Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Picky Vegetarian Hogger goes to Singapore

After having concluded my Singapore trip toward the end of January 2018 (I speak as if it was a long journey - while the trip lasted only 4 days!) it is high time I talk about the food there.

My Plus One and I were in Singapore for about 4 days with shopping as the least important item on our agenda and Universal Studios as the most important! While the climate was indeed humid and hot, I really enjoyed my four day stay there. Without further ado, here are the places where a vegetarian might suffer/ enjoy the food:
  • Kaffe & Toast, Changi Airport: We landed at Changi Airport and came through immigration around 6:30am. Starving, sleep deprived and cranky, we ended up here for our first round of breakfast. I ordered something very safe and something that I had eaten and liked on my Malaysia trip - peanut butter toast, kaya bun and kopi. The kopi here really caught my attention; I quite liked the taste of it and the nostalgic feeling of my Malaysia trip (the first ever time that I tried this local "Kopi".) The kaya bun was quite nice (Kaya is a jam that is a staple in South East Asian countries; it is made of eggs and coconut.)
  • Real Food, Orchard: Having planned to gorge on vegan food at Singapore, we decided to give Real Food a shot for lunch. We ordered the Spaghetti Aglio Olio and the Beet Burger. The Spaghetti Aglio Olio was quite yummy, with a generous drizzle of olive oil, mushrooms and oregano. The Beet Burger was served with wheat bun, and the patty itself was made of potato, beets and beans. The menu here is very vegetarian friendly (sorry, I'm not sure whether the menu here is vegan friendly) and would have loved to re-visit this place while in Singapore.
Spaghetti Aglio Olio

Beet Burger with a side of baked beans and potato-mayo salad
  • Local stores that serve fresh fruits: I found several stores in abundance that serve fresh fruits (cut/ whole) and I found the fruits to be quite refreshing and tasty. This way you also get to taste yummy local fruits that you might not in your own home country.
  • Loving Hut, Geylang: We decided to have a truly vegan experience and went to Loving Hut (it was quite close to our accommodation.) We ordered the Tandoori Flame burger and Banana Leaf Nasi Campur. The burger was quite better than the regular vegetarian burgers that you find in India, quite filling with a side of french fries. Banana Leaf Nasi Campur consisted of brown rice, fruit achar (fruit pickle - SO YUMMY that I took seconds and then thirds of it), eggplant curry (the gravy tasted of tomatoes), sauteed pea sprouts, scrambled tofu, soy chunk curry and some carrot+corn soup. Not being a fan of soy or tofu (and ignorantly having gone for a vegan meal), I didn't really enjoy the food here since it didn't sit well with my taste buds. However, I am not well versed with vegan food and cannot comment on whether the food was prepared well or not. The staff here is quite friendly and are more than happy to explain the dishes to you in detail. Their dishes mostly consist of mock meats.
Banana Leaf Nasi Campur

My second love - Kopi. Second only to filter coffee.
  • Friar's @ Resorts World, Sentosa (inside Universal Studios): We ordered the veg pizza since the veg burger was sold out. Super meh and not worth the money. Be well prepared though - you WILL NOT find vegetarian friendly food in Universal Studios.
  • Starbot Cafe @ Resorts World, Sentosa (inside Universal Studios): We ordered some questionable looking fried rice (eating it while leaving out the questionable looking chunks of *something*) and tater tots (oily, cold and it smelled funny!) However, as I mentioned earlier, you DO NOT have vegetarian friendly options inside Universal Studios. Carry a lot of energy bars and small packets of your own food there. We carried a lot of peanut chikki and bananas.
The questionable fried rice

The questionable tater tots - the only good thing there was the ketchup
  • Kwan Inn Veg, Geylang: One fine morning we went to Kwan Inn Veg around 8 am in the morning and we were the only customers then. We ordered something that looked a lot like sevai (generally made of rice flour in India) and what looked like hash browns from a distance (it ended up being something made of tofu!) The food was okay (I was apprehensive with every bite I took.) We also ordered a lemon drink and rose milk from the stand closeby. Kwan Inn Veg looks like a vegetarian food court, where only two shops open early in the morning. Perhaps if you head there later during the day, you'd have more options.
The tofu and sevai like item (which tasted quite oily)

Lemon drink and rose milk
  • Dosirak, Outram: Dosirak serves considerable vegetarian options, while serving Asian food. The idea here is to fit everything in a circular box, mix and eat. We ordered two boxes each consisting of a lot of veggies, rice, chickpeas and 2-3 of the sauces and it tasted quite good. The quantity served is also enough. Unfortunately I am unable to be a bit more specific since:
    (a) I don't exactly remember what I ordered (it has been a month and a half since my trip)
    (b) We were not given a bill for our purchase.
    The staff is quite friendly and helpful here - they will be able to answer your queries in detail about the food - that's how we were able to order!
My Dosirak bowl
My Dosirak bowl, before mixing - you can see some tofu, cooked pumpkin and sesame seeds

