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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Traveling Vegan in Malaysia - Temple Lunch in Kuala Lumpur

I first experienced vegan food while backpacking through the Southeast Asian country of Malaysia. I was traveling on a shoestring budget and always on the lookout for cheap eats. While staying in Kuala Lumpur, the main city, I visited an old Buddhist temple next to the hostel. A backpacker who entered the temple with me mentioned that they offered free lunches twice a month and it was happening the day I was there.
It was a small temple and, on the backside of the building under an awning, they had a short buffet line. I picked up a plate and volunteer servers spooned hot food from each tray. The food looked wonderful, but I didn't know it was vegetarian since the dishes were labeled with meat names like duck or pork. Aside from the rice and vegetable stir-fry, I thought I was eating a meat lunch. I ate everything and thought the food was delicious. When I found out that the meat was really flavored and textured tofu, I was completely surprised. I realized then that it was possible to eat a meatless meal and thoroughly enjoy it! That experience started my transition to a vegan diet.
Fifteen years later, after having been vegan for several years, I visited Kuala Lumpur again to see friends. They lived down the street from a large Buddhist temple, so I asked if it served a temple lunch. They called and confirmed that it did serve lunch daily for a small charge. So I had to go!
This was a new temple, the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery, built from donations and it had an impressive structure. The lunch was served in the back, so I followed a covered walkway along the side of the building. As I walked, I peeked into the temple through a side entrance and saw gold-colored statues of Buddha and hundreds of lit candles placed around a red-tiled floor. Further down the walkway was an entrance to small reading room. Several free books were stacked on a table near the door for anyone who was interested in Buddhism.
Finally, the end of the walkway opened into the rear of the temple revealing an expansive covered patio with more than 50 tables. On the far end of the patio was a huge buffet line. I picked up a tray and eagerly waited to load my plate as I had done many years before.
I was overwhelmed with the selections available. There were so many varieties of vegan food that it was impossible to try everything, so I sampled small bits from each tray, scooped some rice, and then continued down the line. But it wasn't over.
In the next area, two chefs were busily cooking a fresh special of the day which was spinach noodles covered with a pumpkin gravy and red cabbage salad. I got a second plate and ordered the special as well. Lastly, I took a glass of fresh coconut water which they served at the end of the line.
When I reached the cashier she was surprised by the quantity of food I had loaded on the tray, but I humbly explained that I was a tourist. After paying, I found a small table, sat down and ate. The food was delicious and flavorful with many unique tastes. When I was finished, I thought I had eaten the most wonderful food possible in a very benign setting. There were even motivating quotes from famous vegetarians printed on banners and posted on the wall behind the buffet line.
The atmosphere on the patio was very peaceful and compassionate and I was happy to eat there. It was enriching to experience another temple lunch in Kuala Lumpur and I hope to go again. If only we could perpetuate the positive energy from that patio to all lunch tables around the world, we'd have a more peaceful global community. Such is the power of vegan food!
Healy Youngton
It's simple to make delicious vegan meals. My mini eCookbook, Make Simple Vegan Meals, offers 15 tasty recipes which have sustained, delighted, and nourished me for the past decade and helped me appreciate a vegan diet, mindset, and all of its health benefits. The vegetable recipes in this cookbook include soothing soups, refreshing salads, and delicious stews, chili, and pasta which you can easily prepare at home.
Visit my website and blog at the above link for more information about my eCookbook, nutrition, and a healthy vegan lifestyle.

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