Friday, April 11, 2014

Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe - Ipoh

Secret Recipe is a brand that many of us are very familiar.  I remember back in my non-vegan days, I took particular pleasure in gorging on their many varieties of cakes.  Although most people know Secret Recipe, what you might not know is that in Malaysia they are known for something entirely different.  In addition to selling cakes, Secret Recipe also have a franchise of 13 vegetarian restaurants, all of which go by the name 'Beyond Veggie'.  From what I was told, the husband and wife owner of Secret Recipe are both Buddhist vegetarians, and therefore opened these restaurants to promote vegetarianism.  Today, I will featuring their Ipoh branch.  Their other locations can be found at KSL City Mall (JB), AEON Mall (Kulaijaya), Sunway Pyramid, 1 Utama, The Curve Shopping Mall, Oasis Square (Ara Damansara), Sunway Giza, Taipan USJ 10, Mid Valley Megamal, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Publika and Tropicana City Mall.

Beyond Veggie by Secret Recipe
Location: No.18, Tingkat Taman Ipoh 6, Taman Ipoh Selatan, Perak Darul Ridzuan
Contact: 05-546 8298
Opening Hours: Daily 10.00am-10.00pm

One thing which may alarm you when gazing upon the menu is the pricing.  The prices are pretty much Singapore standard, which was an instant turn off for me.  This Original Fruit Tea is an example of the inflated prices that can expect.  Having said my piece about the pricing, I must admit this drink was pretty delicious.  It was a perfect blend of sweet and sour fruity flavours, with a smooth texture.  This 'tea' consists of three simple ingredients - Pineapple, apple and lemon.  Yes the taste is really good, but considering that this tea consists of only three ingredeints (non-organic) it did leave me confused as to why it had such a high price tag.

Price: RM16.90.     6/10
We started our meal off with a snack item called Veggie Roll.  There were a total of six well crafted pieces of vegetables wrap, and two additional dipping sauces.  The wraps are fresh and crunchy, I particularly enjoyed the shredded purple cabbage and carrots.  The two dipping sauces were quite mild overall, the grey coloured mushroom based sauce being my favourite.  No complaints on the quality of these wraps, but I wish the price could be a little more affordable.

Price: RM9.90.     7/10
After ordering the Assam Laksa, I was quite stunned when a gigantic bowl arrived to our table.  The portion size for this laksa is really too big - Even for me.  I can't help but think portion sizes like this will lead to a lot of food wastage.  Overall this was far from the best assam laksa I've had.  The gravy was too watery and lacked the depth in flavour that an excellent laksa should have.  I would recommend eating the assam laksa at Luk Yea Yan (Penang) - Much better quality, and one third the price.

Price: RM15.90.     6/10

Conclusion - The obvious downside to this restaurant is the price.  I simply didn't find the service, ambiance or food quality worthy of the prices that are listed.  Malaysia is a country where you can go around and enjoyed excellent food for little money - So it begs the question, why would I go to Beyond Veggie and pay these prices?  If you are visiting though, the original tea and veggie roll were pretty decent.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 3/10

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ru Yin Vegetarian - Penang

Upon visiting Penang, tourists will usually either flock to Georgetown or Batu Ferringhi.  I've always loved the architecture and vibe of Georgetown, while I've always found Batu Ferringhi more of a over-commercialised tourist trap.  If you're looking for good vegetarian food though, it may be worthwhile visiting off the beaten path of Penang.  Although Georgetown should always acts as your hub if you wish to ensure yourself of finding an abundance of vegetarian eateries.  Ru Yin Vegetarian is one of those eateries that can be a little troublesome to get to, so let's see if it's worth the journey...


Ru Yin Vegetarian
Location: Blk 5-G-8, Jalan Van Praagh, Desa Green, Penang
Contact: 011-19197979
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-3.00pm & 6.00pm-9.00pm.  Sunday Closed.

Here is the Ru Yin staff cooking the noodles for our dishes.
One of the signature dishes of Penang, that you will see served almost everywhere is Curry Mee.  When ordering this dish, you will note the vibrant colours from the orange gravy and fresh green mint leaves.  Looks can sometimes be deceiving though.  Penang curry mee is basically a flavourless Singapore laksa.  It is literally like removing all spices and flavouring except for chili paste and coconut milk.  An utterly bland and flat dish.  Unfortunately wherever you go in Penang, the curry mee will taste like this (the best curry mee I have tried has been in Ipoh).  As someone who prefers stronger flavours, this is not a dish I can appreciate.