Post mixing with some yummy sauces and more veggies inside
  • Safari Sizzles restaurant @ Night Safari: We actually went to Night Safari while starving for some good food and terribly missing home food. We were naturally shocked and awed when we spotted the menu here which included a Veg Kathi roll and Aloo Kathi Roll. While they were sold out of the Veg Kathi roll, we ordered the Aloo (Potato) Kathi roll and I must say, I was so satiated after a simple kathi roll after this meal.
  • Saravanaa Bhavan, Kallang: I was no longer able to contain myself and desperately needed Indian food. The moment I walked into Saravanaa Bhavan, I felt like I had come home. We had filter coffee (strong, no less), a mini-tiffin (mini breakfast set - I believe it included idli, vada, rava upma, dosa and coffee) and a masala dosa combo with vada.
South Indian filter coffee. Strong.
  • SaladStop!, Orchard Road: This is again similar to Dosirak, except the food that they offer is purely salads. I believe I ordered a quinoa salad bowl with a variety of veggies, chickpea, ranch dressing and chilli vinaigrette. I do remember that the salad bowl was very, very tasty. Salad. Tasty. Salad. TASTY.
Quinoa bowl salad
  • St. Leaven, Orchard: Similar to Breadtalk, St. Leaven offered a lot more variety than Breadtalk. We ordered a lot of milky, cream filled buns, sugary lemon donuts and a lot of chocolate covered bread items.
  • Cafe Salivation, Rochor: The one other place that reminded me of food in India! Cafe Salivation offers a motley of food (like every other cafe in India) but specialises in none (again, like every other cafe in India.) We ordered the Pita bread with hummus (quite nice), Iced Viet coffee (fair warning, this is served in a glass which is only slightly bigger than a shot glass) and the Farinata pizza (this was certainly a let down - while we were aware that the base was made of chickpea, we didn't expect such besan cheela taste!)
Iced Viet Coffee
Pita Bread with Hummus
Farinata pizza

All in all, I was neither too dissatisfied nor too impressed by the food at Singapore. 

Keep in mind - the food in Singapore is expensive; vegetarian food, more so

This is certainly a city that perhaps has the widest variety of food in S.E.Asia. I look forward to re-visiting Singapore soon and going back to SaladStop! I mean, what yummy salad!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Picky Vegetarian Hogger goes to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Let me kick off this post by apologising, profusely for the long and unreasonable absence. My trip concluded back in October 2016 and here I am, continuing to write posts about it in March 2017. Nevertheless, better late than never, I suppose.

To continue where I left off in my last post, the Plus One and I boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur from Langkawi. The flight itself was uneventful. We took an airport bus from KLIA 2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2) to KL Sentral Station and boarded another bus to Genting Highland. Pro tip: If you are interested in spending a night at casino(s), gambling away to glory, Genting Highland is the place for you. If not, do not hesitate in giving this a miss. First, the Plus One and I did not have proper, formal clothing to enter any of the casinos (they do not allow shorts and slippers), second, our main purpose of heading to Genting Highland was to visit the outdoor theme park (I hold very few amusement parks at great esteem - this is one of them, especially when there's one built on top of a mountain!) To our dismay we found out that the outdoor theme park had been shut off to make way for some other theme park which is expected to open sometime in 2017. Anyway, the drive to and from Genting Highland is quite nice with beautiful views. On the way back, we were asked to wait at the cable car station to await another bus and it made for quite a nice 2 hours, walking around with just peace and quiet!

As for the food at Genting Highland:

