Healthy vegetarian and vegan options in the food mecca of Penang
- Healthy vegetarian and vegan options in the food mecca of Penang
- Sushi Kitchen
- Wholey Wonder
- The Leaf Healthy House
- Annalakshmi Temple of Fine Arts
- Quay Cafe
- Mamavege Restaurant
- Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant
- Coya Healthy Cuisine
- BMS Organics Cafe
I’m a dedicated vegetarian who makes vegan choices as often as possible. Since arriving in Penang I’ve been so happy to find that this amazing food mecca offers a number of options to meet my needs. In this post I’m sharing my favorite options for vegetarians and vegans in Penang. My journey of documenting these began in September 2017. If you are looking for a great vegetarian restaurant in Penang, please bookmark or pin this page, and come back to it regularly. I’ll be adding vegetarian restaurants and cafes to it one by one.
Because this is a health website I’ve focused mostly on healthy options, that are also very tasty. Throughout the post I’ll share my views on how healthy each choice is and what makes it so. However, if you understand anything about my health and fitness philosophy you’ll know that I’m fond of the 80-20 lifestyle. This means that I’m happy to make less ‘healthy’ choices from time to time in the name of ‘living life’ and enjoying the local cuisine. Again, I’ll share my views on how healthy I perceive each choice to be.
Let’s get started with this Penang food blog! Time to introduce the first vegetarian restaurant in Penang that I highly recommend.
Tucked away on a narrow street in the heart of George Town’s heritage area you’ll find some outstanding Penang vegetarian food. Never have I visited a vegetarian sushi restaurant quite like this. I’ve seen sushi restaurants with variety and presentation to match Sushi Kitchen. But never have I seen a completely vegan option quite like this. I was blown away by how much they offer and how beautifully presented the food is. Let me take you for a peek into this amazing vegetarian restaurant in Penang.
From the moment you see this restaurant, you will appreciate the homely and welcoming vibe. Stepping through the quirky little entrance full of greenery and inspiration, one of the first things you might notice is the right hand wall, completely adorned with hand drawn messages. To the left you’ll see Sushi kitchen’s homemade enzyme supplies, which they use to wash the vegetables. Ahead you’ll notice a bookshelf full of interesting items and a beautifully unique rainbow staircase. From there, you can choose your preferred style of seating and get ready to order some delicious food!
We were graced with a variety of dishes including the ‘happiness family sushi’, seaweed fried rice, ‘black God’ and ‘red sea udon’. Brimming with exoticism we also had the ‘golden age sushi’, which was topped with mango and homemade vegan mayonnaise. We found these to be deliciously contrasting flavours. Dishes at Sushi Kitchen are very well priced, especially considering the high quality of the food. Expect to pay as little as 3rm for a side dish, and up to 17rm for the larger dishes.
Why I love this particular vegetarian restaurant in Penang
Amazing ambience and great food aside, there are a number of other boxes that Sushi Kitchen ticks. The following factors make it a top choice for a healthy vegetarian restaurant in Penang.
- Homemade vegetable enzyme is used to soak the vegetables before they are washed and cooked. Check out the video below for more on this.
- Filtered water is used for cooking and drinking.
- No fake ‘meat’ to be found anywhere on the menu.
- The environment is comfortable and the staff are friendly.
Check out the video below to see how we received a complete ‘experience’ at this awesome place for Penang vegetarian food. Here you’ll be able to see one of the staff taking us through the process of making our own vegetable enzyme. This can be used for more than just cleaning vegetables (the bottle lists all it’s uses).
Wholey Wonder is so much more than just a cafe or restaurant. It’s a total wellbeing experience, right in the heart of George Town. With a yoga studio up above, and a cosy cafe below, you can easily chill out here for quite some time. Wholey Wonder is not simply a great vegetarian restaurant in Penang. Instead it’s a completely vegan and super healthy option.
The high quality fresh produce and addition of ‘super food’ ingredients make it evident that nutritious food is a strong value here. We have visited this cafe a number of times and the quality is always consistent. The smoothies are exceptional, and very good value for money, given the size of them and the quality of ingredients.
You can’t get healthier than this
Wholey Wonder is a relatively new vegetarian restaurant in Penang and their menu continues to grow. Try a healthy take on pizza or a breadless burger, or check out the amazing smoothie bowls served straight out of a papaya. The smoothie bowls are a full meal. When I ordered one I could only eat a small portion of the papaya after devouring the ‘smoothie’. So the staff packed the leftover papaya up in a bag for me and it fed my family of three for the next few mornings!
