Thanks to its geographic position and long history of colonial rule, Malaysian cuisine is rich, varied and influenced by ideas and cultures from all over the world. That said, finding vegetarian food in Malaysia is still a bit of problem. It’s getting better, but it’s still troublesome.
Thankfully, Melaka is leading the way in Malaysia when it comes to providing for the vegetarian community. At the time of writing, Happy Cow reports there are 47 restaurants in Melaka that provide vegetarian options. Awesome!
Back in 2015 when I visited Melaka, I wasn’t a vegetarian and therefore wasn’t on the hunt for veggie meals. I did however still sample 6 veggie treats while I was there. In May 2018, I updated this post checking to see all of the places I visited are still there. Thankfully they are!
Melaka’s Veggie-Friendly Treats
So, here are the six veggie-friendly treats I tried whilst in Melakan state capital city, Melaka, that I insist you try too when you make your way there.
1. Coconut Shake
Rich and creamy, thick with coconut and topped with ice cream, this drink was a proper treat. People come from miles around to visit Klebang Original, a large roadside restaurant on the outskirts of Melaka to down a glass or two alongside a selection of tasty Malaysia snacks.
Klebang Original isn’t in the city centre, so you’ll need to get a bus/taxi/lift to get here. Well worth the effort!
2. Durian Fruit Cendol
QQ Ice | 86, Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200
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Durian fruit is a Malaysian staple. Everyone says a visit to the region wouldn’t be complete without trying it, so I did. In fact, this is the second time I tried it. It is also the last time, for it is disgusting.
A quick search online results in a number of words used to describe the taste of this infamous sludge. Depending on the person and the particular variety, it can taste like ‘heaven’, ‘death’, ‘onions’, ‘liquid petroleum’, ‘cream’ or like ‘sour yoghurt’.
To me, it tasted like rotting onions. I still ate it all though, saluting the last bite safe in the knowledge I’d never be eating it again. Urgh!
In the photo above, the Durian is the yellow stuff on top. Underneath is a ball of shaved ice drenched in syrup to form the classic Malaysian dessert, Cendol. Cendol comes in many varieties so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend getting a Durian one.
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3. Vegetarian Curry Laksa
Shui Xian Su Shi Yuan | 43, Jalan Hang Lekiu, 75200
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While it is definitely getting easier, it’s still quite difficult to find vegetarian food in South East Asia. This is why it was such a lovely surprise to find a vegetarian cafe down a side street in Melaka.
I’ve had my fair share of curry Laksa’s, but this one could quite possibly be the best I’ve ever had. The flavour struck the right balance between fragrant and spicy and the meat alternatives (in place of chicken and prawns) offered a variety of textures and flavours.
4. Soursop Shake
This was the first time I tried Soursop and it won’t be the last. This punchy, zesty, tangy fruit makes a mean shake. If you’re looking for something smooth and refreshing, get one of these.
I tried this at a supremely cool cafe called The Baboon House in Malacca. The place is sumptuously decorated with lots of exposed brickwork, wooden panels and leafy plants. Some tables, like the one I was sat at, had tiny fish swimming around in glass bowls. Young people flock here for the shakes and the burgers and to look at the local art on the walls.
5. Freshly-Squeezed Sugar Cane Juice
The chap running the sugar cane juice stall at the side of a busy road in downtown Melaka was very surprised to see me. Perhaps trade had been a little slow that morning. I stuck one finger in the air and he jumped into action, sticking an entire sugar cane into a mangle. The shredded remains of the sugar cane came out one side, while fresh juice poured out of the other.
It’s surprising just how refreshing sugar cane juice is. I think most people would expect it to be overly sweet and sticky but it isn’t. So long as it’s fresh, it’s no sweeter than cola and just as thirst quenching. Perhaps best not to drink too much though. Your dentist might not be too impressed.
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6. Deep-fried Vegetable Snacks
Every Friday and Saturday evening, Jalan Hang Jebat in the centre of Malacca becomes the Jonker Walk Night Market.
As I discovered, the market focuses on food and drink more than anything else and is therefore a great place to have your evening meal. A wide variety of delicious foods from different parts of Asia are on offer and it’s all really cheap!
As well as food stalls, there are other traders selling gifts and low budget goods, plus there’s a large outdoor karaoke stage at the top of the street where entertainment is provided whilst you eat and socialise.
When I visited, it was Chinese New Year season, so the street was decorated with lanterns whilst ‘lions’ roamed the side streets, visiting restaurants and businesses to wish them luck and prosperity for the forthcoming year. The market bustled with tourists and locals and the mood was buoyant and festive. I spent a good few happy hours strolling from stall to stall, feasting on light bites until I was full.
One stall at the market was attracting quite a crowd so I fought my way through the throng to find out what was on the menu. I discovered a stall offering deep-fried vegetable snacks for an unbelievably low price. You could fill a bag with Spring Rolls, Sweet Potato Fritters and Samosas (among other options) and have the whole lot drizzled with chilli sauce for next to nothing. This was a meal in itself and I struggled to finish everything, but it was so tasty.
So, what do you think? Do any of these take your fancy? Let us know in the comments below