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Best vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Southeast Asia

From monastery canteens to the world’s largest greenhouse,  we pick some of Southeast Asia’s healthiest herbivore hangouts

Written By:
November 3, 2017

From monastery canteens to the world’s largest greenhouse,  we pick some of Southeast Asia’s healthiest herbivore hangouts

Moksa Ubud, Ubud

Dedicated to the sustainable and eco-friendly principles of permaculture, Moksa Ubud’s plant-based restaurant and garden offers visitors a brief taste of a lifestyle free from the throwaway culture of modern life. Under the guidance of executive chef Made Runatha, guests can work with local ingredients handpicked from the site’s garden to discover how to prepare and cook delicious meals using only the fruit of the soil – and how to integrate more healthy alternatives into their daily life. Visitors less keen to get their hands dirty can head to the restaurant for fusion creations such as Moksa’s jackfruit tacos or, for early risers, tempeh benedict.

Pollen, Singapore

Sitting at the edge of the Flower Dome – the largest and perhaps most lavish greenhouse in the world – inside Singapore’s famed Gardens by the Bay, this elegant modern eatery is an awesome testament to the epicurean extravagance so typical of the city-state. With a team led by executive chef Steve Allen, previously of Gordon Ramsay’s Michelin starred restaurant Claridge’s in London, Pollen’s seasonal offerings draw upon the region’s finest vegetarian dishes for inspiration. First-timers should consider the vegetarian tasting menu, a five-course selection including pearl barley risotto and a quinoa, hazelnut and zucchini blend served with smoked ricotta.

Vibe Café, Phnom Penh

Nestled in Phnom Penh’s up-and-coming Tuol Tom Poung district, Vibe Café is Cambodia’s first fully vegan restaurant. Rising up three levels to a laid-back rooftop garden, Vibe’s warm yet minimalist interior provides the perfect spot for a leisurely brunch – or, with a few protein balls thrown in, an early morning power-up. As well as creative concoctions including the raw zucchini pasta (served with superfood pesto and, we are assured, living sprouts), Vibe offers a range of organic products for those worn down by the relentless daily grind, as well as a selection of juice cleanses to restore even the most flagging spirit.

Na Aroon, Bangkok

Bangkok’s Na Aroon restaurant provides a refreshing release in a city steadily being conquered by fast food and fleeting satisfactions. Located on the ground floor of the Ariyasom boutique hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 1, Na Aroon’s elegant style reflects the 1940s-era Bangkok villa originally owned by the proprietor’s grandparents. Its vast array of traditional Thai vegetarian options includes satay tao hoo – grilled marinated tofu served with a spicy peanut sauce; mieng guay teaw – a rice noodle salad with a kick; and yum som o – pomelo salad served with chilli and cashew nuts. For a lavish yet meat-free taste of Thailand’s golden age, look no further.

Darma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery, Kuala Lumpur

Nestled behind a Buddhist temple dedicated to the bodhisattva of compassion, the Darma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery’s canteen is a dining experience for foodies frustrated by the feeling of faux-enlightenment that can permeate vegetarian options. Staffed by local volunteers and monks, the expansive canteen offers affordable tastes of local vegetarian cuisine such as yong taofu, a dish of vegetables stuffed with tofu. The temple complex proper is a stunning rendition of traditional Chinese Mahayana Buddhist architecture – but hungry visitors may prefer to meditate on a full stomach to beat the lunchtime rush.

This article was published in the November​ edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here. 

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