Asam Laksa in Penang… A Shrimp-Free One!

Updated: Oct 29, 2020

Who would’ve thought that I’d eat Asam Laksa ever again?

But I did and it was LOVELY!

This Southeast Asian dish is loved by many. It has a unique spicy fishy taste that satisfies our Umami tastebuds.

I had never been crazy about Asam Laksa but I did appreciate its taste. So when I went vegan four years ago, I didn’t think I’d miss it very much.

Well, not until my recent trip to Penang.

On this metropolis island, Asam Laksa is as common as Roti Canai in mamak stalls of KL. It’s the thing here (besides Char Kuey Teow).

Unfortunately, most if not all contain shrimp paste. That’s what gives it that fishy taste.

So when I accidentally found this vegetarian (technically vegan) cafe along the touristy Armenian Street, I was beyond happy!


Nyonya Vegetarian Cafe

They put up a huge banner outside showing pictures of the food that they have.

If it were not for their cafe sign, I wouldn’t have thought they were vegan. I saw the Asam Laksa and I knew I must taste it! They even had Che Cheong Fun and Rojak, which sadly I didn’t have enough tummies to try.

I didn’t immediately go in because

(a) I wasn’t very hungry and

(b) my relatives wanted to continue walking around

But I got to eat there half an hour later anyway 😃

How did the Asam Laksa taste like?

Like how I remembered it!

It was ridiculously similar to the original one with shrimp paste. Except of course this didn’t have shrimp paste. In all my amazement, I forgot to ask what paste they used instead. But I guess it’s either a vegan shrimp paste that was made of fermented soybeans, seaweed or miso.

How was the ambience like?

The cafe was clean and neat so it was comfortable to take a break from the heat outside, even though it didn’t have air conditioning. It also felt peaceful. Perhaps partly because it was meat-free (and egg-, dairy-, onion-, garlic-free) and partly because it wasn’t bustling with a load of people.

There were people, mostly of Chinese descent, but only a handful at a time. To be fair, the target customers would be mostly vegetarians or vegan.

I did ask how long this cafe has been here and turns out it has been around for about 4 years! I hope they continue to stay there as it is such a strategic location (Armenian Street).

Asam Laksa

RM8 Asam Laksa was so worth it!


In case you didn’t know already, Penang consists of the island as well as the mainland.

Most tourists (including me) would stay on the island because that’s where most attractions and food are.

However, I also got to pop by the mainland, specifically to Juru Autocity, to have lunch with Darrel. He and I met a little over 2 years ago in Penang after we connected through Instagram. I think he saw one of my videos on YouTube and then messaged me on IG.

This is one of the reasons why I like social media, as it has helped connect me with beautiful insightful people.

Anyway, when I knew I was going up to Penang, I texted Darrel asking to meet up. He then suggested we meet at this place called Idealite Autocity. (Idealite is the name of the restaurant and Autocity is the name of the area).

Idealite is a vegetarian restaurant that serves healthy Chinese food.

It’s Penang’s equivalent of BMS Organics, except that Idealite doesn’t do mock meat. Plus, the creation of each meal is aided by certified nutritionists who had also made a meal plan suggestion for post-operation.

What did we eat?

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

vegan food

Japanese Quinoa Power Bowl (for me)

vegan food

Hericium Herbal Soup (for darrel)

vegan food

Nuggets to share

They all tasted very delicious!

I forgot to take a photo of the dumplings before they were gone lol

I also realised that I’m very fond of Hericium a.k.a. lion’s mane mushroom.


The Container Hotel I stayed at was actually a very convenient location. It’s at the end of Chulia Street, which was a very long street. And along the street, about 7 minutes walk from the hotel, there were a few restaurants and cafes that if you find the right ones do have wonderful vegan options.

How I found them was through HappyCow. I filter the tag to include only “Veg-Options”. The main reason was so that my cousin could also eat non-veg food. She dislikes most vegetables so to keep the peace I had to compromise.

Falafel Wrap with Hummus @ Mr Shawerma

On our first night in Penang, we ate Middle-Eastern food. I LOVE MidEast food. Bless the chickpeas!

The wrap cost RM13 and it had a side of hummus. Heavenly!

falafel wrap

Falafel wrap with hummus

Chocolate Croissant and Chelsea Bun @ Rainforest Bakery

HappyCow suggested Mugshot Cafe for some vegan bagels. I was really looking forward to it.

But when I asked, the waiter said they do not have vegan options BUT that I might try the bakery next door.

So I kept my hopes up (despite feeling a teeny bit disappointed that they didn’t have vegan bagels), crossed the entryway (the two cafes are apparently sister cafes) and asked whether they had anything vegan.

And there were! 3 types of pastry were vegan!

They had the normal Croissant, Chocolate Croissant (or pain au chocolat) and Chelsea Bun.

I asked again and again whether they really had no dairy or eggs. The guy assured me that they don’t and further mentioned that he is also vegan.

I was so surprised!

Since he didn’t seem to be lying, I trusted him and went on to enjoy the

• Chocolate Croissant (RM6.30)

• Chelsea Bun (RM3.50)


Since my trip to Penang wasn’t particularly a food expedition, I also had other types of food at non-vegan places that we either stumbled upon or were suggested by other people.

Banana Leaf @ Sri Ananda Bahwan

I’m SO grateful that banana leaf rice is vegan by default. And it’s like the middle ground for both vegans and non-vegans because you can add any kinds of side dish. Since this one didn’t include fried bitter gourd in their main spread, I asked for that as a side dish.

banana leaf

(Vegan) Rojak and Cendol Pulut @ Gurney Drive

People would usually go to the food stalls at Gurney Drive as that’s where local fried food thrive.

I couldn’t find any proper meals that were vegan-friendly. Even if I could ask to modify, I think they would cook them on the same pan without washing it first. So I didn’t even bother with the fried stuff.

Nevertheless, I found a stall that already had no-shrimp peanut sauce for the fruit rojak. It’s basically a bunch of fruits such as guava, mango and apples (I think) mixed with this dark spicy peanut sauce. The original one contains shrimp paste (or is it fish?). So I’m glad I found a vegan version.

My cousin also had a bowl of cendol pulut (glutinous rice on shaved ice coconut milk mix) and so I had a bit of that as well.

Enjoy Cendol When It’s Hot @ Armenian Street

‘Nuff said.

Also, this was one of the best and most satisfying cendol ever!