Tag Archive | vegetarian food

KL does everything big…

front door

… and I’m not talking about murdering whole teams of business contacts like what recently happened to a beauty products multi-millionairess and her colleagues :(

Instead for this post, I want to highlight how big organic vegetarian food is in Kuala Lumpur which I visited last week-end.

On the night of my arrival — Sep 16, the first time Malaysia Day is made a public holiday — SF, my friend who runs a dance school and is a permanent full vegetarian, took me and TES for dinner at Chef Low’s Organic Kitchen, somewhere in PJ off the Klang Valley Highway, if I’m not mistaken. The good chef used to helm another organic kitchen nearby but has struck out on his own.

Chef Low’s is located on the ground floor of a building with the strange name of 10 Boulevard. The whole development comprising several high rise buildings seems to be deserted — probably because it’s a public holiday — except for this restaurant which saw a steady stream going in and out.

It’s a big place, with high ceilings and pristine white in decor but it was still packed. Despite the crowd, the serving staff, all Myanmese, were beaming and friendly and made efforts to squeeze the three of us in.

We turned down the first make-shift table they offered, smack near the entrance. We tried to seat ourselves at a large round table, recently vacated, but were promptly told by the guests at the next table that they had also reserved the table we took.

part of menu

So we settled for a small table meant for two and began devouring the extensive menu which offered organic vegetarian food in a variety of cuisines, including Western and Chinese.

Since we were hungry, we made quick and rather indiscriminate choices: basil beehoon, deep fried monkey head mushrooms with bitter gourd and casserole tofu.

As the basil beehoon arrived first, and we were hungry, the dish was half finished be4 I remembered to take a pix. Then the other two dishes arrived and I caught them just in time be4 we began our demolition job. (for better pix of Chef Low’s dishes, go here. )

Despite not sparing much thought on the ordering, every dish we ordered turned out yumilicious and the bill was a startling low RM$38 that also covered a belimbing juice for TES!  This reminded me that KL – or Malaysia for that matter — is also big on good value for money!

almost gone in minutes

casserole tofu

bitter gourd n monkey head mushrooms

Strictly vegetarian

The very close relative and his wife who lost their daughter in December 2008 have recovered sufficiently from their loss to host a dinner at emotionally sensitive times like the Chinese New Year season.

Sure, they had hosted meals since their loss but tonight is the first time for the CNY season. Till that tragedy, their treats at vegetarian restaurants on the 3rd day of CNY was a regular on my calendar.

Sure, there’s also a good reason for tonight’s meal. Our dad’s only sister is in Singapore from Guangzhou after a one-month sojourn in Sydney to visit her two daughters who have lived there since Tiananmen.

Aunt hasn’t been to Singapore more than once since dad’s passing in 2001, despite all-paid for visits offered by KP.

And given her great age, we can’t say how many more times she would be making it out here. Yet, she may surprise everyone as her generation, especially those who lived in China through its ups and downs following Mao’s great revolution, are tough.

So, here we are at the Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant (at Quality Hotel) which serves very good vegetarian food (taste and presentation-wise) a la Taiwanese style. We mostly go there courtesy of this close relative and usually for lunch where the buffet offers such a wide variety that we never manage to taste every dish.

Tonight is more manageable, as it’s a nine-course set dinner. The vegetarian yu-sheng with mock salmon slices was so realistic that beady-eyed Siti, mum’s picky maid, was initially protesting that she didn’t eat raw fish, as she gingerly picked up what she thought was uncooked salmon to set aside.

Almost everyone at our table had to repeat that “this is a vegetarian restaurant, no meat, no fish”, before she gingerly ate her mock salmon!

And here are the dishes that I particularly like.

Not cod but tofu

dim sum with mock sharksfin threads

 

baby kailan n mushrooms

Price makes a difference?

On Sunday and Monday, (Oct 19 n 20), much against my intention, I found myself back again at two cafes I’ve written about earlier : namely Sophe’s New Green Pasture Cafe at Fortune Centre and 12 X 12 cafe at Suntec City.

So much for intentions! On Sunday morning, SF called and said she’s come down from Kuala Lumpur for a show at the Esplanade and E had tumpanged her to bring bird’s nest in bottles for mum, continuing the stream of gifts of a nutricious nature that had been coming our way since the matriarch went for her op in July.

As SF is a vegetarian not for health but because of a vow she took, asking her along for lunch meant a quick change of venue, to Sophie’s New Green.

Reaching the place and confronted once again by the usual “luan” (confusion, for Englishonly folks), made me remember y I had declined a lunch invite fm P the previous day (ie Saturday) — becos she said she wanted to meet at New Green (her office is in the same building) and becos she wanted a quick lunch. Well, I’m past quick lunches, nowadays!

It is because of the haphazardness and the often brusque treatment that one receives that well, I’ve not gone to Sophie’s more often than the dozen or so times, despite having first discovered the place far earlier than the Tea Shake Hut discovery, and then re-discovering it again after P moved office to the same building, oh perhaps 2/3 years ago.

