Street food in South East Asia is something you can’t miss out on. Being a vegetarian or vegan sometimes makes it harder to experience. In this guide, we share all about the vegetarian street food you must try in Malaysia.
Malaysia is known as a foodie destination, however, most of the MUST TRYS are not vegetarian-friendly. We have spent hours on the streets, researching and tasting all the foods we could to come up with this list of vegetarian street food items to eat while in Malaysia.
Where to Find Vegetarian Street Food in Malaysia
If you’re on your way or at least planning a trip to Malaysia, you have probably heard of Kuala Lumpur or Georgetown/Penang. These are both major street food destinations known to foodies around the world. We spent a few days in each looking for the best places for vegan and vegetarian foods! Penang is considered the ultimate street food destination, but Kuala Lumpur isn’t far behind with its various street food alleys and numerous foodie locations.
Street Food and Hawker Centers
In each of the cities mentioned above, it will probably be easy to find hawker centers or alleys lined with street food stalls. If you are new to the street food scene or don’t know what to expect, it can be a little intimidating to new travelers. Basically, at many places in Malaysia, there will be tables set up near the stands. Depending on the type of food served you will go up and order and then tell them where you are sitting. When the food is ready, they will bring it to you and ask for payment.
If you are at a larger hawker center, there are often table numbers that help them find you. During the rush, it’s best to have someone claim a table while the other goes to order the food. It can sometimes be hard to find one! Also, in a hawker center or food court, you will often order your drinks at a specific and separate drink stand.
Some of the places we ate at included:
- New World Park – This hawker center is lined with counters serving just about any street food you might be looking for in Malaysia. The prices are slightly higher since it’s not served from a stall on a street corner but the food is still good! We suggest scouting out the items you want to try and finding a table nearby. The drinks are served from a separate stand so you can order these while you wait for your food to be served!
- Presgrave Hawker Center – This street corner is lined with carts serving some of the tastiest street foods. When we visited, it was 100% locals and we were the odd ones out. However, this only made us feel better about the quality of the food served *chef’s kiss*. This is where we first tried Nutmeg Juice and highly recommend it!
- Chulia Street – Stroll down Chulia Street for a large variety of street food options! Here you’ll find a mix of locals and tourists, and the food served is still delicious. There’s a little bit of everything served on Chulia Street, so try something new while people watching and enjoying your meal!
- Little India – Although you won’t be able to find most of the items on the list here, it’s the only place you’ll find items originating in India like vadai. It’s worth walking through, not only for vadai, but for a completely different feel of the city! It reminds me so much of our time in Sri Lanka.
- China Town/ Petaling Street Market – Since we stayed near Chinatown, we definitely ate in this section a good amount. Here you’ll find Ray’s Power Corner (a highly recommended street food stand) and items like steamed buns and popiah. Stroll through the Petaling Street Market and admire the MANY knockoff handbags and shoes, before grabbing a bite to eat!
- Jalan Alor – Located just a few steps from some of the most beautiful street art in Kuala Lumpur, this street food scene has it all. If you’re looking to spend your time sampling a little of everything this should be your destination. Jalan Alor is known for its wide variety of street foods and is LOVED by the locals!
Limitations for Vegetarian Street Food in Malaysia
Vegetarian and Vegan food in Malaysia can be tricky. This is because even if a dish doesn’t include meat or fish, it can still be made with a meat-based stock/broth, shrimp paste, egg, fish sauce, and other animal products. Because of this, we aren’t sticking to a specific VEGAN street food list, but we will make note of those below!
The bright side of food in Malaysia’s cities is that they are not short on vegetarian and vegan-friendly restaurants. We spent days eating our way around both Kuala Lumpur and Penang and still didn’t try them all. If you are looking for more than a street stall, check out this guide for vegan and vegetarian eats in Kuala Lumpur.
14 Vegetarian and Vegan Street Foods to Try in Malaysia
Alright, let’s get to it. You’re walking down the street, your stomach is growling, and everything being served looks so good. But what can you eat? This is the perfect list for vegetarians and vegans looking for some tasty street food in Malaysia. Plus, we’ve included some bonus tips for finding yummy eats below.
Tasty Drinks to Try in Malaysia
1. Nutmeg Juice
This was recommended to us by the staff at our first street food experience in Malaysia. It’s not super sweet and has a unique flavor (but doesn’t taste like the nutmeg seasoning).
2. Sugar Cane Juice
Delicious! We absolutely love Sugar Cane Juice and were so happy to have tried it. We have since gotten it often as we have found it in Cambodia afterward! First, try it plain, then when you need another see if you can add some lemon or lime! It’s also so cool to watch how it’s made!