Wholey Wonder is located at the funky Hin Bus depot, which is by far my favorite spot to hang out in town. The atmosphere is great and the staff are friendly. In fact, they have even been known to play hide and seek with my three year old. They also let her into the back kitchen to ‘help’ make her smoothie!
If you’re after the healthiest vegetarian and vegan food in Penang, check out the Wholey Wonder facebook page for more details.
Just beside the hustle and bustle of Little India you’ll find The Leaf Healthy House Cafe. This was one of the first vegetarian/vegan cafes I visited in Penang, and I have returned a number of times. It certainly lives up to it’s ‘healthy’ title. They only use olive oil or coconut oil for cooking, and you can rest assured they don’t use msg or artificial colorings or preservatives in their meals.
This vegetarian resturant in Penang also offers a number of vegan options. Their menu is well laid out and they use a key to share important information such as the level of spice in the meal. Within this key you can clearly see which dishes contain milk, and are therefore vegetarian rather than vegan. Vegans will be spoiled for choice with plenty of options.
Their menu offers meals with either a western or eastern influence and there are both spicy and non-spicy options to suit all palates. The food is well presented, and I always find it tastes very fresh. I feel well nourished and healthy after having a meal here!
On this particular visit we ordered a number of the ‘chef’s recommendations’. The leaf spaghetti with basil and pine nut sauce is one of their signature dishes. Our whole family (including the three year old) thought it was delicious. The other main dish we chose was Kam Heong Eryngii rice, which included flavors such as lemongrass, ginger, curry leaf, and a good dose of chili.
Alongside the mains, we opted for a few smaller dishes – boiled edamame, Otak-otak, and popiah. Otak-otak is a really interesting and tasty side dish with a bit of a kick. It’s made from fresh soy and spices, and is wrapped up in a banana leaf. The popiah is a fresh spring roll made with turnip, lettuce, tofu, seaweed and burdock (little miss three ate this one too!)
The thing that got me most excited on our recent visit was seeing the fresh, cold pressed juices in the cabinet. I first visited the leaf healthy house about six months ago and was impressed with their delicious cold pressed juice. However I then returned a few times over the coming months and noticed that none of them were in stock. On our most recent visit the manager explained that the juicer was broken, but is back in action now. What a delicious, yummy addition to our meals. This is one vegetarian restaurant in Penang where you can rest assured the juices have no sugar added.
Visit The Leaf Healthy House Facebook page for more information on the tasty and healthy options they have waiting for you.
This is one vegetarian restaurant in Penang that I am super excited to write about. The main reason for this is that they don’t have an online presence, so I suspect there are a number of people who don’t know about this hidden gem. I have linked to an unofficial facebook page.
Located in the Pulau Tikus area, the Annalakshmi temple of fine arts offers a completely vegetarian (not vegan) Indian buffet. Originally, I thought the buffet was only served on Saturday nights. On our most recent visit, we we told by others that it is open every night, and also for lunches. I can only confirm that we have been there on a Saturday evening on a number of occasions and that the buffet starts from 6pm onwards.
This is all you can eat, Indian vegetarian food. Because of the buffet style, you can eat as soon as you get there – no waiting required. They’ve got water and one or two other drinks on tap, but you can also go up and order a mango lassi from the counter.
From a health perspective, it might not be the top of the list. However there is plenty of variety and the food is super tasty. I also find that the dishes don’t seem as ‘heavy’ or oily as most other Indian restaurants I have been to.
Why I love this vegetarian restaurant in penang
Aside from my opinion that the food is delicious, I love being able to pick and choose exactly what I’m going to eat, and how much of each dish I have. And if anything is super delicious I can go back for more!
What’s really special about this restaurant though is that payment is by donation. I don’t know about anyone else, but this makes me feel even more gratitude for the food I am eating and for the people who prepared it. On top of that, I love the general homely atmosphere of this place. You remove your shoes when you enter and you’re seated in a semi-outdoor courtyard out the back.
Sometimes there are different classes going on at the temple when we arrive. On our last visit we were treated to after dinner performances from members of the temples. I’m not sure exactly what they were playing, but some sort of Indian style guitar. Take a look at the pictures and maybe you can tell me!
I highly recommend checking out this vegetarian restaurant in Penang if you like Indian food and enjoy finding homely type places that are just a little bit different. Find out more on the unofficial facebook page, or just put the temple name into google maps and pop on down one Saturday night. Note that we did show up once and the whole place was booked out for a wedding so we had to go elsewhere.