  1. On our first night at Genting Highland, we decided to walk around all the properties because all the places (eateries and pubs/ bars) were crowded and that really put us off. We stopped at Marry Brown at the First World Hotel (where we were staying) to look for vegetarian options. (Tip: you will not find fresh fruits at Genting Highland; carry some from KL if you so wish). I was excited to find a veggie burger on their menu and ordered it off. Turns out, it is just a hash brown inside cold bun and a small slice of cheese. "Epic fail" is the term, isn't it?
    We even stopped over at Marry Brown at the First World Hotel the next day for breakfast, just before we headed back to KL. I ordered the veggie breakfast, which was, wait for it, another epic fail because all I was met with was one hash brown, two stale buns with small slices of cheese with some unlimited strong black coffee. The coffee is something I have no qualms about. The rest of the items? I am packing hundreds of theplas from India the next time I visit Malaysia.
  2. The Plus One decided to eat something at this place called JR Curry where the only item on the menu I could eat or drink was this juice called "Calamansi" which is somewhere of a cross between lime, jamun and kokum sherbats. The sad part about this place is that it was an Indian restaurant and there was nothing Indian on the menu! Oh, they did have okra curry, only, it didn't look like okra.
The Plus One and I then took a bus back to Kuala Lumpur and hailed an Uber from KL Sentral to our homestay, at Kuchai Avenue, near Salak Selatan station. Our host was a beautiful local lady with two sweet kids along with their pet turtles. The place was clean, our host was friendly, approachable and turtles are cute, you know? Drop me an email if you wish to contact the host, I shall share the details with you. 
  1. Anyway, on our first day at Kuala Lumpur, the Plus One and I took the train to Hang Tuah and walked down to Bukit Bintang. After roaming around the area, we decided to stuff our faces at The Loaf (the chocolate items on display were simply marvellous.) We ordered some lemon cream oyaki (which was very similar to Mango Sin that we had at Bread Story, Cenang, except it was lemon flavoured cream), choco petite (it sounds fancy, but, it was nothing more than khari (puff pastry) with some chocolate filling in it), scone vegetable cheese (there was no cheese and it tasted like Maddur Vada except with spring onion instead of regular ones.)
  2. On the way back from our day out at KL, sometime around 23:30 we came across this restaurant called President at Masjid Jamek. Since we were both supremely hungry (the Plus One had given up on non-vegetarian food by then and was craving vegetarian food!) we decided to head in and at least have a coffee. The moment I heard the owners speak in Tamil, my joy knew no bounds and I explained our predicament at not having found any decent vegetarian food (vegetarian food here is laced with oyster oil and fish sauce which gives that pungent flavour that really puts me off), we also explained what exactly we wanted - food with just some salt in it at the very least. They happily obliged and gave us some fried rice along with instant coffee (Nescafe to the rescue). Though the food wasn't very appetising, the experience itself gave me a little more hope at finding good local food without creepy-crawlies in Malaysia.
  3. The next day, I had a craving for some Indian food, and it just wouldn't go away. After some hunting on Zomato, we hauled our sorry, hungry asses to Saranavaa Bhavan at KLCC and happily hogged on rava dosa, plain dosa, some puri masala, idli and medu wada. I don't think food has ever tasted so good. Also, if you do go here, ask for "Bahadur" - he is a Nepali guy who has been working at Saravanaa Bhavan for 15 odd years and speaks impeccable Tamil! Eventually, for the rest of my stay in KL, Saravanaa Bhavan became my everyday breakfast place. The connection was strong with this one.
  4. Right opposite Saranavaa Bhavan at KLCC is this place called Lakshmi Vilas Superior Veg Restaurant. There is nothing superior about it. There is nothing clean about it. Do yourself a favour, walk across the street, pay double the money at Saravanaa Bhavan and eat some good food. Do not go here.
  5. If you have read my previous posts on Penang and Langkawi, you'd have noticed that I was heavily dependent on fresh fruits and Subway for most of my trip. We ended up eating at Subway again at Bukit Bintang and by then, the Veggie Delight sub was nothing but a mockery played in my face by the Food Overlords.
    Also, I decided to try some coffee at a 7-11 right next to our homestay (midnight craving that I can do nothing about), and opted for "Alicafe". Oh, boy! It was nothing short of horrendous and it belongs in the dustbin, in case you were curious.
  6. When at Suria KLCC, we were constantly going in and out of shops, grocery stores and food outlets. At such time, we came across:
    (a) The sugar donut at Cold Storage - simple, fresh and fluffy
    (b) Some promotional 1 RM coffee at Waroeng Warung - strong, black, absolutely fantastic, friendly staff, cut fruits also available
  7. On our last night around KL, we headed to Papa John's at Selangor and ordered a garden house pizza. Suffice to say, there was nothing "garden" about it. We also guzzled on some dragon fruit juice at the same mall's food court which was pleasant and good enough to get the taste of that pizza out of my mouth.
Overall, I'd say my food experience at Malaysia was less than satisfactory. It is not a vegetarian-friendly place. As my TamBrahm-but-Gujju-at-heart friend put it "Do not take chances - carry some theplas - they will be your lifeline." I am not a particularly adventurous person when it comes to food; I am quite opposed to eating any food item that once used to walk, crawl, swim or was able to get itself from one place to another.

This brings to an end my food posts on my trip to Malaysia. In December 2016, I undertook a trip to Jaipur, Rajasthan; vegetarians will face zero problems there and so I will not be making any blog posts on the trip. I shall be updating this blog with all future travels on time, every time, pinky promise.

Take care, thank you for reading and do drop me an email if you have any additional questions -

Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Picky Vegetarian Hogger goes to Langkawi, Malaysia

This post would be part two of my Malaysia, 2016 travel. The first part of the Malaysia 2016 travel can be found here. Since it is comparatively more difficult to come across vegetarian food when one travels, I thought I'd give a detailed account of where and what I ate and whether or not it was worth it. One general piece of advice? If you are a vegetarian and a picky one at that (a la yours truly), fresh fruits will be your best friend.

After the rather filling but disappointing toast at Gemini Cafe at Penang Airport, we boarded our uneventful flight to Langkawi, which lasted about an hour. Honestly, Langkawi Airport is one of the best airports I've ever been to. One you land, you walk the length of the runway to the airport and the view right from the runway is breathtaking! The cherry on the cake would be the road that snakes around the airport, Jalan Kuala Muda through which we drove several times and even stopped over because to the left you have the glittering magnificent sea and to the right you see an aircraft landing, all while the sun bathes the sky in its dusky hues.

We rented a car in Langkawi and drove around to all the places. Public transport is not very easily available and cabs can get costly if you are on a tight budget. From the Airport to our first accommodation, D' Bedang Studio is a 7km ride, which cost us MYR 22/-. Like I said, cabs can get costly. On the other hand, we rented a car at MYR 60/- per day [MYR 240/- for 4 (four) days, excluding fuel. Fuel in Malaysia is dirt cheap at MYR 1.80/- per litre on the dates we travelled; that comes to INR 16.66/- per litre. True story.