Do you know that I’ve never once ordered food from Green Pasture’s menu and opted for the set or pointed to whatever someone’s ordered, either at the service counter or when I saw an interesting dish being served to or eaten by a customer?

That way, it makes things a lot easier for me, as Sophie n her assistant (called Angela, I believe) aren’t the most friendly or helpful when one hums and haws when placing an order. Also, there are many regulars who just order over the head of the occasional drop-in.

It was no different on Sunday when we walked in: several pple were clustered around the service counter, one looking at the menu, another two could be waiting to help themselves to the soup (free with set; $1 wholly donated to the Vegetarian Society for those eating a la carte) or cutlery etc and a few more were placing their orders or waiting for their food to be served.

Thus not surprisingly, SF quickly opted for the set of the day (brown rice see pix) as did picky Siti once she confirmed it wasn’t lei cha.

Mum wanted noodles and I would have picked lei cha for myself as I’m rather partial to the green raw herbs soup but in the end decided to also settle for the set for myself as well as mum, reckoning it might be easier and less confusing for those on the other side of the counter.

I needn’t have been so considerate because despite having four of the same orders, the delivery was every bit as much heartburn causing.

We were given one plate of the brown rice set as soon as we ordered but the remaining three sets came in dribs and drabs, with Sophie and her helpers serving earlier and later orders in no particular sequence or convenience that i could detect.

It’s not as if our brown rice needed any special cooking as all the vegetables, salad, rice and seaweed were ready and needed only to be assembled on a plate!

Still, I guess for $7, the brown rice combo and the soup chockful of a mix of vegetables and hard fruits (apple?) are economical enough for many pockets, especially those who must either eat healthy (for which read ‘organic) or vegetarian.

chockful of goodness

chockful of goodness

However should the bad times now upon us persist for any length of time New Green Pasture can’t compete on price alone. If should spruce up its “mana ada system” type of act and yes, service with a smile instead of a stare would definitely go towards improving your customer’s apetite.

Talking of service and pricing brings me to 12 X 12 where I had lunch on Monday and won’t have done that if J my lunch companion hadn’t nominated the place and because she has problems with “MSG”, I gave in to her choice.

I had been to this cafe earlier in the year and I wasn’t impressed by the food and especially not the prices which this time round were again pretty steep, each of us paying $22 appromixately after all the +++: six “fitballs” ($10); 2 salads (sweet potato and aubergene) ($15); a tiny bottle of mineral water ($2.50) and carrot cake ($6.50). And rounded up with a “chai”, some sort of Indian tea, costing $5.50.

fit ball

fit ball

Every item was shared, including the mineral water. Hate to think what the bill per person would have blossomed to if we each ordered as we felt like, rather than compromising.

Yet tho I found the food far below what I enjoyed at Sophie’s, there was some compensation: the cutlery was of heavy stainless steel; the ambience was superior tho could have been better if not for Brauhaus next door, as I don’t think it adds to the food’s flavour with people being de-haired in close proximity.

But the biggest difference, besides price, between 12 X 12 and Sophie’s is the level of service. It was courteous and friendly from the word “go”. The smiles remained even after I dropped half a fitball on the floor while trying to negotiate it to my mouth.

The girl wait came and swept off the mess with grace. It was my fault that she had to do the extra work but she didn’t make me feel that way at all. (I hate to imagine what would have followed if I dropped a few items off my plate at Sophie’s!)

What impressed most of all was what followed after J complained that the “chai” was too milky or “light”. Instead of arguing with her to convince her that that was how 12 X 12 serves its tea, the wait made a whole fresh cup, on the house! And was nice enough to provide a cover for the tumbler size paper cup when we declared we coudn’t possibly drink two cups, even sharing!

Now this is what I call service with class! I guess for the amount of brass we paid, it made good business sense for the cafe to want to encourage a return visit; or at least to have us leave feeling good.

Green pastures old…

After so much feasting in recent days, those written abt and those best not to remember, there was yearning for something less demanding on the digestive juices and less heavy on the internal circuitry.

After some absence, we headed to Sophie’s again on Sep 6, for lunch: my sister, maid Siti and mum. For a while we had deserted New Green Pasture Cafe or Sophie’s on the 4th floor of Fortune Centre, thanks to the write-ups abt the alternatives to Sophie’s at the Centre.

So had gone to Piao Xiang Vegetarian Food and Healthy Lifestyle, both on the second floor. While the cabbages rolls at Piao Xiang were absolutely delicious, the cedar shoot fried rice tho at once delicious and strange was swimming in oil.

Also, altho the pix of the menu reproduced on the flyer was colorful and tempting, the pix of the actual dishes I ordered when I went there with J turned out to be colorless and unappetising. No point posting them.