[NOTE 31ST OCTOBER 2017: I ATTENDED QUAY CAFE FOR LUNCH TODAY. THEY ARE CURRENTLY BUILDING A HOTEL TO ATTACH TO THEIR CAFE. AT PRESENT THEY CAN’T USE THEIR KITCHEN SO THE INFORMATION BELOW IS INCORRECT. THEY ARE CURRENTLY COOKING RICE AND VEGETABLES OFF SITE AND THEN BRINGING THEM TO THE CAFE. THE FOOD IS ACCEPTABLE BUT NO WAY AS GOOD AS WHAT THEY USUALLY OFFER. THEY HAVE INFORMED ME THAT THEIR KITCHEN WILL BE OUT OF ACTION FOR THE NEXT FEW MONTHS. I WILL REMOVE THIS MESSAGE ONCE I KNOW THEIR OPERATIONS ARE BACK TO NORMAL].
Quay cafe is located in the heart of the George Town heritage area. It’s another little gem that’s a little bit hidden away so you could easily walk by and miss it. But I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
By the way, while you’re in the area, head straight across the road to Shia’s Granola and check out this tiny shop before or after your meal. Shia offers fresh juices, smoothie bowls and salads. You can also pick up some homemade goodies such as kombucha, peanut butter and granola. Note that Shia’s menu isn’t entirely vegetarian or vegan, which is why it doesn’t get a full section in this post. Definitely worth a mention and a visit though.
Back to Quay cafe. The Japanese owners have created an Asian menu with both Japanese and Malaysian influence. The restaurant setting is quiet and relaxed, and the stools are super comfortable!
I’ve tried a number of dishes from this menu and have found them all to be delicious. Of noteworthy performance is a vegan version of the local ‘Laksa’. It takes me a while to eat because it has a bit of a kick, but every mouthful is worth it. The mixture of flavors is perfect and this dish on it’s own is perfect for me for lunch. The best thing is that it’ll only set you back 5rm. All of the dishes here are 10rm or less, with the exception of the Japanese bento, which is 15rm.
Some of your other options include local classics like Mee Goreng and Nasi Lemak, or you can go for homemade noodles and dumplings, or perhaps Cha-Siu rice. There are also a few sides to choose from such as home made sauce beancurd or Japanese sushi. Juices are available but they are too sweet for my liking! They have already been premixed and taste like they are very high in sugar, so I stick with water.
The owner of the restaurant did not understand the terminology of vegetarian and vegan. However he did (I think) assure me that they do not use animal products in their meals. I listed off eggs, milk and yoghurt, to which he replied ‘no, no and no’.
In some of the dishes you’ll find ‘fake’ meat, which I must say is yummy indeed, but I cannot comment on the health attributes here. Back home in New Zealand I avoid fake meat options. When I’ve read the ingredients of some of these I’ve been put off by all the additives, and also the level of processing the products go through.
However, I’ve seen some ‘fake meat’ here that seems to be more simplistic. Many of the ones I have seen only contain soy beans, water, herbs and spices. Some have sugar added. I don’t mind having soy from time to time so I’m happy to eat these sorts of dishes when I’m out sometimes. The cooks at Quay cafe make their own noodles and sauces so I suspect the ‘fake meat’ they use is probably better than the ones I avoid at home.
There are options to have even ‘healthier’ dishes that aren’t on the menu at Quay cafe. The owner told me about these during my last visit because I was asking a lot of questions about their food. I was previously unaware of these ‘healthier’ options because they don’t appear to be advertised. The extra healthy dishes are cooked without oil and have either flaxseed or olive oil stirred in afterwards. They also have a serving of lettuce on the side. You need to pre-order these by asking for one the day before. It will then be waiting for you when you get to the restaurant. The price of these ‘healthier’ dishes is 20rm.
Let’s talk about palm oil
A growing awareness of the ecological impact of palm oil plantations has formed in the Western world over recent years. In my home country of New Zealand, a number of consumers will go to lengths to ensure they avoid products containing palm oil. I found it easy to avoid palm oil at home, but since I’ve arrived in Malaysia things are a bit different.
My first moment of shock when I arrived occurred when I visited an organic shop in town. This was the sort of place I expected to boycott products containing palm oil. Not so much. I was shocked to find that the shop manager did not seem to have any sort of an understanding of the havoc that palm oil is causing in the environment. I discovered many products in the shop contained palm oil.
After spending time talking with locals about this issue, I feel like I have more of an understanding of it from a Malaysian perspective. Palm oil is huge business. Yes it does come down to money, but I also now have an understanding of how much the economy relies on palm oil, and how the livelihoods of everyday people would be affected without it.
I still don’t agree with it. The loss of habitat and number of species that are under threat because of it is huge. As an individual I will continue to ensure all products I buy are palm oil free. If people continue to demand it, the deforestation and species decline will continue.