D' Bedang Studio is very close to Cenang beach which became our daily mecca just to stroll around the avenue, visit the beach, visit Cenang mall (free Wi-Fi ftw) and also make purchases from the duty free stores there. The other place we stayed at in Langkawi was Desa Terrace. It was close to D' Bedang Studio, more on the main road, and at close proximity to Cenang beach. Both our accommodations were well maintained, clean, pocket friendly and had yummy views. All the above being said, I do think Langkawi is an over rated touristy spot in Malaysia. I am more in love with Penang rather than Langkawi, truth be told.

Now that I have given an overview on our stay in Langkawi, let's talk about the food there:

  1. When we first drove down to Cenang beach, we went to Old Town White Coffee at Cenang Mall because, coffee. I opted for the plain old White Coffee, the Plus One opted for the same with an addition of hazelnut flavour and peanut butter toast. While my coffee was the same old, the Plus One's coffee was actually rather disappointing since the hazelnut flavour was drowning out the strong coffee flavour. The peanut butter toast had to be the most disappointing. Imagine 4 slices of toast. Now imagine the crumbs removed. Not, imagine a tiny dollop of peanut butter toast applied on top of it. Dry, flaky, practically flavourless. Upon my return to India, my friend recommended a certain 'Kaya Toast' which is basically a combination of coconut, jam and butter on toast. It wasn't very appetising for me since I am not a coconut fan. Perhaps something you might like?
  2. I have mentioned in my earlier post that I do not like the taste of eggs. I just thing it is too pungent to my liking. On a subsequent visit to Old Town White Coffee at Cenang Mall, I opted for French toast and regular white coffee with an addition of cham (creamer). 
    I am a big fan of French toast at Cafe Max in Bangalore. It is just the right amount to toast, butter, eggs, milk, cinnamon, maple syrup and honey. Just, perfect.
    The French Toast at Old Town White Coffee had this thick layer of egg, with very little of milk, cinnamon, and honey. I was gagging on it and the Plus One ended up licking the plate. The coffee was a disaster at another level. Turns out I am not a fan of cham (or creamer). It dilutes the coffee and makes it un-drink-ably creamy. Do not opt for this if you are a strong coffee fanatic like moi.
  3. On the way to Langkawi Skybridge we stopped by Artisan's Pizza. We had a choice to make our own pizza, which we did! I am a big believer of pineapple-on-pizza. The toppings we opted for were cheese, pineapple, jalapenos, onions and black olives. Totally worth the prize. The staff was very, very friendly too. We really enjoyed ourselves here and made a mental note to return.
    The drive to Langkawi Skybridge is marvellous. Langkawi Skybridge itself, is a must-do on your itinerary. Yes, the entrance fee does lean on the costlier side, but the experience of walking on the Skybridge is simply fantastic. When we went, we were engulfed in monsoon clouds hitting us with strong winds and the occasional showers. The sky cleared up for just 20 seconds and we got a glimpse of some beautiful turquoise waters. The path to the Skybridge itself runs through forests, it is quiet, beautiful and doesn't attract a lot of fellow humans. So, do it!
    The Langkawi Skybridge has only one cafe at the top, called the Skybistro. Unfortunately I couldn't stomach a thing that was being prepared here so I skipped eating anything altogether except for my life-saving pears. Not to mention, the view from the Skybistro while you stuff your mouth is jaw dropping. Make sure not to drop any food.
  4. While in Langkawi (or Penang) for that matter, instant cup noodles might end up becoming your best friend. Don't get scared by the variety of fauna shown on the outside, it is perfectly edible inside. In the days of my naivety, I opted for one vegetarian cup noodles. It was noodles, with an addition of salt and pepper. That's it. The disappointment was all-engulfing for me. Upon the Plus One's insistence, I sniffed his cup noodles which had a picture of egg and something grey-black on it. Surprisingly, it smelled and tasted exactly like our regular Maggi. I think the packaging was yellow and red, I really do think it is worth it. The cost is also very reasonable at MYR 2-4 for one cup.
  5. For breakfast, we headed to Bread Story at Cenang. This is a decently sized store with a variety of breads! The aroma of freshly baked bread wafts in the store itself. They have a small area for seating with a beautiful view of baked goods stacked one upon the other. We opted for marble cake (delicious), vanilla cake (meh), Mango Sin (a round burger bun with a filling of mango cream - the taste of cream is overpowering), Garlic Stick (a long load of bread - full of all purpose flour - with a generous coating of butter, garlic and Dominos-like oregano, my favourite). The goods are a bit costlier than what they are worth. But, for one visit, it is all good.
  6. For a late lunch one other day, we stopped by Yasmin Shawarma, a Syrian Restaurant at Cenang. They had one vegetarian option on their menu - the Falafel Vegetarian, chickpea fried patty, cabbage, spicy kimchi with mayo. While they make the dish right in front of you and it is just drool-worthy to watch, when I bit into the roll, it was pungently spicy and I was instantly put of by the smell and taste of cabbage. One piece of wisdom - never have cabbage with rolls; I am a big advocate of lettuce over cabbage in burgers and rolls. Anyway, for the price (MYR 10/-), it was a total waste, while the Plus One really enjoyed it -_-
  7. I had mentioned in my earlier post that in Malaysia, fruits will be your best friends. You find huge, juicy and delicious pear, orange and apples here. I thoroughly enjoyed munching on fruits most of the time. There are not a lot of fresh fruit shops. There is one at Cenang (near Bread Story). In Penang we tried the dragon fruit (no great shakes) and an assortment of other fruits available in India as well. One piece of advice - the pear available here is to die for.
  8. We also headed to Kuah one fine day and after gawking in a touristy way at the massive Eagle at Eagle Square, we went to a mall close-by. We ended up at McDonald's for lack of eating options and alas, they had literally zero vegetarian options. We went for the next best thing then since both of us were starving at that point. We opted for the chicken burger combo, while I happily munched away at the french fries, the Plus One gulped down the chicken burger. A combination of chilli sauce and ketchup is wonderful with french fries. Suffice to say, McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks failed me at my hungriest.
  9. We read about night markets in Langkawi and decided to check them out. The deal with night markets is, the vendors are all more or less the same, only the location of the night market keepe changing every day of the week. The schedule is available in the link above. 
    The first one on the itinerary was the night market near Cenang. A night market in Langkawi sells practically everything, from clothes to fresh food to raw fish to shoes to toys to fresh groceries to freshly cooked meat. We weren't interested in purchasing anything but food here, so, we set off looking for vegetarian food for me and edible meat for the Plus One. We lucked out quite a bit in the vegetarian department, there was one stall which was selling exclusively potatoes including tornado potatoes, covered in a generous coating of salt, chilli powder and powdered cheese, potato wedges covered in lots of liquid cream and ketchup and even french fries. We opted for the first two and were not disappointed at all. Crispy on the outside and all potato-y goodness on the inside was the motto while making these dishes! There is one other dish called the 'Apam Balik' which is pancake batter [slightly sweet], poured out on a buttered skillet, wich is thick on the side but crumbly and crispy on the outside. The inside of this dish is given a generous addition of some more butter and coarsely ground peanuts. This is available at 50 sens a piece. A marvellous dessert at such cheap cost. Apam Balik is a must try when in Malaysia.
    One other night, we decided to visit the night market at Kuah, Langkawi. This time, in addition to the items mentioned above, we tried the vegetarian spring roll (pungent fish sauce/ fish oil smell and taste), vegetarian noodles (semolina turned to noodles with the fish sauce. fish oil), jelly juice (jelly is the flavour of the juice that was available; I am completely unaware of its origin, it tasted a bit like palm fruit or what we call in Tamil, nongu. I best like this culture of having chilled juices, whether originally flavoured or artificially, available at every nook and corner for as little as MYR 1-2/-. It really helps in dealing with the heat much better.) We also tried the local doughnut which was lightly flavoured, fluffy and just incredibly perfect enough to give Dunkin' Donuts a run for its money.
  10. On the last day, while at Langkawi Airport, we ended up eating the maggi noodles mentioned in point (4) above along with what was called 'Cafe Mocha', which was nothing but coffee with Milo in it. Blrgh. This was at LGK Cafe at Langkawi Airport. They did have some other unappetising-looking food, which was enough to make me run for my flight without delay.
    Did I mentioned, Milo as a chilled drink is a big thing here? As mentioned in point (9), along with other juices, even Milo is kept alongside, dunked in ice to quench that unbearable thirst!
Next post on our time spent in Genting Highlands and Kuala Lumpur! Stay tuned.

