least once a year.

Once you make the LONG-ass flight to Southeast Asia, traveling around that part of the world is easy and cheap.  We usually take other small trips once we are there, like to Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.  This time though, we stayed in Malaysia and spent our trip outside of Kuala Lumpur and in Penang (an amazing town about 4 hours by car from Kuala Lumpur).

I documented my food to show you that no matter where you go in the world, there are always plant based options.  You might have to eat around an egg.  You might have to eat with your hands.  You might have to be okay with very simple food.  You might have to eat white rice.  You definitely have to throw the no oil thing out the window.  And, above all else, you have to be open to eating food that you’ve never had, prepared in ways that are foreign to you.

And that’s the joy of travel.  You get to soak up other cultures.  You get to move outside of your comfort zone.  You get to experience flavors, tastes, textures and smells that you would never experience in your normal daily routine.  And, best of all, you get filled with a sense of wonder and magic that you can’t get from the comfort of your zip code.  So my dear, book a ticket to anywhere and GO!

Here is a glimpse into our trip.

An early sunrise greeted us the morning of our flight.  Little did we know that our island was about to get ROCKED by earthquakes, erupting volcanos and flowing molten lava.  We literally left the morning Kilauea shook the Big Island with multiple earthquakes and the new flow started flowing.  Our house is 30 miles from the action and remains safe.

At the airport, mentally preparing for our 24-hour journey to Asia.

Enjoying an apple at our gate.

I packed a variety of things for the plane. Steel Cut Oats, almond butter and blueberry sandwiches, tempeh sandwiches, dried fruit and nuts, and almond butter packets. I had to eat all my fruit before we boarded our plane out of Hawaii or it would be confiscated.

Luanne’s sandwich with roasted red peppers, tempeh, lettuce, walnut parm, and whatever meal plan dressing I had in the fridge.

Almond butter and blueberries on sprouted bread.

My trusty plastic travel container makes another appearance.  I’ve been using this container for over two years.  I only use it for travel.  I put my oats in cold since they won’t stay warm anyway.  The key to bringing this through security is to make sure you don’t add to much soy milk (or whatever milk you use).  If you add too much liquid, it could be confiscated.

We arrived in the Philippines and spent the night before our flight to Kuala Lumpur the next morning.  The hotel we were staying at had a restaurant but they served burgers, french fries and pizza.  Here’s a tip.  If you’re traveling in Asia, eat Asian food.  You might be tempted to try something that sounds safe and within your comfort zone but that is not what travel is about. Stick with local food, almost always (there are some exceptions, as you’ll see in a bit).

We left our hotel, found a nearby restaurant and promptly ordered garlic broccoli, noodles with veggies, fried rice and tofu.  I always ask for no MSG.

Garlic broccoli.

We arrived at Luanne’s mom’s house after a very long journey and were greeted by the best Curry Puff I have ever eaten in my life.  Luanne’s mom, Jenny, is an extraordinary cook and has adjusted some of her staple recipes to be plant based so that I can eat them.

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23 Comments

  1. Cynthia Flagg on June 16, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Fantastic post! What a wonderful trip. Your pictures and stories are incredible. I was expecially moved by your tribute to Anthony Bourdain. Loved him too!

  2. Kate on June 16, 2018 at 10:13 am

    I rarely stick with “travel pieces” usually because they’re unable to keep my attention but your blog post here is outstanding. It kept me focused the entire time, gobbling up the details, photos, and all those sensory feels (I could even feel the heat & humidity) 🙂 I love that you and Luanne are sharing your trip with us this way as I’ve never been to that part of the world and I’m not sure I ever will but now I feel like I can appreciate it so much more. I am SO looking forward to part 2!

  3. Bridget on June 16, 2018 at 2:54 pm

    What an experience that was… I thought for one moment that I was actually there… beautiful country and part of the world. It was really great of you to share such a lovely experience…its people like you that should be in tourism… great post and great picks…. thanks… thanks… thanks

  4. Suzanne Murphy on June 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    Fantastic .. love the photos and the comments .. it has never been a place I have wanted to go to but you have almost made me want to travel there 🙂 just for the food alone!!

  5. Pamela on June 16, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    Great photos, really enjoyed reading all about your eating out & about, so pleased Luanne & you have had a great holiday, look forward to more of your adventures next week! Pamela ??