However I do realize my choices are not quite as straight forward as they were in my home country. Nearly everywhere you eat out in Malaysia will offer meals that have been cooked using palm oil. It is cheap so this is the reality of what they can afford to use. Going back to our restaurant, Quay cafe is one of these places that uses palm oil The exception is with their ‘healthier’ dishes that you need to pre-order.
I don’t want to highlight Quay cafe as a place that uses palm oil. The fact is that pretty much every restaurant will be using it, unless they advertise otherwise (e.g. Wholey Wonder and The Leaf Healthy House). When I can I will aim to support cafes that choose not to use it. However, there are other instances when I will support places like Quay cafe, who have plenty of other things going for them.
Overall, Quay Cafe serves delicious, well priced meals. I’d highly recommend checking out their facebook page for more information, and dropping in for a meal.
There are two Mamavege restaurants in Penang. I visited the one at Tanjong Tokong. The restaurant was clean, tidy and comfortable. You have the option to order various meals that are cooked for you, or you can choose from the front of the menu and cook it at your table.
As meal times with a three year old are often a little hair-raising as it is, we opted for the former! In hindsight, I would have preferred the latter option if it had have been practical for us. This is because there appeared to be more healthy options this way.
The food at this vegetarian restaurant in penang
If you’re looking for a ‘fake meat’ fix, this is the place to come for it. The majority of their menu items seemed to contain it. You can rest assured that the ‘duck meat’ or ‘prawn meat’ will all be soy based. This aligns with their company mission of serving home-style meals equivalent to their ‘real meat’ partners. For me, there was too much fake meat and not enough vegetables. However I thought I’d include this restaurant because I know there are a lot of people who love it.
The food is certainly tasty, and it is reasonably priced. The pictures on the menu made it appear the meals contained more vegetables and/or salad than they actually did. Some of the dishes are quite small so you may need to order a couple (so the price for the meal can easily go up if you have a big appetite).
The menu contains a key so you can easily determine which dishes are spicy, kid friendly, contain egg, etc. Mamavege restaurant told me that they do not use any animal products other than egg. So if the picture of your meal doesn’t have the egg symbol next to it, you can safely assume it’s vegan.
I opted for the special Malaysian hand made satay (15.90rm) and the vege ‘deer meat’ (14.90rm). Miss three ordered some deep fried (!) enoki and french fries (12.90rm). The fresh juices were good. We had to ask for them without added sugar. I tired the ‘boost health drink’ with beetroot, apple and orange (at least I got some more veges in that way!). This is another restaurant that cooks with palm oil.
Located on the edge of Little India, Woodlands is a vegetarian restaurant in Penang that is loved by both vegetarians and non vegetarians alike. It’s a place our meat eating friends are happy to frequent so we find ourselves regularly enjoying a social meal here.
This vegetarian restaurant in Penang offers a huge range of Indian food. I’m not sure about vegan options so you may need to ask about those, but vegetarians will be spoiled for choice. The prices are super cheap and we can easily feed our family of three for 30rm.
The food at this Indian vegetarian restaurant in Penang
Although I wouldn’t put Indian food at the top of my healthy choices, we are always happy with the taste and variety on offer here. There is a huge range of dosai, naan bread, starters, salads, rice dishes, curries and specialty ‘tongue tickling’ dishes. For us, the food is consistently good so we keep coming back. We’ve tried a few restaurants (one or two others that are vegetarian) in Little India but this is the one we’ll keep going back to. Find out more by checking out their facebook page.
The most recent vegetarian restaurant in Penang that we visited was Coya Healthy Cuisine. Located in town on Loron Selamat, the restaurant itself is nothing special to look at, but the food is divine! The food is freshly prepared, and the ‘fake meat’ products are gluten free. Instead they’re made from mushroom and GE free soy.
To me, the dishes and flavors at this vegetarian restaurant in Penang have a nice mix of both Asian and western influence. We ordered some of the most popular dishes on the menu.
You can order western style pasta favorites such as bolognese or carbonara spaghetti, or asian inspired noodles such as xiangchun noodles, or noodle dumpling soup. The noodles are homemade, and the menu has both vegetarian and vegan options.
There are a number of rice dishes and you can also opt for brown rice instead of white. You can also choose from plenty of additional dishes ranging from an array of bean curd options to mushroom dishes, hearty soups and sides of vegetables. They have a couple of kids sets and you can pre-order a giant portobello mushroom burger if it takes your fancy!