If you need any more information, do drop me an email on Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

The Picky Vegetarian Hogger goes to Penang, Malaysia

Hello, lovelies!

My two week long trip to Malaysia concluded recently. And the amount of suffering I have had to endure being a vegetarian in the hands of the fantastic country that Malaysia is, I thought I'd write a blog post about it. Just so the post doesn't get too long, I shall break this up into three (3) posts and I hope you find this helpful.


After about a month's planning, the Plus-One and I finally settled on a two week long trip to Malaysia. We decided to cover Penang, Langkawi, Genting Highlands and Kuala Lumpur. If you wish to get a brief idea of our costs for the whole trip of two weeks to the aforementioned places:
  1. Flight cost - approximately INR 10,000/- per head for the following legs:
    (a) Bangalore - Kochi - Kuala Lumpur - Kochi - Bangalore
    (b) Penang - Langkawi
    (c) Langkawi - Kuala Lumpur
  2. Stay - approximately INR 5,000/- per head
  3. We allocated approximately INR 25,000/- totally for food and drinks [I love food. I love food.]
  4. We allocated approximately INR 10,000/- for miscellaneous costs, say, renting vehicle(s), purchasing gift(s), liquor, etc.
What I didn't account for above is how not-so-friendly Malaysian food is for vegetarians. Might I add, picky vegetarians who do not even like the taste of egg. Here's some insight.

