Friday, 13 September 2013

Vegan Travel Finds: Kuala Lumpur

I've been to Kuala Lumpur more than a dozen times. Whether it's going from Auckland to Manila, or from Manila to Paris, or even if it were Auckland to Paris, KLIA is always where I end up en route to my destination. The black faux leather seats have served as my bedroom more than once, my backpack as a makeshift pillow. Of all those times, not once have I seen what was past the thick glass walls of Kuala Lumpur. 

It should come as no surprise then that on my latest journey, I wanted to venture past the airport, straight into the urban jungle of the city. Ideally I would've spent some time at the Batu Caves, sprawling with cheeky little monkeys as you climb hundreds of steps leading up to the sky. But, since not all in life is fair, I had to stick with the boring old Petronas Towers and the surrounding area. 

First stop: Living Food on Jalan Tun Razak, located on the ground floor of the Menara Tan & Tan, a fairly regular white office building dotted with windows on almost every floor and a cylindrical entrance. After almost 12 hours in the air and 45 minutes on the train, it was safe to say that this dainty cafe specialising in raw food was some form of haven. It wasn't too expensive either, since a serving of banana almond pancakes with vanilla cream and fresh fruit would only set you back RM15. Not feeling something sweet? How 'bout a lentil hemp soup for RM12? Maybe some cooked laksa for RM18?

I initially thought the wrap would be sweet, filled with something creamy or perhaps fruity, and only having a subtle hint of savoury through the spiralised vegetables and crushed almonds. Mangoes and sweetness make sense, right? Nope, not according to this wrap because it was anything but sweet, creamy, or fruity. 

The chocolate coloured mango wrap burst with freshness of zucchini, carrots, greens, and almonds, all of which was doused with a tangy tamarind dressing on top. For me the dressing was a little bit too salty, but other than that this hearty wrap makes for a surprisingly filling meal. Perhaps little specks of julienned would've aded an extra layer of oomph.

To accompany my meal I also had a match green latte made with freshly pressed almond milk (!!). No kidding. The friendly and accommodating barista, who like some of his co-workers were coincidentally Filipinos, chatted away as he made the almond milk right before my eyes. Hands down A+ for keeping with the living food promise. 

I couldn't resist dessert afterwards, so I stuck with a raw version of already fairly healthy banana fritters with a side of cashew cream. Oh my goodness, these were so good words cannot describe it. This non-deep fried version was actually coated in zucchini to make it crisp. Who would've known? These are definitely a better choice than their tiramisu which I also tried, mostly because bananas in tropical countries are always best, and also partly because the tiramisu didn't have enough of the coffee flavour that sets it apart from other creamy desserts. 

After stuffing myself silly with raw goodness, I moved on to see Kuala Lumpur's iconic twin towers. Although I do architecture I must say that tall glass skyscrapers aren't of much interest to me; I'd rather hike a mountain than ride the elevator to get to the top of such things. Accordingly, a couple of selfies (which is an official word now, if you didn't already know) later, I was out of the towers' ground floor and into the Suria KLCC. The shopping inclined could spend hours upon hours browsing H&M, Zara, and other such brands. 

Or, if you're like me, you'd head straight to the food court because you pre-Googled a vegetarian restaurant that has a branch there. 

The place in question was Simple Life, a restaurant chain that serves natural, organic, vegetarian food. Yeah, KL has a restaurant chain that serves hippie/health conscious food. Malaysian food at that. Clay pot dishes, laksa, nasi lemak, rojak... Need I say more?

In the end, I only got a spicy mixed fruit rojak for RM9.90 to eat later on the plane. It was unlike any other dish I've had before. Puffy chunks of tofu were combined with cucumbers, jicama, green mangoes, pineapples and green apples, tossed with a somewhat sweet, spicy and tangy dressing, before then being topped with julienned papaya. I feel that it might not be something that is suited to everyone's taste, but I personally liked the contrast between the sweet and spicy as well as the chewy tofu and the crisp fruits.

What came next was possibly the most difficult place to find during my short stay in Kuala Lumpur: the Craft Complex. If you ever plan on coming to this treasure trove located on Jalan Conlay, it is right next to a big hotel called Royale Chulan. At the moment the part of the intersection of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Conlay is a construction site for Harrod's, and if you turn on this intersection you should be going to the right place. Here they had paint your own batik for RM10-20, take home batik sets for around the same price, vases, traditional woven bags, and other traditional crafts. It probably took me around 40 to 50 minutes to finish one of the larger batik patterns. 

Woods Bio Marche on Jalan Bukit Bintang was the final stop of my journey. It was here where I had a very late lunch at 2pm, just before heading back to KLIA. Again, it was somewhat hidden past a construction site, just across the Federal Hotel. Its all vegan, organic, and macrobiotic. 

They had a large menu that included Malaysian traditions like nasi lemak, nyonya curry and bihun noodles, as well as salads, sandwiches, udon noodles and freshly blended fruit juices. The menus listed the 'function' of the meal too- nasi lemak for stamina, sambal fried rice for anti-oxidants, and fire dragon iron juice for blood strengthening. Pretty interesting, huh?

What seems like their specialty, however, was their bento box that changes daily. Friday was kidney strengthening day, which included the soup of the day, multigrain rice, steamed vegetables, lotus root curry, braised pumpkin with wakame, and a shiitake steak. All of that was just RM19. I have to say that the lotus root curry and the shiitake steak were my favourites; the curry was not too spicy yet not bland, and the shiitake steak was more flavourful than any other I've had in my life. It was topped with even more mushrooms in the form of a gravy that went oh so well with the perfectly cooked rice. 

I took away some 5 energy salad with miso dressing for dinner, too. The vegetables were all raw, served only with a small amount of beans and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. It was nice as a light dinner, although I admit I preferred the bento box I had earlier. 

Another aspect I liked about Woods Bio Marche were the little rolled up pieces of paper with clever Jing Si aphorisms, and I'll end this long post with the one I got. 

"A truly successful person is accepted by everyone and accepts everyone." 

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