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Nov 25, 2010 05:10 PM

[Malaysia] Penang with a vegetarian

Are there any foods that a vegetarian can eat in Penang? When I was there before I ate almost exclusively street food and seem to remember that everything had some form of meat in it.

The vegetarian in question is on the brink of abandoning the practice but I don't think she's quite game enough for fish paste or large hunks of flesh. Any suggestions for what I can feed her to keep her busy while I am chowing on the local delicacies?

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    1. If you'd visited Penang a couple of months back - during the period of the Nine Emperor Gods (Kew Ong Yeah) festival, you'd have been able to enjoy all forms of Penang hawker food in vegetarian style: fried koay teow, assam laksa, fried hor fun, etc. That was when the Taoist/Buddhist population in Penang goes on a vegetarian diet for 15 days. Some specialist vegetarian restaurants also pop up during this period.

      Anyway, your friend and you can also try these all-year-round vegetarian restaurants in Penang:
      * Chang Yen Vegetarian Restaurant at the junction of Burmah Road and Codrington Ave in Pulau Tikus. It's very popular with Penangites as they offer all sorts of hawker food, but prepared for vegetarians only, e.g. Nasi lemak, Mee Jawa, Wanton Mee, etc.

      * Evergreen Vegetarian Restaurant.39-A, Jalan Cantonment, 10250 Pulau Tikus, Penang, Malaysia. Tel 04-2103900.

      * Lily's Vegetarian Kitchen in MacAlister Road also offers a lot of Penang local dishes (fried koya teow, pasembor, chee cheong fun)

      Because of its large Buddhist population, many of whom are vegetarians, you can find quite a few Chinese vegetarian restaurants in Georgetown, besides Indian vegetarian restaurants in Little India.
      Here is a list of other vegetarian eating places in Penang. Ask your hotel concierge which is the closest or most convenient one for you:

      2 Replies
      1. re: makanputra

        Thanks, this is great info! Are there any street foods or dishes in "regular" restaurants she can get in veggie format? I am hoping that I am not going to be stuck eating at vegetarian restaurants every night (although I am looking forward to trying some at least once).

        1. re: Lina

          Lina, your friend should be able to get dishes prepared the vegetarian way in most restaurants. We Penangites do have a lot fo vegetarians in our midst. My wife & daughters go on a very strict vegetarian diet (temporarily) during the Kew Ong Yeah festival, when they'd even abstain from coffee.

          It's a bit harder for street hawkers to go 100% vegetarian as almost every Penang hawker worth his salt uses pork lard or fat to flavour his cooking. So, Penang char koay teow will be fried using pork fat, Penang Hokkien mee will use a stock made from pork bones & prawn shells, etc. But you can still find one or two stalls in most hawker centres which specialize in vegetarian food.