We took a train from KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth (4 hour train ride), then a ferry (15-30 min) to Penang and walked down (15 min) to Kim Haus Loft. Quite a journey, I tell you. Took us about 5 hours to get to our accommodation from Kuala Lumpur and I really enjoyed every bit of it. Also, our accommodation for the next 4 days, Kim Haus Loft was excellent; I certainly intend to revisit Penang and stay at Kim Haus itself! Kim Haus Loft used to be a goldsmith shop before it was converted into a loft. The rooms are tiny, perfect and the space management that has gone into converting this place into a living space is just mind boggling.

As for the food, Penang is a coastal area, obviously known for its sea food. Apparently known to everyone else but yours truly. Naive that I was, the Plus-One and I walked into a local food market, sew all the fried food items on display and got excited. Point to note here, the Plus-One is open to experiment with anything; I on the other hand, get to be jealous of him, on good days. We eagerly walk toward one of the stalls where the staff promptly ask us if we are from India and upon knowing our whereabouts in India, we happily start conversing in Tamil [well, the Plus-One did a fantastic job of saying "Tamil illa, Tamil illa"]. That's when I thought I'd take a chance and asked him if even one item was vegetarian only to get a hearty laugh from him. So much for hunger pangs. FML, really. The Plus-One enjoyed seafood for a bit, turns out it ain't suitable to his taste buds. Lesson learnt: I saw the different kind of sea animals that exist on Earth! Well, used to. Because there in the market they were all dead. I'll try not to get morbid again in the post.