Price: RM3.50.     5/10
Next dish was the Kway Teow Soup, this dish is the same price as the curry mee (both of which are tremendous value).  I was reliably informed that this eatery has been known for their high quality kway teow soup for many years.  However, recently they have undergone a change in management.  Overall, this dish followed a similar sort of theme to the curry mee.  The soup was bland and forgettable, with there being no ingredients or flavour that would allow any real enjoyment to be had from this dish.  I did like the price and freshness, but the flavour is below par for me.

Price: RM3.50.     5/10

Conclusion - Penang has a lot of vegetarian eateries, but few stand out as being outstanding.  Ru Yin Vegetarian is a great place to go if you're looking for an economical meal - But if quality is important factor to you, then you will probably want to avoid this place.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 8/10

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fu Tien Vegetarian Restaurant - Ipoh

Back to Ipoh for more vegetarian food adventures.  For this post, I feature Fu Tien Vegetarian, which is one of the more established vegetarian eateries in the area.  One thing that any tourist must consider when visiting Ipoh (or anywhere in Malaysia, for that matter) - If you don't have your own car, then travelling around is going to be an extremely frustrating (and expensive) experience.  Public transport in cities like Ipoh is practically non-existent, and distances between locations are too far to walk.  That means you either need a car or you're at the mercy of the remorseless money extorting taxi drivers of Malaysia - Personally, I would rather burn my money, than give it to those glorified criminals.  Okay, onto the review...

Fu Tien Vegetarian
Location: 34 Jalan Medan 1B, Medan Ipoh Bistari,Perak Darul Ridzuan
Contact: 05-549 9098
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am-2.45pm & 6.00pm-9.45pm.  Monday Closed. 

We kicked our meal off with the Seaweed Salad.  This was a nice fresh way to start the meal - I love how this type of shredded seaweed always has such good texture, and it went well with the sesame seeds on top.  The biggest disappointment to this dish was the later of chopped lettuce on the bottom.  The lettuce was quite withered and unappealing.  I would have much rather the entire dish consist of seaweed.

Price: RM6.40.     6/10
Marmite with Lotus Root was the next dish.  At home, we have made lotus root chips (a healthier alternative to using potato) a few times, with positive results.  This dish was surprisingly sweet, with a sticky glue-like sauce binding together the pieces of fried lotus root.  I love eating fried lotus root, so overall I quite enjoyed this dish - But I think it would have been better with a more complex multi-layered sauce.

Price: RM10.00.     7/10

Lastly we decided to pick out the Fu Tien Special Fish.  Once again, this was another surprisingly sweet dish, with the slices of mock dish soaking in a sweet (and slightly tart) orange sauce.  The flavour of the sauce did go pretty well with the mock fish.  However, the mock fish itself was tough and rubbery.  With better quality mock meat, this dish could have been elevated to a much higher level.

Price: RM10.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Overall the dishes are mild and sweet, and with some minor improvements they could reach an even higher level.  Fu Tien is one of those restaurant in Ipoh which is not the best, but it is decent enough to be worthy of visiting. 

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 6/10

Friday, April 4, 2014

Shu Vegetarian - Raffles Place

If you want really cheap food, go to Raffles Place - That may sound crazy, but it's true.  Amid the high priced shopping centres and food courts of Raffles Place, Golden Shoe Food Centre stands out as being a superb place to find dirt cheap food.  This is not merely cheap by CBD standards, it is cheap compared to the whole of Singapore.  Shu Vegetarian is one of three vegetarian eateries that operate at this aforementioned eating house.  Many may remember my post on healthy living vegan stall My Vegetarian Way, which is also at the same location.  Shu Vegetarian is small and unassuming stall, just the kind that I like to visit.  Big things often come in small packages in Singapore, so lets find out how this place fares...


Shu Vegetarian
Location: #03-17, 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Food Centre
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Mon- Fri 6.30am-3.00pm.  Closed on weekends. 

Here is a look at the menu.  Let me warn you in advance, Golden Shoe becomes absolute anarchy during the office lunch hours (11.30-1.30pm).  Anarchy to the point where there is practically a riot taking place.  Unless you take some kind of sick enjoyment out of being assaulted by a whirlwind of utter madness, then you will want to avoid Golden Shoe during those timings.

Shu Vegetarian have an incredibly simple menu, but they excel in two aspects.  Firstly, they have a team of  hard-working and friendly staff, who always take great pride in their job.  Secondly, Shu Vegetarian serves extremely good quality economic rice dishes, which are also served at a wonderfully low price.

I went for the Economic Rice (Brown Rice) with braised tofu, crispy sweet and sour mock meat and mushroom.  The portion size is quite large and it comes accompanied with the typical clear Chinese soup.  The quality of the rice and dishes is indeed high.  I absolutely adored the crunchy sweet and sour mock meat, it vaguely reminded me of the same dish at Loke Woh Yuen (for those who can still remember that classic restaurant).  Superb value for money, and exceptional quality - I couldn't ask for anything more.

