Mention Malaysian cuisine and the first things that spring to mind may be rather meaty… we’re talking char kway teow with sausage and pork lard, sambal enriched with shrimp paste, or luscious beef rendang. But, in the interest of clean eating this spring, we’ve gone in search of authentic Malaysian vegetarian recipes, offering a meat-free alternative for this flavour-packed cuisine.
The first place to look for delicious vegetarian fare is the Indian snack stalls that line the streets of Kuala Lumpur. During a food tour of Kuala Lumpur’s Little India with Charlie of Food Tour Malaysia, we feasted on “tea time treats”, fried vegetarian delights such as lentil fritters (paruppuvadai) and curry puffs. You can recreate a vegetarian version of these curry puffs at home, substituting cauliflower for the chicken, using a vegan stock, and switching soy sauce for the fish sauce.
Roti canai is another vegetarian winner, teaming a mild lentil curry with buttery roti bread. We also sampled a hearty banana leaf meal of rice, curries and chutneys, which are readily available with vegetarian curries.
Another ubiquitous snack in Malaysia is the satay skewer – for vegetarians, these chicken, beef or pork skewers aren’t going to float your boat, but meat-free options are available, using “mock meat” or vegetables, tofu andpaneer (a firm Indian cheese). To try your own vegetarian satay skewers at home, use these vegetable and paneer skewers, using good-quality satay sauce in place of the curry paste, and serving extra satay sauce on the side.
With some small modifications, Malaysia’s national dish of nasilemak can also be vegetarian friendly – sure, you’ll have to seek out a shrimp-free sambal and omit the fried anchovies, but you can still enjoy the coconut-rich rice, peanuts, cucumber and boiled egg in this hearty breakfast dish.
So, whether you’re planning a visit to Malaysia, looking for new vegetarian inspiration at home, or simply looking to cut back on your meat intake, you’ll find a wealth of delicious vegetarian dishes in the Malaysian kitchen.
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