Some Chinese Vegetarian Restaurants in Singapore and Malaysia

As Singapore is pushing to become the regional IT hub, it should not be surprising that there is no lack of online information on its restaurants. The goal here is to centralize and filter some of this information, to focus on Chinese vegetarian foods. I've also included my own judgements of the restaurants and the information sources, which of course should be taken as is: merely the opinion of one person . Please contribute yours as well.

Straits Style: for the Newcomer

Chinese vegetarian food is easily sampled in Singapore and the predominantly Chinese western Malaysia cities of Kuala Lumpur and Penang. But between those two Malaysian cities in location and above them both in Chinese vegetarian cuisine is the city of Ipoh, which should not be missed.

English is understood everywhere, though it may take a bit of concentration for newcomers to follow some speakers of Straits English (Singlish and Manglish ). The English spoken in Singapore and Malaysia is a rhythmic, melodious speech that can be virtually unintelligible to the uninitiated casual listener (The likely Singlish response to the latter statement - "No, lah. Where got problem? Everywhere same one, isn't it?" - is also true). In fact, one of the obstacles to understanding Straits English is the abundance of metaphors based on local foods. The tight coupling of food and language hints at the relationship between eating and thinking in this region.

The cooking style is influenced by Malay and, to a lesser degree, Indian cooking. Chili takes on a more important role: locals can be quite particular about their chili sauce. Some even carry their own when travelling abroad. Singapore style is more truly rojak , with a variety of Chinese styles as well. Malaysian style sticks more closely to Cantonese (especially in Ipoh). Generally, I find Straits Chinese vegetarian cuisine can be rather heavily focused on mock meats, with vegetables taking a beating as a result. It's not uncommon to find "vegetarian" noodle stalls with no vegetables or only overcooked, oily white cabbage. All the restaurants I've reviewed here excluded eggs, dairy products, onions, and garlic. However, you will find some food stalls serve egg so inquiring is imperative.

Introductions to Food in Singapore

  • New Asia - Singapore has tips on dining out. The vegetarian page (linked from "Gourmet's Paradise" page) is considerably less than useless. Anyone found a really useful intro to Singapore food on the Net?


  • laksa : coconut curry soup
  • mee rebus : yellow noodles in a thick gravy
  • mee siam : thin vermicelli noodles in a spicy sauce
  • nasi lemak : rice cooked in coconut milk
  • rojak : a type of mixed salad. Also used as a conveniently compact slang to describe any highly heterogeneous composition.

Singapore: Everything Also Must Try!

Hawker Stalls

An important point to keep in mind regarding online listings is that only restaurants, not hawker stalls, have a presence on the Net. And everyone agrees that you haven't tasted Singapore until you've tasted the hawker food. Obviously, restaurants boasting of chefs from Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Shanghai may have fine food but will not offer much opportunity to sample local tastes (although it is an interesting statement that a country that is over 70% Chinese imports Chinese chefs). Singapore's tricultural flavour is best sampled at the hawker stalls. Another point to bear in mind is that while Singapore's Chinese vegetarian restaurants are not as expensive as Hong Kong's, a plate of fried rice or greens will cost you 2-3 times what it would in a hawker stall.

A fine place to start tasting Singapore's hawker-style Chinese vegetarian food is right in Singapore's acclaimed Changi Airport.

  • Ci Xin is located at Stall #17 in the Food Court on Floor 3M of Terminal 2. Use the lift near the center of the car park.
  • Macpherson Food Center merits special mention. Although it's far from anything of interest to most tourists (in the heart of housing blocks), it is a great place to sample a wide range of dishes because there is an unusually high concentration of vegetarian stalls there. And - best of all - it is open late, a rarity (heresy?) for vegetarian eateries. Also, since it is open-air it's a cool place to hang out and check out the lively illegal betting action, the late-night kung-fu TV serials, or just chat with any of the locals who will be curious to know how a tourist ended up there. This (along with Geylang) is Singapore's equivalent of Italy's piazzas, retaining a spicy, raw evocative power while too much of Singapore surges toward a bland vision of upmarket nirvana. Hopefully, Singapore filmmakers will one day "get their act together" to showcase this unique setting, as Hong Kong filmmakers have successfully done for their turf, so that the world can discover that, when it comes to funkiness, Singapore "also can".

