Malaysian Vegan Food at De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan | Kuala Lumpur
Google "famous chef malaysia" and you'll be sure to see Chef Wan at the top of the list. He is probably the most renowned celebrity chef in Malaysia having featured in many television shows. Aside from his seemingly delicious food—I mean, you can't really taste food from a TV screen, can you?—he has an infectious personality that you can't help but like.
Having had such an exploding career, the natural next step was to open up a restaurant. He opened up not one but two restaurants—one in The LINC, Kuala Lumpur and the other at Bangi Resort Hotel.
My family and I went to the KL restaurant to celebrate Papa's birthday. It was our first time there.
The type of food served is typically Malaysian food so do expect spicy, aromatic and flavourful food.
As a vegan, I expected only one or two dishes without meat.
Malaysian food has become heavily meat-based. I say "has become" because I do think there used to be lots of vegetables or ulam. However, the culture has developed in a way to be obsessed with meat, partly thanks to Western influence, partly to increased economic prosperity, and partly to the subsidization of meat products by the government.
I'm glad that my expectation was low.
Vegan Friendly Dishes By Chef Wan
My eyes darted straight to the Vegetable section on the menu.
There were five choices. FIVE! That's better than one.
The only one that clearly stated to contain meat was the Mixed Vegetables—that contains shrimp.
I could say to omit the shrimp for that dish but let's look at the other options, which we ended up ordering.
DEEP-FRIED BENDI AND TEMPE GORENG
This is for sure vegan and definitely my favourite. The okra and tempe were super crunchy. I felt they could be a snack for when I watch Netflix. Honestly, I wish most cafes could serve fried tempe as they do potato fries.
PUCUK UBI TEMPOYAK
Warning: quite spicy. But delicious! This is finely-sliced tapioca shoots cooked with petai, aromatic local herbs and flavourful tempoyak. In case you didn't know, tempoyak is a condiment made of fermented durian. As someone who loves durian of any style, this was such a treat!
STIR-FRY BROCCOLI WITH ASSORTED MUSHROOMS
This kind of dish is a favourite in the family. One can't go wrong with broccoli and mushrooms. They are packed with protein and vitamins to satisfy your nutritional needs.
SAMBAL TERUNG AND KACANG BOTOL
This is the only Vegetable dish that I was a bit apprehensive about when it arrived. From the menu, it didn't seem like it could contain meat. I did ask the waiter if the vegetable dishes we ordered contained shrimp and I was assured the negative. However, after a few bites of this eggplant and four-angled beans combo, I thought the sambal might have contained shrimp. I'm not so sure now. It didn't say so on the menu but now, reading the menu online again, I'm curious to know what's in Chef Wan's special sambal paste.
Don't Beat Yourself Up If You Trip Up
And don't let anyone else tell you you're less of a vegan if you unknowingly eat something that potentially contains animal products or by-products.
Even after 5 years of being vegan, I still may accidentally eat something I didn't want to.
We are navigating a non-vegan non-perfect world.
We can only do our best. And my best is to ensure there is at least no obvious meat, dairy or eggs in a dish. And to ask the server/cook for reassurance.
If you're the type who can't trust them or do not mind compromising social relationships, then don't go to this kind of restaurant. Simple as that. For me, I look at the vegetable options and whether I could modify them if they contain bits and pieces of meat. Usually, restaurants are accommodating to one's dietary request.
So don't be afraid to ask.
Not Forgetting Dessert!
The next section my eyes were attracted to was the dessert section. There were a few vegan-friendly options. I settled upon the Yam Sago with Coconut Milk which is "fresh yam blended and cooked in smooth and creamy coconut milk served with bite-sized yam cubes and chewy tapioca pearls". That sounded interesting and it definitely did not disappoint!
Would I Go Again to De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan?
I'd only go again if my family was to go there again or I was invited to go there. It's nice to experience delectable Malaysian Cuisine once in a while but I personally wouldn't go there often, even if I'm super-wealthy. Yes, the price is steep but you're paying for the quality.
As far as Malaysian food goes, I can say this is authentic and flavourful. It also proved that Malay food can be made vegan with ingredients like tempe, tempoyak, eggplant and mushroom. I mean, we already have people cooking vegan rendang tempeh! It's just whether the chef is willing to add more variety to the vegetable dishes or not.
If Chef Wan decides to open up a restaurant that serves authentic Malay Vegan cuisine, then I might go more than once.