Let's talk coffee first. 
  1. By far, the best black coffee in Malaysia is the "Kopi-O" coffee. In essence, it is a bag of coffee and sugar (a la tea bag, minus the sugar), dropped into hot water and served as black coffee. The. Absolute. Best. I had this on our train from KL Sentral, Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth. The first and last time I had it until I discovered point (2) below.
  2. By far, the best regular coffee (white coffee) in Malaysia is the "regular white coffee" at Old Town White Coffee. They're a cafe chain and serve something called 'Regular White Coffee'. Yes, they do have several variations, but I am a simple creature like that and stick to basics. The coffee is just the right blend with just the right flavour and smoothness. And the best part for me? The coffee is made strong with some yummy, creamy milk and sweetener.
Best places for vegetarian food in Penang, Malaysia, list of items I ate and how it was:
  1. The day we arrived at Georgetown, Penang, we headed to Chulia Court (so much for street food and cheap travel, eh?) for some late lunch. We opted for Spagghetio Aglio Olio with French Fries and beer (Skol and Royal Stout). While the spaghetti had quite of bit on inedible raw vegetables in it, the french fries were rather a saving grace. Skol beer is to Malaysia what Foster's is to India. Let's not even get to Royal Stout because I despise dark brews. Did I mention that the Royal stout was a warm beer?
  2. The next day (we passed out the whole evening and night), we headed to Wheeler's Coffee, Georgetown, Penang for some filling breakfast. My excitement couldn't be contained because they were playing my kind of music (oh, hey, mama, hey, mama!) and had exactly one (1) vegetarian option on their menu. The vegetable panini. This was an extremely yummy sandwich I tell you. The butter dripping all over the place along with the fat from the cheese adding that extra bit of creaminess, need I mention the exotic vegetables? Huff! Shall certainly return here, I know that for sure!
  3. For some dessert, we opted to head to the rather cute and small Rainforest Bakery. Since I got the option of picking dessert, without hesitation I opted for the chocolate eclair and felt a pang as I taok my first bite. Because it was not the fantastic explosion of cream and chocolate I had expected. It was more stale, cold and unwelcoming, really. The Plus-One is a gem, I tell you. He is not a person who likes to waste food and would happily eat just about anything without complaints. So, the Plus-One ended up wiping the plate clean on this disappointing eclair. At that point, I would have settled for Cadbury Eclair.
  4. After about half a day with no proper food for me (I believe I subsisted on fruits only) and in dire need of food, I dropped the facade for wanting local food and headed to Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant at Little India in Penang. Oh, boy, did I welcome the badly made Mysore masala dosa and filter coffee. Yes, it was an expensive affair, but I had gone practically one and a half days without proper food and I was really annoyed by that point.
    If I may digress a bit, even the local vegetarian food that we found there had this pungent flavour (perhaps from fish oil or fish sauce; please do correct me if I am mistaken) that I just could not stomach. Even the Plus-One had had enough of that flavour by the time we returned to India. This made it all the more difficult for me to find food because you mainly find Noodles or Rice there and every dish has this pungent flavour. There is no escape. None. Hence, the fruits!
  5. The next day, we lucked out. We decided to head for brunch instead of lunch and made it somewhere near Chinatown in Penang. Lo and behold, we witnessed a food festival in progress. Meats and vegetables of all shapes, sizes and flavours being mixed together with noodles and rice. When we reached the end of one of the stalls, we found something on the menu that baffled us. It was called "Indian noodles". Just to confirm, we found a serving staff and asked whether the "Indian noodles" was vegetarian. They confirmed it was. We ordered that and one other dish which turned out to be pho, with flat noodles, again, vegetarian.
    This "Indian noodles" was nothing but vermicelli-noodles, again with the pungent flavour, but in much less quantity. The pho, fortunately, did not have that flavour at all. While the Plus-One enjoyed a bit of both, I relished the pho. Did I mention the huge serving size? Ouch.
    We were also happily informed by the staff (once they came to know we were Indians) that this food festival had only vegetarian food. All the meat we saw earlier? Mock meat. And the day we went there was the last day of such festival. Though we didn't get to enquire into the festival or the happenings, I did find this link on the 'Nine Emperor Gods festival' that might be helpful for you.
  6. One fine late noon, the Plus-One and I decided to give a visit to L'amitie Cafe, right next to Wheeler's Coffee in Georgetown, Penang since even they were playing our kind of music. We decided to order a vegetarian pizza (yes, the only one vegetarian option on the menu, literally) and were disappointed that they didn't serve beer. What was served to us was beyond shocking. Out came a pie looking pizza with a one inch think layer of mozzarella cheese (do note that mozzarella turns cold quickly and also turns rubbery when cold), with a base layer of chilli sauce and vegetables. Though the intent of the staff there and the pizza was nice (-ish?), I was practically choking on the pizza and gave up after one and a half slices. The staff was disinterested in work. By staff I mean 4 teenage boys busy flirting with another teenage girl; my mistake, shouldn't have expected attention, really. Also, the service was terribly slow.
  7. For dessert after the above disastrous lunch, the Plus-One and I decided to try some Green Tea pastry at the Moustache Houze, right opposite Kim Haus Loft. The place is kept clean and tidy and seems to be regular of several people there. Although I found the pastry a bit stale, too creamy and having a bit, inexplicable sweet taste, the Plus-One seemed to enjoy it. Oh, well, to each his own. I do admire the concept of Green Tea pastry thought; I had never, ever heard of it until then. I think the people running Moustache Houze are rather inventive and I like that.
  8. I bit the dust and finally succumbed to the sweet, sweet beckoning of fresh bread, vegetables and sauces at Subway, Gurney Plaza, Penang. I really do not have much to add here since we're all aware of how Subway is. I ordered the Veggie Delight which cost me MYR 7.50, the bread was tasty, the cheese was okay, the vegetables were fresh and the sauces were lip smacking. Finding a Subway at Malaysia has to be every choosy vegetarian's dream come true, really.
  9. The Plus-One tried some coconut milkshake, called the Coconut Rio at The Milkshake Factory. I only had a sip of this because at that point of time, I was down with a bad bout of cold, but boy, oh, boy, that has to be one of the best milkshakes I've ever had. It was as thick as firmly formed curd, so full of flavour and the staff were an absolute delight to interact with! The milkshake was basically three scoops of ice cream, one full serving of coconut water with added white chocolate. I am eagerly awaiting their arrival in India. And my next trip to Penang will certainly include multiple trips to this store all hale and hearty to try out the motley of flavours they have to offer.
  10. While the Plus-One was enjoying his coconut milkshake, I had my first ever sip of the supposedly famous 'white coffee of Penang' at Old Town White Coffee. To start off, their serving size is huge for a 'small' order. Second, they add cream, milk and sweetened cream to the coffee that makes it so delicious that you will actual consider purchasing their mix only to realise that they sell only the coffee powder and not the entire mix. It is a shame I can't mimic their coffee. But my next trip to Penang certainly includes revisiting Old Town White Coffee for my piping hot morning cuppa. You should certainly try it too.
  11. On our way to Langkawi, we stopped by the Gemini Cafe at Penang Airport. We had two Pakistanis as our serving staff who were rejoicing at speaking Hindi with us. I ordered the Sardine on Toast, which was the only vegetarian option on the menu that I would have. But, I also made it very, very clear to the staff that I only and only wanted butter and veggies in my toast and nothing else. They fortunately agreed to stick to my exact instructions and thus ended our 4 days at Penang. While the sandwich was no great shakes, it certainly was filling.
Please do drop me an email at if you have any additional questions, I will be more than happy to answer them all. Alternatively, you may drop a comment below and I shall respond to it. I profusely apologise for the long absence.

Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


Looks good. Sounds good. Feels good. You hear good reviews about it. But it is very difficult.

Being in a relationship with a fellow human being.

It starts with being all smitten, continually ensuring you smell good, keeping up appearances and grooming to the T, ensuring your partner doesn't get to hear your bathroom noises, keeping all vulnerability at bay because, bleh, why would you want a stranger you met yesterday make so much difference in your life?

Until the point where you stop all pretense.

You will be privy to each other’s bathroom noises, to say the least. You will know each other’s good and bad days. You will see each other at your best and your worst. You will see each other at your most vulnerable. Finally, you will definitely see each other in a new light, at your nastiest. That’ll be the end of the honeymoon phase.

You will hurt each other, intentionally and/ or unintentionally, it will be cruel, you will feel like beating the shit out of your partner. For some, you will have self-harming tendencies, will imagine this little fight, that tiny spat to be the worst fight ever.

Until one of you decides to put an end to the silliness. Until one of you decides to put all ego aside. Until one of you decides to just muck the details out so there isn't any more miscommunication. At least about the current argument. Until one of you decides that it sucks to fight with someone you like spending time with.