    Restaurants Online

    • Grand Court has a lunch buffet that is my favourite Singapore meal out. Fill up for less than S$14 (about US$8 at S$1.74 exchange rate). Everything also must try! Always a few hawker stall specialties (rojak, mee siam) on offer. Good location on Orchard Road at Somerset MRT. Friendly service.
    • Kingsland popularized the Chinese vegetarian buffet in Singapore and is still the leader. You won't find many tourists there as it's set in Singapore's heartland: the "Old Town" of Toa Payoh. It's fun to watch the crowds enjoying themselves, even though the video karaoke (and sometimes live karaoke supplied by customers) may not be to everyone's taste. It is definitely a taste of "authentic modern local culture", as the guide books might say. Owner of Grand Court used to manage here before setting off on his own. The best food seems to have followed him. Call before going, as it's often booked for weddings. Avoid the Albert St. complex branch - the food and atmosphere is uninspired.
    • Dragon Park is pricey, but worth it. Very fine food, more Chinese (Shanghai chef) than Singaporean though. Usually busy, but efficient service. Food and service feels more like Hong Kong than Singapore. Good place for "authentic" Chinese - if you can't get to Hong Kong, Taipei or Shanghai.
    • Greenland has good food and service. Hong Kong and Taiwan chefs here means food tends to be more Chinese than Singaporean. Another good place for "authentic" Chinese when you can't make it to Hong Kong, Taipei or Shanghai.
    • Miao Yi is a bit pricey and outside tourist areas, but worth checking out if you're nearby, escaping the city in the parks at Bukit Timah or MacRitchie Reservoir. Good selection of local-style noodles.
    • Fo You Yuan is located in Singapore's colourful and lively red-light district of Geylang, one of a few areas in Singapore where chatting, strolling, and people-watching are 24-hour activities. Rather pricey, but I like the sushi and sharks fin soup.
    • Wu Liang Shou is part of a Taiwanese chain. They all have nice decor and prices to match. I found the food in the Singapore branch to be not quite up to par with either their Taiwanese siblings or other Singapore eateries. However, it is in Geylang and open late.
    • Lao Di Fang is a snack and tea house with very late hours.
    • LingZhi advertises, "Arguably, the best vegetarian restaurant in Singapore located in the heart of dazzling Orchard Road." I'm not sure whether they're claiming to be the best vegetarian restaurant in Singapore (which I would emphatically argue against), or simply the best one in the heart of Orchard Road (which I would also argue against, since it is not near the Orchard MRT - the real "heart" of Orchard). Maybe they merely mean to say they're the only Chinese vegetarian restaurant in that area. However, I tried it twice and could find little basis for any claim to fame. When I'm in that neighbourhood looking for food, I just head across the street to the very fine Indian vegetarian restaurant, Bombay Woodlands, which will prepare meals without onion and garlic on request.
    • South East Asia hotel boasts, "The hotel also operates the Kwan Im Vegetarian Restaurant, one of the finest vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. " And they don't even say "arguably". As far as I can see, this place thrives on the bimonthly prayer day crowds. At other times it can be quite deserted, except for occasional unwitting tourists. Try it and you'll find out why. 'Nuff said.

    Restaurant Catalogs Online

    • Eat.Net - Vegetarian Cuisine is an excellent page that is a good starting point as it includes hours, recommended dishes, and detailed transport info (bus number AND directions).
      Listing includes Nanking Court, one of my favourites. I find the Thai fried rice (really local fried rice with some pineapple, but delicious nontheless) and crispy noodles very special. Open a bit later than most, so a place to head for when it's getting late. Call first, however, as they sometimes close early if there's no business.
    • The Green Book: Restaurants in Singapore, the Mother of All Singapore Restaurant Lists. Select Restaurants: Chinese - Vegetarian (could it get any simpler?). Returns 11 entries, including:
      • Loke Woh Yuen Good food with a distictive local flavour, friendly service, reasonable prices.
      • Hong Kong Bodhi Good food, lackadaisical service, out of tourist area but near MacRitchie and Pierce Reservoirs.
      • Fut Sai Kai Seem to be listed in every tourist guide. Boring food. But what kind of Chinese food do you expect to find in the heart of Little India? However, they've been around awhile, so someone must like it.
      • Happy Realm, in the heart of Chinatown. Boring. But they've been going for some time now, so ... Surprisingly, it's not easy to find Chinese vegetarian food in Singapore's Chinatown. But why does a country that is over 70% Chinese have a Chinatown anyway? Head for nearby Dragon Park or Loke Woh Yuen instead.
    • Singapore Vegetarian Restaurants is a neat page with 33 Indian and Chinese entries.
    • Yes, there's even a Yahoo category for Singapore Vegetarian Restaurants
    • Search Singapore has 8 links on this vegetarian page.
    • Singapore Unofficial Food page has 6 links to vegetarian restaurants.
    • World Guide to Vegetarianism: Singapore is thoroughly confusing: 3 headings - "Vegan", "Vegetarian", "Vegetarian-Friendly". Restaurants described as"Chinese" or "Asian/Chinese" are listed under "Vegan". Those described as "Chinese vegan" are listed under "Vegetarian". The vegetarian restaurant Bombay Woodlands is listed under "Vegetarian-friendly". But hey, this is the Web. Who's got time to make sense?
    • LinseLA's Vegie Guide to Singapore left me rather disappointed - I expected more info from a local - but contact info is included.
    • Restaurants in Singapore . Search for "vegetarian" returns 12 Chinese entries.