Street Food in Malaysia You Can’t Miss as a Vegetarian
3. Fried Rice
An easy one that you might get sick of eventually. Fried rice with peas and carrots or egg and other vegetables is easy to find at street food stalls around Malaysia.
*If you are vegan, double-check to make sure they do not cook with butter and make sure to say no egg or fish/shrimp sauce.
4. Nasi Lemak
The national dish of Malaysia is often served with chicken and dried anchovies. However, Nasi literally means rice. The rice is usually cooked in coconut milk with aromatic ingredients such as lemongrass. You can most likely ask the stand to serve the dish with rice and vegetables only.
5. Lok Lok
A “do it yourself” stand of vegetables, tofu, and meats. At a lok lok stall, you will see various kinds of tofu and vegetables on skewers that you then stick into a boiling pot. Normally, the skewers are color-coded by price and tallied after boiling by the owner of the stand. Pick out what you would like, pop it in the boiling water, and dress it up with various sauces at the end.
*One not-so-great thing about these stalls is that we never saw a “veg only” water basin, which means that there is cross-contamination between the boiling of meats, fish, and vegetarian-friendly items. So, the decision of how vegetarian-friendly this is is up to you.
6. Mushroom Omelette
This was an interesting find for us at a hawker center. Because the oyster omelette is popular street food in Georgetown, we were surprised to see a vegetarian-friendly option being sold at the same stall. We found this in the Presgrave Hawker Center of Georgetown, Penang!
7. Steamed Buns
Ahh, the fresh light bun, the sweet or savory fillings, the colors. Steamed buns are so delicious and easy to find in Malaysia, especially near Chinatown sections of Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur.
On the street, you can most often find vegetarian savory options including Red Bean, Black Sesame, and sometimes Vegetable. Many vegetarian restaurants in China Town sections of town have other delicious savory buns.
Sweet buns include Pandan (the green ones, our favorite) and Yam (purple sweet potato). There may be others but these are what we have tried ourselves.
* Often Vegan Friedly
Such an interesting dish. An assortment of fruit and vegetables like carrot, jicama, cucumber, and pineapple are mixed together with a semi-sweet sauce made from hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and more ingredients. Topped with peanuts, this dish is served cold/room temperature as nothing is cooked. It surprised us with how good it was!
*Can be vegan friendly, but some stands use fish sauce
Found mostly in the Little India sections of town, Vadai is a delicious fried dough or fried lentil short eat. We first tried Vadai in Sri Lanka and were so happy to find it in Malaysia too!
Popiah is a street food that is similar to a fresh spring roll and is also super popular in Singapore, where we tried it first. The wrap is similar to a thin crepe more than rice paper and inside you’ll find fresh veggies (*and sometimes egg, but not always)
Noodles get their own category here because let’s face it, there are a TON of noodle dishes in Malaysia. Half our diet during our month and a half in Malaysia were basically noodles one way or another!
11. Mee Goreng
An easy translation of “fried noodles”, you will definitely eat your fair share of fried noodles in Malaysia as a vegetarian. Mee is a type of noodle so you may also see Mee Hoon Goreng or Kuay Teow Goreng. However, you can also just say “vegetarian fried noodles” and almost always be understood.
We LOVED the fried noodles from Ray’s Power Corner in Chinatown, Kuala Lumpur.
*Make sure to ask for no egg if vegan
12. Kuay Teow (vegetarian food courts)
A regular MUST TRY dish in Georgetown, Kuay Teow is not naturally vegetarian. It is cooked and served regularly with sausage and prawns. However, you will find this in many vegetarian restaurants and food courts in Penang and Kuala Lumpur. Some of the best we had was from Blue Boy Vegetarian in Kuala Lumpur.
13. Chee Chong Fun
This dish is made with flat rice noodles and served with a hoisin sauce and sesame seeds or other toppings. It’s often served cold and is interesting! We really liked it!
*Vegan friendly most of the time, check for fish sauce
Another MUST TRY in Malaysia that is very popular in Kuching but not regularly vegetarian. Laksa is a spicier curry-type broth with noodles, typically served with chicken and prawns. We ordered some at a vegetarian restaurant and at a Laksa restaurant (asked for it to be served without the meat and fish). Both times it was delicious! We highly recommend trying it at Hijau in KL or at Happiness Vegetarian in Kuching!
Vegetarian Street Food in Malaysia
As you can see, there are plenty of tasty options for vegetarians at street food stalls in Malaysia. You just have to know what you’re looking for. And once you do, you’ll never want to stop eating! Our favorites definitely include Steamed buns (Pandan is #1), Popiah, and Mee Goreng. We hope this post has inspired you to hit the streets and try something new while traveling through Malaysia.