And while the food at Healthy Lifestyle was quite photogenic (as pix of a bowl of lei cha or thunder rice below shows), the gastronomic experience was ruined by another tantrum by our maid Siti.

not everyone's cup of tea

not everyone's cup of tea

She disliked the lei cha rice intensely and showed it by eating the dish grain by grain in angry silence, her head bowed to hide her ugly scowl. She remained stubbornly withdrawn despite my explanation that I had ordered the dish for everyone, not just her alone. That it’s a Hakka speciality. Also, we all liked it and it was Healthy Lifestyle’s dish of the day.

Now I understand better why some Singaporean “macikans” never take their maids out for meals or if included, don’t feed them, while the family sups. That wasn’t the first time Siti had given trouble over food but….

All at the table were affected by her sulks which meant I would hesitate to go back there any time soon, if I was with the family as that invariably means the maid comes along to keep an eye on mother.

That’s why we went back to Sophie’s by default last Saturday: mother wanted Fortune Center, sister D wanted to try Sophie’s and I wasn’t going back to the place where the maid’s tantrums gave me heartburn.

Laksa was the day’s special and all but me opted for that. I had assam “fish” which came with rice and salad: nice but not exceptional.

The surprise or the shock was that the laksa turned out to be Penang laksa, not nyonya laksa and I held my breath for complaints from mum, sis and maid. Thankfully, they accepted that they had assumed wrongly and ate up the laksa with gusto, possibly because it wasn’t as sour as the original Penang version.

Since everybody was in a good mood, I decided to treat all to the dessert of the day which was bubor cha cha in oat milk.

At $2.50 a bowl it wasn’t expensive, considering that oat ilk costs $5.95 for a litre, at least for the Oatley brand that I soak my home-assembled muesli in every morning. Even ordinary bubur cha cha in coconut milk costs as much in foodcourts and dedicated dessert parlours like Tong Shui Cafe and Dessert Hut.

delicious to the last drop
bubur: delicious to the last drop

Sophie’s new green pasture

Talk about making money hand over fist. That’s what Sophie’s “New Green Pasture Cafe” on the 4th floor of Fortune Centre seems to be doing.

It’s a tiny little place with a wall of shelves, a counter behind which Sophie n helpers do the cooking and about three tables. The room is smaller than a HDB one-roomer. A doorway opens into a 2nd room which has more tables. A few more tables line the perimeter of the cafe and those who eat there are eating in the common corridors of passers by and what have you.

I’ve been visiting this cafe since around 1995 when I began going back to the Waterloo Street Kwan Yin temple during a strange health crisis in my life. However, at that time, it was more like a shop than a cafe n the 2nd room (ie the next shop space) wasn’t in existence.

Don’t remember eating there back then but went there on the recommendation of Richard Seah’s The Good Life (a now defunct health and food lifestyle magazine) to buy some expensive but tasty sesame oil.

More recently, a friend who moved her office to the building introduced me to Sophie’s cooking. And while I’m not entirely enamoured by the food, it’s good and cheap enough and the environment while nowhere near Ritz Carlton is pleasant enough.  

Indeed, one of the tastiest morsels is about Sophie: my friend whispers what a great business woman she is; how she had let the place out to some other party and then took it back to run the business herself. This includes dine-in, take away, retail of ingredients/food stuffs that run the gamut from vegetarian to macrobiotic, and even cookery classes, at $50 a pop, for a minimum 4 lessons. She’s never looked back since and expanded to the shop next door.  

Not sure how much of this info is true but the redoubtable Sophie, always wearing a perky tho incongruously out of place cap, is there dishing out the food with a few dour faced helpers whose ages range early 30s to perhaps late 70s.

 The cafe is never actually packed but any time I’ve eaten there, there’s always been a steady stream of customers coming in in ones, two, threes or more. They are of all nationalities, with many kweh-los and Indians to boot.

This isn’t bad considering that it is tucked away on the fourth floor and there are other “vegetarian” cafes of all persuasions from the 1st floor, up to the 2nd and 3rd floors.

Perhaps it’s popular precisely because it’s away from the maelstrom of human traffic that sweeps thru the 1st floor of Fortune Centre, at the corner of Middle Road and Waterloo Street where the Kwan Yin Temple and a well-known Hindu temple sit a few minutes’ walk away. 

I don’t know when the no-name cafe became Green Pasture Cafe and when I looked last week, it’s become New Green Pasture Cafe.

The food is passably tasty: brown rice, salads, vegetarian sushi, and other vegetarian concoctions. If you don’t take Sophie’s set which comes with a watery soup, you have to pay $1 (donated to the Singapore Vegetarian Society) for the same watery soup which you have to serve yrself from a large pot. It’s also self-service for the napkins, cutlery and the extra bowl or plate.

If truth be told, I can’t tell one dish from another; even the “liu char fan” (whch is Thunder Tea Rice supposedly famous among the Hakkas and is the Wednesday set as a regular once told me) is strictly distinguishable by the fact that the set comes with an emerald green soup, made from heaven knows what.