Words: Robin Pascucci Photos: Monica Tindall
It’s hard to explain to non-vegetarians what an unexpected joy it is to have your choice of any item on the menu without having to ask what meat-based items might be hidden among the ingredients in the dishes. But this is what happened to me this evening at the Green Garden Organic Recipe. Every item on the menu is vegetarian, made with the freshest organic ingredients straight from the farm. For the first time in Malaysia, I was able to try some of the traditional dishes I have heard so much about but couldn’t eat because they had meat in them. In fact, I sampled so many dishes on this menu that if the food hadn’t been light and fresh, they would have had to roll me out of the restaurant at the end of the meal.
The restaurant itself was a bright, airy space on the first floor of a corner lot, with large windows on both sides. The pale wood of the tables and floor made it modern but still homey and comfortable. The décor was simple and tasteful.
The owners, Jennifer and her daughter Rayy, sat us down with a menu to explain each of the dishes and the lengthy preparations that often went into them. This is not one of those vegetarian restaurants that uses ready-made processed fake meats and then adds their own sauces to them. Each dish is homemade, and the meat-like textures of the ones meant to imitate real meat and fish come from hours of marinating, blending, and cooking the ingredients so that they resemble their meat-based versions.
The drinks menu had a variety of fresh juices and teas, with the health benefits of each one explained in the description of it. We chose to have the Fruit Tea (RM 16.90) with our meal. This tea, served warm, starts with fruit tea leaves as its base. They then add a refreshing blend of fresh lemons, oranges, apples, and passion fruit to it. It was fruity without being too sweet or too tart, and went nicely with all of the dishes we tried. According to the menu, its health benefits include improving body constitution, preventing stress, and boosting immunity.
The food menu has a huge variety of choices – Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, and Western dishes. We trusted Rayy and Jennifer to bring us some of their more popular dishes, and this ended up requiring quite an appetite from us.
We started off with a bowl of their soup of the day – a Watercress Soup (RM 4.50) – a flavorful soup that manages to avoid being too salty thanks to the seasonings they make it with – a blend of sesame powder and Korean bamboo salt. They then brought out a few of the appetizers: the Organic Stuffed Tofu (RM 9.90), the Penang Fruits Rojak (RM 8.90), and the Satay (RM 9.90). The firm triangles of Organic Stuffed Tofu, filled with shredded cucumber and radishes and served with a sweet miso sauce, had a perfect blend of textures, and the sauce was so good we were tempted to dip just about everything else in it. The Rojak was a textural delight, blending the crunch of jicama, cucumbers, and radishes, and topped with crispy fried thin wheat crackers. Best of all, the dish was covered in a sauce of miso, peanuts, and organic cane sugar molasses. Monica said that she liked this version better than the traditional rojak one finds in other restaurants, made with belacan (the traditional fermented shrimp sauce that tends to overpower the other ingredients in a dish). Finally, the Satay was so convincingly textured, I had to ask chef Wayne to make sure there was no chicken in it. He assured me that although they had used a long, complicated process to make it textured like chicken, there were no animal-based ingredients in this dish.
After the starters, we moved into the main dishes. We sampled the Golden Pumpkin Tofu (RM 14.90), the Portuguese Grilled Fish (Small RM 15.90, Large RM 17.90 – obviously no actual fish involved), the popular Bak Kut Teh (Small RM 10.90; medium RM 24.90, large RM 35.00), the Tom Yum Soup served in a coconut (RM 18.90), the Sweet and Sour Abalone Mushrooms (RM 16.90) and the Golden Fragrance Abalone Mushrooms (RM 16.90). Then there was Lotus Root in a Bird’s Nest made of rice paper (RM 17.90) and Jennifer’s original signature dish that made the restaurant popular when she started it up back in 2008: Lei Cha.
Each of these dishes showed how much time and care went into the preparation of it, and each one was uniquely tasty. The sauce on the Golden Pumpkin Tofu was so much more flavorful than many other pumpkin dishes that Monica and I had eaten elsewhere – and this, chef Wayne explained to us, is because of the care that he puts into choosing just the right pumpkins to put into it. He was able to explain how the shade of the pumpkin indicates it is at the peak of its ripeness – the type of detail that showed how meticulous he is with every step of his cooking.
The other dishes were equally impressive – so much so that we had a hard time choosing a favorite. The seaweed that mimicked the skin on the Portuguese Grilled “Fish” added just the right flavor of the sea to the dish, and the sauce, covered with slivers of okra and red peppers, had just enough of a kick in it to wake our taste buds up without making us reach for our fruit tea in a panic to put the fire out (which could not be said about the mouth-flaming tangy Tom Yum soup, but that is as it should be. Who wants a Tom Yum that doesn’t make you sweat afterwards?). The Bak Kut Teh, having substituted mushrooms and tofu for the usual pork in the traditional version, was as hearty as I imagine the pork version to be, with a slightly sweet and very flavorful broth. Both Abalone Mushroom dishes were batter fried, golden and crispy. The sweet and sour sauce was as good as any sweet and sour I’ve had anywhere, and the golden fragrance sauce was rich and creamy. The Lotus Root in a Bird’s Nest dish was light on the sauce so that the flavors of all the fresh vegetables and mushrooms were able to shine on their own. And the healthy Lei Cha was fresh and earthy, with the flavor of each herb distinguishable from the others. It was clear why this dish was the original draw that brought people to the restaurant when it started out.
The best thing about Green Garden Organic Recipe is that we really feel that we had been welcomed into someone’s home. It’s a family affair, and this mother-daughter team put so much of their hearts into the food they served that we couldn’t help but feel spoiled as we ate it.
Reasons to visit: 100% vegetarian restaurant; lovely green outlook and warm friendly ambience; must try the Fruit Tea, Penang Fruits Rojak, Golden Pumpkin Tofu, Portuguese Grilled “Fish” and the Golden Fragrance Abalone Mushrooms.
Green Garden Organic Recipe
No. 1, First Floor, Jalan 3/62A
Bandar Menjalara, 52200 Kuala Lumpur
+ 03 6262 1561/ 018-669 1313/ 018-380 1313