  6. Faye Langton on June 16, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Malaysia is so good for vegan food. You look like you had a great time. When you kept saying you were in Asia I wondered what you meant. Asia is an area of the world, not a country. I am going to Vietnam next week for a whole month and was kind of hoping that was where you had been. I have Saigon covered though. They have a marvellous vegan network. I am so glad you had a lovely time.F

    • Luanne on June 16, 2018 at 10:10 pm

      We keep it generic in the email title because most people don’t know where it is nor are they able to point to it on a map so giving a general area is easier. I’ve had to explain where Malaysia so often that even when I say it’s between Singapore and Thailand, lots of people think there’s nothing there 🙂

    • Elyse on June 21, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      I just spent 12 days in Vietnam and was able to eat vegan beautifully. Hope you enjoy yourself!

  7. Tracy on June 16, 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Wonderful and inspiring travelog. I love food and I love color, and this captures both. Thank you for putting this together to share your trip with us.

  8. Liz on June 16, 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing! Definitely want to add Malaysia to my list! I love your creativity when eating out, it inspires me to try it out more (my habit is to always pre-eat when I travel which means I miss out on trying a lot of local food). So sad about Anthony Bourdain, loved his energy and curiosity about food, life, culture, people. Such a shock. Looking forward to your next post!

  9. Vicky on June 16, 2018 at 8:16 pm

    Awesome eats. That BED!!! Please post where you stayed. I’m going this winter ⛴⛴⛴ !!!!!!!!

    • Luanne Teoh on June 17, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Hi Vicky, we stayed at Muntri Mews. It’s a heritage hotel where they have preserved the legacy of the British and local cultures from pre world war 2. Muntri Mews were horse stables and you can see it in the architecture. Our room was probably 2 horse stables combined 🙂

      https://www.georgetownheritage.com/muntri-mews-hotel/

  10. Dani Enright on June 17, 2018 at 4:56 am

    Wonderful post, thanks for sharing all that amazing food! Going to miss Anthony Bourdain, I always thought I was a weird vegan loving his shows, but I never felt offended – he was all hones and passionate about sharing food and cultures I couldn’t look away. Good to know I wasn’t his only plant based fan haha

  11. Michele on June 17, 2018 at 6:07 am

    I am hoping you wrote down some recipes. Love, love, love the flavors you describe.

  12. Liz on June 17, 2018 at 6:55 am

    Fantastic trip and photos!!!! Love your commentary too. Brings you right into the place and holds you throughout.
    Can’t wait for part 2!
    Sure hope some of these dishes make it to the meal plan!!!!!

  13. Lyndsey Hafer Williams on June 18, 2018 at 2:25 pm

    This was so deliciously tantalizing that I want to hop onto the next plane out! Wow!

  14. Christina on June 19, 2018 at 9:04 am

    Now that, was one wonderful journey (for me and you two)! I Googled “Malaysia” so I could follow you along – thank you so much for sharing the adventure!

  15. Susan Serpico on June 20, 2018 at 7:03 am

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful adventures (such a welcome break from the current horrific news cycle) – a reminder that there are simple pleasures and incredible food across the globe. You guys are great!

  16. Jo Lynn on June 20, 2018 at 6:42 pm

    Hey Molly and Luanne, the answer is yes. You definitely did Penang justice! ?Thanks for shinning positive light to this amazing island I once called home. If one is creative amd adventurous, the world can be as plant-based as you want. ?
    P. S. Luanne can back me up with this. The real banana leaf place will usually charge only a flat rate per pax. You can ask for refill of however much rice and the standard veg dishes you want. Yeah, all you can eat, Indian style! ? Of course, it’s a respectful courtesy to take only what one can finish. I don’t recall any banana leaf places with penalty rule for the “food hoarders”. Street Food Rule #1 pace yourself. ? That definitely doesn’t apply to Malaysians!

    Hearts from Hanoi while enjoying veg Bahn Mi, steamed rice rolls, coconut coffee, rice paper spring rolls…

    • Luanne Teoh on June 24, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      Yeah it’s usually one flat rate, that’s true, except when you order extra dishes on the side….(which I do often) and mine usually cost much more than Molly’s 🙂

      Enjoy Hanoi. Let’s meet again somewhere on the globe soon!!

  17. Carla on June 25, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Where do you find good tempeh like the one pictured in Luann’s Sandwich? Since our return from Indonesia, nothing I can find is as good as that, but yours looks pretty tasty!

    • Team Clean Food Dirty Girl on June 25, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Hi Carla, Molly buys whatever organic tempeh is on sale. She’s found that it’s not so much the brand but how you cook it. She always steams her tempeh first and marinates it overnight. Hope that helps. ~Karen

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