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


In order to go any further, you have to know about “mamak stalls”.

The late Anthony Bourdain coined Malaysia the food capital of the world.  In Malaysia, eating isn’t what you do because you’re hungry.  Eating is a national sport.  And for good reason.  The population of Malaysia is over 31 million and the majority of the population is made up of Southern Indian, Southern Chinese and local Malay people.  These three cultures have their own unique and rich culinary history, put them all together in one place and you get an EXPLOSION of flavor that you can’t get anywhere else on the planet.

So, back to the “mamak stall”.  “Mamak” as locals call them, are open-air restaurants that look more like cafeterias, with their long metal tables, ceiling fans and fluorescent lights.  Mamak is a term used for Southern Indians who are of the Muslim faith.  And DAMN, can they cook!

Mamak stalls are typically open 24 hours a day and they serve different food, depending on the time of day.  One of the things they are known for is a little something called Roti Canai (my personal favorite).  This is a thin, slightly crispy tortilla – like bread that you flood with lentil/curry sauce.  It is heaven on a plate and a trip to Malaysia is worth it just to eat this dish.

We woke up super early the morning after we arrived because we had to catch an early train to Penang, four hours north of KL.  We went to the nearest Mamak because we knew it would be open and we ATE!  For some reason, Mamaks always have the best coconuts.

Tired from our trip but STOKED to be back in food heaven.

Early morning view from the train station in KL.

Not quite jet lagged, but so close.

You KNOW I packed some of those Curry puffs in my bag for the train ride!  Unlike American trains, Asian trains have a full cafeteria IN THE TRAIN.  I’m telling you, people are serious about their food here.

Our ride to Penang Island. A ferry ride across the Straits of Malacca that cost us just over a quarter. 29 cents. I’m not kidding.

We arrived in Penang and a friend picked us up and took us to an awesome plant based restaurant called Wholey Wonder.  They had green smoothies, green juice, and a big plant based menu.  They also had yoga classes that we took part in during our stay (and when I say “took part” I mean that we went once).  If you’re ever in Penang, go here!

A big green juice was exactly what we needed!  I actually don’t think a green juice has ever tasted better than this one.  My body soaked it up and I immediately felt more energized.

Hummus and veggies.  Delish.

Okay, I know I said to stick with Asian food when in Asia but there is an exception.  And this is it.  If and when you stumble upon a vegan restaurant that smells like pure pizza heaven, do it the fuck up.  We were NOT disappointed with this pizza.

Our room in Penang.  My only complaint was that the bed was a tad small.

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  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 🙂

  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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