Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Vegetarian Dim Sum at Nature's Recipe Cafe, Petaling Jaya

Greater Kuala Lumpur is exceedingly well-served by vegetarian restaurants, primarily of the Chinese and South Indian varieties.

I've had Chinese vegetarian food many times in Australia, and while I generally like it, I've never visited a place that truly reached its full potential. Perhaps it is the aversion Chinese buddhists have towards vegetables of the allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks) which are said to encourage passionate behaviour. Personally I'm a big fan of passionate behaviour, but apparently it's no good for attaining a state of nirvana. I'm also a big fan of the allium family, which despite being hindrances to getting someone to kiss you, are essential for most tasty dishes. I'm Indonesian, man, and the idea of food without garlic and shallots is incomprehensible to us. (Clearly they do make you passionate, since there are over 237 million Indonesians - get my meaning?)

But Nature's Recipe Cafe (12 Jalan 8/1E, 46050 Petaling Jaya) is one of two Malaysian vegetarian joints that gave me hope for the potential of Chinese vegetarian cuisine to reach its own state of nirvana. (The other was Yishensu at 1 Utama.) The food is impressively presented and very tasty, even without a trace of the garlic I so dearly love.

A big plus for Nature's Recipe is that it specialises in Dim Sum. I have longed to partake in the delights of dim sum (or yum cha as it is better known in Australia) with my Chinese homies for many years, but am constantly thwarted by everything being filled with pork or prawns. So stuffing my face with these little works of art was personally very satisfying.

All kinds of standard Chinese vegetable dishes are on offer here, but the mock-meat ones are the best. I know people have all kinds of varying opinions on the concept of vegetarians eating pretend meat, but hey, it tastes good even to a meat eater. The teochew dumplings (above) and siu mai (below) were full of meaty and prawny flavour respectively, only with less, um, death, than the real thing.

Fried glutinous balls (above) sound weird enough but were tasty with a winningly chewy texture, while the jade dumplings (below) were at the more delicate end of the spectrum.
In a departure from the dim sum theme, we tried the lamb curry, which actually is made at its sister restaurant just up the road. This was one of the best fake-meat dishes I've ever tried. I couldn't tell if it contained onion and garlic or not, but it was certainly bursting with the flavour of lemon grass, curry leaves and other Thai-Malaysian-type spices I couldn't identify. Its robust gravy had the one thing that many Chinese vegetarian dishes lack - balls, for lack of a better word. Not to say it actually had balls in it, since that wouldn't be vegetarian, but you know what I mean.

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