I never imagined myself to be capable of spending most of my time with a fellow human being. I mostly stay away from people (I do belong to Planet Earth). And yet, for about six months now, I've unlearned all my capabilities of living alone. I’ve unlearned how to take care of myself. I've unlearned how to be by myself. I’ve unlearned how to entertain myself. Involuntarily.

I have a constant companion, be it home or work. I loathe waking up alone. From the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep, there is not a single minute of the day when I feel like I am not being taken care of. From the glass of hot water first thing in the morning, to the dry towel at the end of a shower, to the 2 minutes just for us after returning home from work to the pats on the back until I fall into deep slumber. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, weekend getaways, weekend brunches, evening walks, foosball at work, sleeping at night, going for a run, reading our own books, watching our own shows, 
I have a constant companion.

I honestly have no clue as to my contributions to this contract!

At this point, I've realized, I've to relearn all the things I’d taught myself in the first five to six months of living alone and taking care of myself because this constancy may or may not be there throughout, there will be absences, there will be misgivings and there will be disappointments.

But, from my little understanding, I can tell you this: as of now, I’d rather not be elsewhere. Because:

Found the picture somewhere on Facebook

Monday, 20 April 2015

Twice as Nice; Twice as Awesome

At first JK said: 
Being a fat kid, health was never a priority. Especially considering my parents were working, it didn't help that my grandmother fed me like a starving child. Bordering on obesity throughout school and college (with the nickname "hippo", not even "baby hippo"- school kids are mean!), then, life happened. And I lost all that weight/ baby fat using a combination of stress, stress, a little more stress, unrelenting exercise, starvation and being secretly proud of my jutting collar and hip bones. Little did I know that once the stress and starvation is removed from the picture, I would just as easily pile the kilos back on. Lo and behold, I was staring at an older, much wiser (debatable), fatter self in the mirror! One thing I was certainly not counting on was my skin appearing dull, dry and lifeless. It did not help that I was providing no nutrition to my body whatsoever. 

And then SD said: 

And I was as skinny as skinny could be, without even trying! From well meaning aunties asking my mom why she refused to feed me, to mean classmates calling me everything from sukdi to agarbatti, I heard it all! Instead of eating healthy, which I should have done, I drowned my sorrows in a strange combo of greasy moisturizer, water and talcum powder...
Acne in preteens, braces on my teeth, and a malnourished frame - I was like every awkward middleschooler ever! Hell, I invented the concept!

So JK continued:
Taking control of my weight and body into my own hands, I started a healthy combination of exercise and diet. This no doubt did wonders to my figure. Alas, the assumptions and stupidity of youth (there should be a self help book for the youth on the lines of "Youth for Dummies"). Thinking who needs to give special attention to skin when one is on a healthy diet I set off, yet again, on a slippery slope downhill. Having achieved the body of my dreams and the skin of a middle aged woman, I was left questioning my appearance. 
SD replied:
I had to do something too. This was just not working in a world where appearance matters big time. I tried the unhealthy approach first - paneer and pakodas every day! And a healthier one next - jogging in the morning. Sure, looked khaate-peete ghar ki now, but the face? Still showed signs of adulterated moisturizer abuse!
And then we discovered the Garnier Pure Active Combo!
Garnier pack- Image by Diva on a Budget
Garnier scrub- Image by Diva on a Budget
Garnier Face Wash- Image by Diva on a Budget
Now, I (SD) have already used up a couple of tubes of the face wash, so I already know how it works. It's really mild and smells really - green! I do not know how to explain it well, but it reminds me of greenery and woods and grass... But not an annoying herbal scent. More like a nice herbal scent!! :)

Priced at INR 90 for 100g (there's a small tube for INR 50) this is really pocket friendly. 
Packaging: It has a tight flip cap, which makes it safe to carry.
Image by Diva on a Budget
Consistency: Just right! And love the green color!
Image by Diva on a Budget
Quite a few of the usual suspects, along with tea tree oil
Image by Diva on a Budget
Image by Diva on a Budget
Shelf life: 3 years
Now let's talk about the scrub. Remember how I (SD) told you in one of my previous posts that TNC's Kiwi Hand Cream smells exactly like "sweet oats". Garnier Pure Active Exfoliating Scrub with Apricot extracts smells exactly the same!!! It's uncanny!
Image by Diva on a Budget
Image by Diva on a Budget
Similarly packaged, with a tight flip cap. It is priced at INR 115 for 100g. 
A lot of fruit extracts, I see!
Image by Diva on a Budget
Shelf life: 36 months
Not-very-coarse granules. They say you can use it every day, but I prefer to use it on alternate days.

Our experience!
While SD is a fan of the Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash, JK is blown away by how bright her face looks one day after using Garnier Pure Active Exfoliating Apricot Face Scrub. This is the first time JK is using a face scrub, so she loves how smooth and bright her face looks the next day. 
SD says, while the stubborn acne marks do not go, the Garnier Pure Active Neem Face Wash has certainly prevented any new ones from cropping up.
Power of two? We think so too!!! :)
SD ( and JK ( are participating in Garnier Pure Active's #TwiceAsNiceActivity!!
Disclaimer: The samples were sent by Garnier