    Ipoh is a compact, industrial city with few tourist attractions. But for vegetarians who appreciate the breadth of Chinese cuisine, Ipoh is not to be missed if you're in Malaysia. Vegetarian eateries are easy to find in the downtown area, as many Buddhists journey to shrines nearby. While the dishes are generally familiar Hong Kong-style Cantonese favourites, they're done in the unique style of the area.

    Most of the restaurants listed below appear on Ipoh Online.

    Restoran Sayuran Chuk Lung Jln Chung Thye Phin & Jln Kampar Lunch and Dinner AC 
    English menu
    Peking Duck
    Guilin Vegetarian Restaurant Jln Che Tak 1000-1430, 
    English menu
    Hong Kong Mee
    Yue Loy Chai Rumah Sayuran 25 Jln Chung Thye Phin Lunch and Dinner non-AC 
    no English menu
    Not special and relatively overpriced
    Sin Meng Kee Vegetarian Restaurant Jln Foo Choo Choon & Jln Datuk Onn Jaafar Unknown Economical rice Not visited
    Tau Yuen 52 Jln Bandar Timah N/A N/A Under construction
    Boon Lai Vegetarian 13 Jln Leong Sin Nam Unknown Economical rice Not  visited 
    (Source: Ipoh Online) 
    Ipoh Vegetarian Food Centre 75 Jln Mustapha Al-Bakri N/A N/A Replaced by seafood centre 
    (Source: Ipoh Online) 

    Kuala Lumpur

    KL Online - Restaurants in Kuala Lumpur is essentially the only online info I could find. There is also Kuala Lumpur@MalaysiaONE - Vegetarian Restaurants , but that's just a small subset of the KL Online listing.

    Of the 16 restaurants listed 10 are Chinese and 3 are Indian. The remaining ones I can't determine from the name. In July 1998 I used this list as a starting point for exploration. I found the list needs updating: 3 listed places ( Fook Woh Yuen, Pinewind, The Vegetarian Restaurant ) are no longer at the address given. I also found, surprisingly, the Chinese vegetarian food to be consistently inferior to that found in Singapore, Penang, and Ipoh. Judge for yourself:

    • Peijin Yuen was far and away the best on the list. They serve lunch and dinner buffets (11AM-3PM, 5:30PM-10PM) with lots of local specialties. The price was RM14.50 (about US$3.82 at the current fixed rate), so it was quite a bargain. The staff at this self-serve buffet were friendly and helpful.
    • Green Valley , #84 21/4 Miles Jalan SG Besi 57100, is not on the list. It was a new place and, at the time, its menu had not yet grown. More a fast food place than restaurant, it served up local specialties (chicken rice, nasi lemak, laksa ) with exceptionally friendly service. Open 7:30AM-5PM.
    • Not visited: Futt Yow Yuen, Kui Lin (Selangor, outside KL), Futt Sai Kai, Wan Fo Yuan .

      The remaining places on the list deserve mention only as places to go if you're stuck nearby them at mealtime:

    • Kaoyi Vegetarian Food Mart is, as the name says, a food market. But directly across the street is Kaoyi Vegetarian Fast Food, serving local dishes (chicken rice, nasi lemak, laksa, mee rebus, fish curry), as well as Western (steak, burgers, fries).
    • Kedai Makanan Koon Fong served economical rice plates for RM2-4 (less than US$1). Open 7:30AM-6:30PM
    • Pure Mind served overpriced, forgettable dishes.
    • Camelon: I tried to eat here but the staff left a menu on the table and then disappeared. Forever. So did I.

Last Updated: 16 Sep 2000         Feedback to