Kuala Lumpur is experiencing a surge in healthy food right now to go hand-in-hand with fitness goals. Dining hangouts are rolling out vegan options of avocado toasts, smoothie bowls and baked eggs on their menu, at a frequency that make these 'novelties' predictable. Enter a faction of true healthy eateries devoted solely to making healthy food tasty and exciting, and are challenging the staunchest of non-believers. From vegan Mexican, healthy ‘fast food’ burgers, to sweet superfood treats, we speak to 6 owners of healthy cafés challenging the minds and tastebuds of cynical gourmands.
6 Healthy Café Owners In KL & Their Best Dishes That Won Over Fussy Eaters
Fauzi Hussein, Sala
Sala, more than vegan Mexican
"Sala is a fun way to eat healthy and at the same time be conscious about environmental sustainability. In Spanish, Sala means ‘living-room’ and is also an acronym for slavar a los animales (save the animals). We created flavourful meals using only plant-based ingredients, so they are lower in calories compared to meat & dairy food, low in cholesterol and high in clean protein. Our customers can see what goes into their meal, to pick and choose what goes in their salads, burritos or tacos. We want to involve customers in making their own meals."
Sala's healthier burritos and tacos
"I spent a lot of time eating burritos and tacos back in the US. It has rice, beans, "protein" and a lot of spices that Malaysians crave in meals. After being vegan, I noticed in Malaysia, there wasn't anywhere for decent (or nutritionally balanced) plant-based burritos. I used to eat burritos before and after workouts – Burritos are a complete meal wrapped in a tortilla, fast, convenient, and an easy way to eat. This was a year ago. Now, more and more Mexican restaurants in KL have added vegan options to their dishes."
Sala's specialty: Mushroom Asada Burrito
"Home made flour tortilla with meaty textured mushrooms, marinated with Mexican spices. Seasoned Black Beans add complete, clean protein. Cilantro-lime brown rice for healthy carbohydrates. Fresh Pico de Gallo for essential minerals, vitamins and pythonutrients. Vegan nacho cheese & tofu sour cream with chipotle roasted tomato salsa for a little kick. It is also packed with vegetables no other burritos have ever been presented with. Added with a side of crispy plantains, our burritos offer complete nutrition."
Serina S. Bajaj, Kind Kones
All 'kinds' of goodness
"The whole concept behind the brand revolves around kindness to health, animals, the environment and the local communities. All treats use real, unprocessed and unrefined ingredients. The ice creams and desserts are all plant-based and are either nut- or coconut-based, depending on the flavour. They are also gluten free and chemical free or anything artificial. We try to minimise the use of plastic, add small touches like book swapping (trust-based system) and ensure a kid-friendly environment."
A kinder ice cream
"I was always passionate about dessert. I make lots of guilt-free desserts at home and one day, started making vegan ice creams with my little ice cream machine in our kitchen for my husband and (now) 2-year-old daughter. They tasted great! I realised there’s no vegan, chemical-free ice cream bar in Malaysia so thought “why not?” Everybody wants to eat desserts and not feel bad about it. And who doesn’t like ice cream? So my husband and I decided to embark upon this awesome healthier ice cream adventure."
Kind Kones specialty: Ice creams and candy bars
"For ice creams: Salted chocolate chip, dark chocolate, mocha choc chip, charcoal vanilla, almond brittle fudge and durian (seasonal). If you like sorbets; the passionfruit and watermelon strawberry. For desserts, our vegan/gluten-free chocolate cake, Ferrero Rocher superfood bliss ball and raw/vegan snickers bar."
Jason Ooi, HALE
A HALE-thier urban lifestyle
"While working in CBD areas, we found it a problem to get food that’s healthy, fast and affordable. That then became the three main pillars of HALE. We wanted food to taste good and do you good, which led us to spending a huge amount of time in R&D, to design and to serve gourmet quality food in a fast, scalable and affordable way."
