Coming up for seconds
37A, Jalan Desa Bakti,
Off Jalan Kelang Lama,
Tel: 03-7982 8184
A meal at Vegipai is bound to make you forget about eating meat. There is enough variety on the menu to keep you coming back.
VEGIPAI defies all one’s preconceptions about vegetarian restaurants – it has a hip, cheery décor and has pictures of food lined up on the wall that will set you drooling.
The restaurant is located in Taman Desa in Kuala Lumpur, a housing estate which seems to boast a vegetarian, organic restaurant or organic shop at every street corner. Are people living there more health-conscious than most?
But Vegipai stands out as it does not make you feel you are missing out on meat while dining on its Nyonya, Chinese and Western dishes. We have been there twice, and would still want to go back again to try the other dishes on its rather extensive menu.
Yes, we may love meat, but the food at Vegipai makes us glad to forgo it once in a while.
Their Fried Bitter Gourd with Lychee certainly caught our fancy. How clever is that, adding the sweet to the bitter? The burst of fruity sweetness from the lychee was a perfect counterpoint to the sliced bittergourd stir fried with chilli and ginger. It balanced the bitter with the sweet quite beautifully.
We thought the Sichuan Soup was surprisingly good, too – better than in most restaurants that add chicken or pork to it. It came brimming with julienned shiitake mushrooms, wood ear fungus, red and green peppers and soft tofu. The soup was smooth, not starchy, and had just enough vinegar and chilli oil in it for that zing.
We also tried the Portuguese Mushrooms, which were abalone mushrooms dipped in batter and deep-fried, and lightly coated with a creamy curry sauce. Fragrant fried curry leaves and red chillies add to the flavours. They make great bites.
The Golden Dry Curry Eggplant with abalone mushrooms came to the table in a smoking claypot, and we couldn’t help but breathe in the spicy, stirring aromas.
At this point, most would want some rice to go with the delicious eggplant, with its seared skin and mushy, creamy texture that has soaked in the flavours of the curry paste.
And so we decided to take the regal-sounding Empress Fried Rice which, happily, tasted really good with bits of fu chook (fried soya skin) tossed with the rice.
Another fried rice I would love to eat again is the Cedar Shoot Fried Rice. There are dark, salted, flavourful leaves of the cedar shoots in the grains of rice, together with chopped long beans and carrot. It’s served topped with raw, finely sliced cabbage. We had this on our first outing at Vegipai and never forgot it.
Another one-dish meal that is hard to beat is the Petai Mee Siam. It hits the spot with the sour and hot, and has the right Nyonya nuances. There is a light, bitter edge to the crunchy petai that goes so well with the tangy noodles.
Still on a Nyonya note, I would recommend that you go for the Asam Mixed Vegetables. It’s long beans, eggplant, tomato and ladies fingers cooked in a thick asam curry in a claypot. You pick up the scent of kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and fresh mint in the piquant asam gravy; it just makes you want to eat all the vegetables in the pot.
We did succumb to a taste of meat – in the vegetarian Char Siu. We revelled in the burnt edges of the glistening slices of char siu, its sweet marinade and even the “fat” part of it!
I wonder how the cook managed to achieve this. It’s really guilt-free, delicious char siu.
Only the Kerabu Glass Noodles was a disappointment. Its extreme sweetness drowned out the sour notes, and the glass noodles were hard and stringy. Unfortunately, the Fu Chuk Drumstick in Ginger Sauce also turned out a bit sweet.
For dessert, Vegipai does an excellent Almond Cream with Snow Fungus, or with glutinous dumplings filled with black sesame.
The prices of most of the dishes are between RM15 and RM25, fried rice is RM9.90 and soups RM8. If you don’t want a vegetarian feast like ours, there are the Nyonya Laksa, Asam Laksa, Cantonese Fried Kwayteow, Pumpkin Fried Meehoon (with egg or without), Hainanese Chicken Rice, pasta and burgers to consider.
Apparently, the Sarawak Laksa is good. There also set menus.