Organic & Sustainable Vegan Food at Roots by Kebun Kota | Kuantan, Malaysia
I love seeing local businesses that put sustainability as part of their main values. I still think it's a rare thing so when I heard about a local cafe in Kuantan (of all places) that serve locally grown vegetables, I was both intrigued and excited.
Kuantan is located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The perception of the east coast is that it's not as "urbanized" as the west coast like in Kuala Lumpur or Penang. I don't mind it not being urbanized. But it seems that Kuantan is gradually developing to be more and more like a city.
The perception of sustainability in general is still not well-understood based on our consumption and dumping habits.
But there are indeed more and more people putting in the effort to live more sustainably.
The people of Roots by Kebun Kota are certainly one of those who care about the environment.
A Cafe That Serves Organic Produce
Roots is a cafe in Jalan Air Putih, Kuantan that serves organic farm-fresh produce from Kebun Kota (translated literally to City Farm). The cafe and the farm are not next to each other so I didn't get to visit the farm, but one may visit the farm by appointment.
Going into the cafe, you'll immediately feel the warmth and hipster vibe. It's very spacious and cozy. There are sofa chairs to lounge on with a cup of coffee and a book. If you don't have a book with you, you can always borrow one from their collection.
Yummy Healthy Vegan Options
Though they're not an exclusively vegetarian or vegan cafe (I wish they were!), they do serve a few veg options which were amazing.
Sayur Lodeh (Vegetables in Coconut Milk)
On the first visit (my family and I visited twice!), they didn't have many of the main dishes as it was not lunchtime. We were there around 5pm. The owner, Aunti Kaniza, who is almost always there, kindly suggested Sayur Lodeh when she knew of my dietary requirements. I was amazed that the Sayur Lodeh didn't have shrimp paste yet tasted so damn good!
This traditional Malay dish usually contains dried shrimp and prawns. This is common in many Malay dishes, even in the vegetable ones and that's why many in Malaysia would argue that it's difficult to be vegan in Malaysia.
But if one does Sayur Lodeh like how Roots did it, you probably couldn't tell the difference.
This Sayur Lodeh was packed with many kinds of vegetables and herbs to make it very flavourful. I as well as Auntie Kaniza believe that herbs and spices are key. Malay food is actually easy to veganize without sacrificing taste if only one knows how to use the herbs and spices.
Well, maybe except Nasi Dagang Ikan Tongkol. One would need to replicate the fish as mock meat but I guess mock meat is not part of Roots' ethos.
This was another dish I had to try on the first visit. I didn't know that we would come back so I just stuffed myself #YOLO.
I love a good falafel wrap. This middle-eastern dish is vegetarian and if you want it to be vegan, just say to omit or separate the tahini yogurt sauce. Fun fact, they made the patties themselves using ground chickpeas, fava beans and spices. It was delicious!
Roots Herbal Rice with Tempe Sambal
This is a must-try! When we came back for the second time, I knew I had to try this.
The basmati rice was infused with turmeric, mango ginger, ginseng jawa, pegaga, lemongrass and cekur. Basically lots of herbs which made it so tasty! It was served with tempeh penyek (fried tempeh), steamed moringa leaves (from their garden) and tempeh sambal.
The dishes on the menu are indeed healthy and I love that they also value a healthy lifestyle besides a sustainable one.
That said, they have a range of homemade kombucha, which is simply a probiotic tea or fermented tea. Yes, they ferment the fruits themselves!
I got to try the Mango, Roselle and their Christmas Special which was a mix of Mango, Pineapple and Cinnamon (if I remember correctly). They were all so good I don't think I can choose a favourite.
Almond Hot Chocolate
I didn't expect that they would have soy let alone almond milk—but they did! I was SO HAPPY.
It turns out that one of Auntie Kaniza's daughter is vegetarian or vegan (I can't remember). And although they may be located in Kuantan whose people may not be familiar with the concept of veganism, the people of Roots are definitely forward-thinking and I appreciate that.
I hope that they would offer more vegan dishes in the future especially when it comes to desserts!
Locally-made Sustainable Products
Roots Cafe is supporting local artisans and businesses by allowing them to sell their items at one corner of the cafe. They have a range of local and sustainable products that are on sale such as tie-dye shirts, batik pants, handmade bar soap, bracelets, cotton pads, and even menstrual cups.
I brought home a tie-die cotton shirt and pants made by the National Autism Society of Malaysia, as well as a bar of beetroot soap. I was made 100% sure that the soap is vegan as it does not contain any animal fat.
A Fine Example of a Healthy & Sustainable Company
Whilst their food is not entirely vegan (which makes their ethical score low in my eyes), I appreciate the fact they uphold the concepts of sustainability and healthy living. With not much meat in their dishes plus serving locally and organically grown fruits and vegetables, they are already doing very well in terms of the environment.
Serving people such foods means that they care about their customers' health as well.
I could feel the sincerity and determination to serve healthy, sustainable and delicious food when meeting the owner/founder, Auntie Kaniza. It's very humbling to know where your food comes from and who makes it.
If you're ever in Kuantan, I highly recommend you to visit Roots by Kebun Kota. You won't be disappointed!