- A kids set,
- Rendang curry with mushroom balls and potatoes (this was my favorite)
- Spicy mixed mushrooms
- Kung fu bak kut teh (herbal soup)
- Deep fried pumpkin (another favorite)
Drinks and more
This vegetarian restaurant in Penang also has a range of yummy drinks to choose from. We ordered a mango lassi and a mint tea. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the juices and lassi’s don’t have any sugar or ice added. However, a few of the teas, including the mint tea, have sugar already pre-mixed into the drink, so make sure you check first if you’re after a sugar free option.
Coya healthy cuisine also has a membership program you can join. Collect points to redeem free items and discounts. You can find out more about Coya vegetarian restaurant in Penang by visiting their facebook page. We definitely enjoyed our visit. The food was super tasty and pretty healthy, so we will be eating there again for sure!
Idealite call themselves the ‘Wholesome Dining Chain’, and from my experience they certainly live up to that title. They have four locations in Penang – Jalan Gottlieb, Queensbay Mall, Gurney Plaza, and E-Gate. I have only attended the Jalan Gottlieb restaurant, but I have been there three or four times now and have always had an amazing meal.
They only use premium ingredients in their food, and their top 10 ingredients are olive oil and rice bran oil (no palm oil here), brown rice, millet, whole wheat ramen, himalayan salt, brown sugar, oat milk, hericium mushroom, broccoli and pumpkin. They don’t use any msg, synthetic coloring, vegetarian gluten ‘meat’, preservatives, canned food, peanuts, meat or microwave cooking.
I rate this vegetarian restaurant in Penang high on my healthy list and will keep going back for sure. The only disappointment was that on my last visit the juicer was broken so none of their delicious fresh juices were available.
The food at this vegetarian restaurant in Penang
I ordered something that I would consider a bit ‘different’ here, and it was delicious – an Indian curry spaghetti. We also ordered the grilled King trumpet mushroom burger and the Japanese golden dumplings with assorted vegetables. Little Miss had the handcrafted pineapple vinegar mocktail with chia seeds and sea birds nest. The staff didn’t think she’d like it because they said it wouldn’t be sweet enough for a child. But she loved it! Little do they know that she has apple cider vinegar in her water at home most days so she’s more than used to a vinegar flavor, and this one was in fact sweeter than she normally has!
There’re a really tantalizing array of options on their menu and I find it hard to choose what to order because everything is so good! You can get things like sushi, curries, rice dishes, claypot rice, bibimbap, mushroom dishes, a steam boat dish, whole wheat ramen, spaghetti, dumplings, burgers, satay, healthy desserts and drinks – phew!
Find out more by visiting the Idealite website.
BMS organics is a health food store with the slogan “Eat Clean. Live Green”. They have six stores in Penang, but only one with an on-site cafe, which is in Pulau Tikus, just along the road from the wet market. This is a fantastic area for health conscious people to visit. There’s another great organic shop and cafe over the road, and I’ve seen another one a bit further along, although I haven’t been into it.
The vegetarian cafe in BMS organics is a lovely spot to stop and grab some organic groceries and a healthy meal after visiting the wet market for your fresh produce. With options for both Eastern and Western cuisine, they use 70% organic vegetables, organic and natural ingredients, olive oil and rice bran oil (no palm oil), and sea salt to prepare food.
They claim that their food is low salt, low fat, low sugar and low calorie, and well as high energy, high fiber and high in nutrients.You can rest assured they use no msg, GMO’s, artificial colorings, chemical preservatives or microwave cooking.
What we ate at this vegetarian cafe in Penang
If you are vegan, you can easily tell what products contain milk or eggs. We ordered the organic harvest salad with sesame dressing and the fresh tropical rojak salad. We couldn’t resist some sweet potato crunch on the side! The staff brought out complimentary ginger teas, which were delicious but did taste like they had sugar in them. We also ordered their ‘energetic bio enzyme’ drink, which was delicious. Little Miss opted for the tropical twist cold pressed juice, which was made from green apple, pineapple and cucumber with no added sugar.
Prices range between about 10 and 20RM per dish and they have a special ‘green Monday’ deal for ‘buy one get one free’. I’m not sure of the exact details of it because we weren’t there on Monday. Check out the BMS cafe story and menu to find out more. They also have an online shop so you can order your organic groceries that way if you prefer.
Thanks for checking out my blog post about the best vegetarian restaurants in Penang! A few of the other vegetarian and vegan restaurants I intend to visit over the coming weeks include Real Food at Straits Quay, and Wonder Wilderfarm.
In the mean time, if you’re a fan of nourishing food, check out my healthy eating blog category.
What’s your favorite vegetarian restaurant in Penang? I’d love to hear about it so please feel free to leave a comment in the box below!
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