HALE's Happy Meal
"Let’s be frank. We all love fast food. But why must fast food be bad for our health? It’s like compromising every time you want for that happy meal. Hence, we created this menu with the single aim of making fast food healthy, free of artificial additives, preservatives and enhancers."
HALE's specialty: Australian grass-fed beef burger
"The juicy, oven-baked beef patty is sandwiched between a handmade wholemeal buttery burger bun (we use only real butter, no margarine!). It’s real, honest food with great taste."
Jason Lee, Kurin
Health on the go at Kurin
"As a frequent business traveller, and having back-to-back meetings in KL, I found it hard to keep on track with my diet/fitness plan in town. Healthy food choices are still scarce, and that is how Kurin came about, a fast moving pick’n’go chain offering honest and healthy ingredients for those who want to make a change in healthy weight loss, or to sustain balanced healthy meals."
Curated bowls at Kurin
"Our menu is inspired by simple and honest ingredients prepared daily, in the best interest of serving healthy, fast food with great mobility. We will be widening our menu such as sandwiches, yoghurt pots, just to name a few. The Hawaiian poké is a very well balanced in macronutrients with great flexibility to meet one’s taste preference. Now with the option of going riceless, or wrapping everything into a burrito, we believe that the options will please more audience with the flexibility of customisable preference."
Kurin's speciality: Pokeritto wrap
"This hybrid Japanese sushi roll is the size of a Mexican burrito and filled with customisable greens and Hawaiian poké as protein choices. All wrapped up and splattered with healthy toppings and nuts. The message here is to try eating predominantly whole and unprocessed food, but give ourselves that margin of flexibility to blend in sauces and more flavours and understand that by doing so, isn’t going to distance you from a healthier life at all."
See also: The 5 Spots To Pick A Healthy Wrap
Jackie Leong, Ours Eatery
Ours is a wholesome institute
"Ours Eatery’s philosophy is to focus on making healthy and delicious foods out of fresh and natural ingredients. As a foodie, I believe eating healthy is not about going on a diet or restricting oneself from devouring food, but to embrace and enjoy the different flavours in a healthy way without compromising on taste."
Ours' version of wholesome and delightful
"The word “healthy food” usually carries a negative connotation, but that isn’t necessarily true, as you can see from our menu. We aim to transform conventional foods into honest, simple and natural healthy on-the-go alternatives. Our foods are not just easily prepared but also wholesome, fresh and scrumptious!"
Ours' specialty: Skinny beef rendang
"The dish is oven-roasted and made without coconut milk. Another must-try item is our guilt-free brownies, which are made from black beans, dark chocolate and sweetened with organic honey. They sound sinful, but we have managed to make them healthy with all natural ingredients."
Jun & Khyn, Cabana Açaí
Coco about Cabana
Jun: "Cabana was built on the concept that desserts and snacks can be healthy too. People have a right to indulge without feeling guilty or sluggish afterwards!"
Khyn: "Healthy eating can be enjoyable! Açaí tastes so good that it’s possible to have cravings for it. This fits perfectly with my belief that eating well is something we can look forward to instead of dread."
Cabana's love for superfoods
Jun: "Fortunately, we really didn’t need to do much to ‘healthify’ our menu! Açaí is an antioxidant powerhouse with a multitude of health benefits from skin health and regeneration, to aiding fat loss."
Khyn: "When we had our very first taste of açaí overseas, we were immediately awed at how refreshingly good it was – a unique berry with a hint of chocolate. We were even more amazed when we went back and read up about all its benefits – it’s already a superfood."
Cabana's açaí bowls to try...
Jun: "Right now, our signature Tropical Thunder açaí bowl. Ask me again in a couple of months though – we’ll be adding a bunch of new items very soon."
Khyn: "Definitely the Rio Classic, it’s a simple no-nonsense açaí bowl with minimal toppings - just banana and granola."