Which dish?: An employee at a vegetarian eatery explains what is on the menu that day. JP/Triwik Kurniasari
Have you ever thought vegetarian food is boring and plain. Well, it’s time for you to chase that away.
There are vegetarian alternatives to almost any animal-product foods, from soy sausages, to fib ribs to mock soto betawi (meat soup) and fake chicken satay.
“We eat anything we want. As a vegetarian, I also eat those kinds of food. Of course, they are not made from real meat, fowl or fish,” said Nelly, a vegetarian.
“They are made from mushrooms, gluten and beans. But they taste as delicious as the real ones,” she said.
Around 10 to 20 years ago, it was rather hard for a vegetarian to find a restaurant offering vegetarian alternatives.
Today, vegetarian-friendly menus are sprouting up everywhere — even veggie burgers are served — and more and more eateries are focusing exclusively on vegetarian and vegan foods.
Various restaurants serving veggie foods are just a click away through the Internet.
Loving Hut restaurant in Plaza Semanggi, Central Jakarta, for instance, offers various kind of Indonesian, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese vegetarian dishes.
“Many people, including my customers, were vegetarians, but they decided to give up, because they found it difficult to seek eateries serving vegetarian foods,” said Meri Kurniawan, Loving Hut’s restaurant manager.
“Now, vegetarians do not need to worry any more. They can eat whatever they want, just like meat-eaters,” she said.
If you take a look at Loving Hut restaurant, it does not look like an eatery for a vegetarian.
It is a vegan restaurant that does not use milk or eggs in their cuisines.
“But everybody can come and enjoy the food. We did not put any vegetarian logo in front of our restaurant because it keeps people away from our place,” she said.
“Because there is public opinion that vegetarian food does not taste good. That is wrong.
“We want to change this perception. It depends on how you cook and serve the food,” Meri said.
Loving Hut is a franchise restaurant originally from Taiwan, aimed at raising people’s awareness of the environmental advantages of being vegetarian.
“Being a vegetarian is also a good way to prevent global warming because the livestock business causes greenhouse gas emissions. Many customers do not know this.
“So, you can stay healthy, while saving the world at the same time,” she said, adding that her customers varied from university students to workers.
The cost of the dishes ranges from from Rp 15,000 (US$1) to 30,000.
Another vegetarian restaurant, Lien Yuen in Taman Palem, West Jakarta, offers a variety of common meals, like nasi goreng (fried rice), baso Malang (meatballs with noodles and fried wonton), nasi padang (rice with meat or coconut milk), chicken satay, pempek, ayam penyet (chicken with tempe and sambal) and bubur ayam (chicken porridge).
The restaurant use mushrooms, soy and gluten to replace the animal products. It also sells various kinds of crackers, like kemplang and seaweed crackers. They are worth trying, as they are so crunchy and taste like fish.
Customers can also buy vegetarian ingredients, like artificial meat or “chicken” made from gluten, noodles and sauce.
“We make it easy for vegetarians. If they want to cook their own vegetarian meals at home, they can buy the ingredients here,” said Dwi, a restaurant attendant.
A Lien Yuen customer, Haryanti, 30, said she often came to the restaurant with her husband who was a nonvegetarian.
“Although my husband is not a vegetarian, he likes the foods here because they taste as real and yummy as the nonvegetarian dishes. Baso Malang is our favorite,” said the woman who has been a vegetarian since 1992.
Meanwhile, there is a unique thing about vegetarian eateries in the city. Not only do they offer dine-in vegetarian dishes, but almost all of them provide catering services.
Lien Yuen has a monthly catering service for families living around Taman Palem.
The daily menu, for instance, includes vegetables soup, kailan cah jamur (Chinese kale with mushroom) and fried mushroom.
“We serve 26 days and it costs you Rp 600,000 per month,” said Dwi.
Loving Hut also offers the same service, but it only serves people around Jl. Sudirman, also in Central Jakarta.
The minimum order of the catering service, Meri said, is five boxes, which cost Rp 15,000 each.
“A box includes rice, a side dish, vegetables and sambal. We change the menu everyday,” she said.
So, for vegetarians who want to have lunch but are too busy to go outside their workplaces, the catering service is the best choice.
A selection of vegetarian eateries
Chang Sow Restaurant and Mini Mart
Jl. KH. Mansyur No. 120 B-F-G, West Jakarta
Plaza Semanggi 3A Floor No. 003A
Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 50, South Jakarta
Jl. Jembatan Dua Ruko, Robinson Apartment
No. 2F- 2G, North Jakarta
Jl. Muara Karang Blok 08 Timur No. 57-58,
Mitra Bahari Complex Blok A No. 11 A- 12 A,
Pasar Ikan, North Jakarta
Pluit Mega Mal 3rd Floor, North Jakarta
• PRJ Kemayoran Blok J, Central Jakarta
• Mangga Dua Square GF Floor Blok A 280
• Gading Food City Blok B 101-103
Sentra Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta
Ruko Taman Surya Blok L1 No. 18,
Cengkareng, West Jakarta