Price: $3.20.     8/10

If you're not in the mood for rice, then Shu occasionally offers Char Kway Teow as another option to have with the dishes (they also sometimes have fried rice, too).  If you're feeling like eating purely char kway teow, they staff will also oblige.  This dish is simple, without any mock meats or vegetables.  It is just simply beansprouts and kway.  It would be much more delicious eaten with the wide variety of dishes available at Shu - But by itself it is still quite alright.

Price: $1.20.     7/10

Conclusion - I still find myself occasionally dreaming about the sweet and sour mock meat from this stall.  We loved it so much that we ended up packeting another $2 worth of it back home with us.  Vegetarian stalls/restaurants often over-complicate things with too many dishes and subsequent inferior quality.  Stalls still only selling rice and dishes can still win my heart, and Shu Vegetarian is certainly one of those.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 9/10

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Aik Choong Vegetarian Restaurant - Penang

We often point our finger at certain locations in Malaysia, which are known to have outstanding vegetarian food.  Locations such as Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru etc.  But truth be told, almost all of Western Malaysia has great veggie options.  Pulau Penang is still the king of vegetarian, but mainland Penang also has countless vegetarian places, which are worth seeking out.  For today, we look at Aik Choong Vegetarian.  Let me just stress once more, this restaurant is not on Penang island - It is on the mainland.

Aik Choong Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 6549 Jalan Raja Uda, Taman Sena, Butterworth, Penang
Contact: 016-4445721
Opening Hours: Unknown (any customer please help me to confirm)

Aik Choong actually have two eateries that are right next to each other.  The older more traditional eatery has been around for countless years.  A few months ago, Aik Choong opened a brand new more upscale restaurant, right next to the original shop.  The interior design is quite fancy, but the colour and lighting can be a little too bright and glaring after being in the restaurant for a while.

Aik Choong has evolved into a mother and daughter business over the recent years.  The new glamorous restaurant is being run by the daughter (pictured, left), while the original outlet is still maintained by the mother (pictured, right).
The menu at Aik Choong is almost entirely Western, which is an entirely different concept when compared with the original outlet, which focuses more on traditional Chinese cuisine.
We started our meal off with the Tu Ping Zhen Soup.  It must be said, in a menu consisting of almost entirely Western food, this traditional Chinese herbal broth does seem a little out of place.  Nevertheless, this herbal drink was absolutely amazing.  The flavour is magnified due to it being cooked on charcoal for eight hours.  I have recently found out just what a big difference cooking with charcoal makes to the flavour of food, it is really like night and day.  This herbal soup is at its best when boiling hot, upon consuming I felt a comforting warm glowing sensation flow through my body.  Not really something that goes well with hotdogs and burgers, but still undeniably delicious.

Price: RM12.90 (pot).      8/10
Let's begin the Western bonanza with the Chicken Chop.  Unfortunately, Aik Choong is another one of those restaurant which presents a battlefield of dairy for vegan customers.  The tomato in this dish was sadly filled with cheese.  The chicken chop was decent enough, but the tomato mushroom sauce was a little too unimaginative for my liking.  The broccoli, thank god, added at least one thing nutritious onto the plate.

Price: RM8.80.     6/10

Probably the most disappointing dish of the evening was the Hotdog meal.  Presentation wise, I did like how the chef tried to add some green onto the place - Tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce could all be found.  The mock sausages I found a little tough in texture and the hotdog on a whole was not very practical to eat. I've still not managed to find a perfect vegetarian/vegan hotdog in Asia - Hotdogs should (when done right) be the ultimate street food snack, packed with a harmonious balance of sour, tart, and salty flavours.  My search will go on for that perfect hotdog...

Price: RM6.80.     5/10

The last Western dish of the evening was the Spaghetti Bolognese.  The fundamentals of this dish were done very well - The pasta was cooked well and the sauce texture was superb.  Flavour wise, the only thing I found that was missing was a lack of seasoning in the sauce. Presentation wise, it does look a little bare - Some cashew nut 'cheese' powder would make the world of difference to the look and taste.  Criticisms aside, this was a pretty decent dish, definitely the best of the Western dishes I tried.

Price: RM8.80.     7/10

Conclusion - Vegetarian Western food is something that is seldom perfected when it comes to Chinese operated restaurants.  The Western food at Aik Choong can be improved further, once a greater knowledge of Western flavours has been achieved.  The signature herbal soup was delicious, and if/when I return next, that is the item I will be ordering, rather than the Western options.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 7/10
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