[Penang, Malaysia] Vegan lunch at Viva Victoria

We’d always liked Viva Victoria for its well-thought-out menu and meticulously-prepared dishes. But the vegan options on its new take-out menu piqued our interest: “Nangka Kapitan” and “Mushroom Rendang en Papillote”?! Curiousity got the better of us - we called ahead to make sure we could order the items for dining in. They were very amenable to our request.

Turned out to be an excellent choice for lunch - we are not vegans, but to experience these vegan options was an eye-opener! We also had their (non-vegan) creamy truffle mushroom cappuccino soup, served in tiny espresso cups; a more-ish vegetarian biryani steam-baked in a banana leaf parcel (reminding us very much of the Sri Lankan Burgher lamprais), and a delicious Malay “sum sum” rice pudding dessert, paired with sago and Gula Melaka here.

Truffle mushroom "cappuccino" - Viva Victoria’s version is certainly one of the very best in town.

Nangka Kapitan - “nangka” is Malay for jackfruit, and only young jackfruit with edible seeds were used for this spicy, dry curry. Usually, curry Kapitan in Penang utilizes chicken, which would be slow-cooked in a spice mix consisting of chilis, lemongrass, galangal, belacan (fermented shrimp paste), fresh turmeric, and kaffir lime leaves.
The vegetarian version of this dish retained the sharp spice heat, whilst the jackfruit provided the sweet-savouriness as a substitute for the chicken-meat.
The curry was served with steamed rice given a light-blue hue using the natural colours from the bunga telang flower petals.

Mushroom Rendang en Papillote - usually, rendang, which originated in Indonesia, but very popular in Malaysia/Singapore, involved slow-braising beef in aromatic spices till the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. But, in the absence of meat, the “slow-cooked” flavors could not be achieved. The thick king oyster mushrooms did not need long-cooking, so the chef tried to “stretch” the cooking time, and retain the cooking juices, by baking the mushrooms en papillote.
Rendang spice mix was used, but the dish, shorn of its meat content, lacked the deep, beefy flavours which I’d associate with the dish.

Vegetarian biryani - curried vegetables on rice, wrapped in a banana leaf parcel and steam-baked: this dish was the most aromatic and tastiest of the three dishes we had at lunch today.

This dish reminded me very much of the Sri Lankan Dutch-Burgher dish, *lamprais, which is also rice with a plethora of curried meats and vegetables, wrapped in a banana leaf parcel, and steam-baked. The picture on my mobile phone was the lamprais we had at the Pagoda Tea Rooms in Colombo, Sri Lanka, last year.

The chilled bunga telang lime juice was pretty refreshing.

Dessert was Sum sum rice pudding (a Malay-style custard pudding made from toasted rice flour), paired with sago and Gula Melaka syrup

Pretty good vegan cooking by Viva Victoria - we’re already planning a return visit to try other dishes on their menu.

Viva Victoria
169, Lebuh Victoria, 10300 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-261 0000
Opening hours: 12 noon to 10pm, Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays.


Looks tasty and nicely presented.

I wouldn’t eat “vegan” food in the West, which tend to imitate meat dishes. I prefer dishes that are naturally vegan. People think Austrian cuisine is heavy meat-based but there are surprisingly quite a few vegetarian and vegan dishes in their repertoire.

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It was the same in China, where vegetarian cooking meant the use of gluten and other soy-based products to imitate “pork”, “fish”, “chicken” and what-have-you.

Once, back in 2000, I was in Beijing on a 7-week assignment. On the final week, my boss from Germany flew in to meet the senior management of our Beijing office. I told the China chief financial officer, who was arranging a posh dinner on our last evening, that my boss was vegetarian. He was taken back for a while, then quickly recovered and decided that we shall have the formal dinner at Gong De Lin, Beijing’s oldest vegetarian restaurant - founded 1922.

I reassured my German boss, then on his first-ever visit to China, that the banquet on the final evening was going to be 100% vegetarian.

I think we BOTH had a shock when we saw the dinner spread at Gong De Lin that evening, ranging from a whole “Peking duck”, carved table-side and served with pancakes and condiments like the real thing; Xinjiang-style “mutton kebabs” (I swore when I burped 3 hours later back in my hotel room, it was mutton breath!), a whole braised sweet-and-sour “fish” , etc. Halfway through the vegetarian banquet, my German boss whispered to me, “Nothing on the table is even green!”. :joy:


Yes, same in China. I always seek out Buddhist(-style) vegetarian food in Asia. Was not taken with Chinese Buddhist vegetarian food as it usually looked like this: (btw, those peppers are not bland or sweet. They are fresh Sichuan heaven-facing chillies.)

Meanwhile in Japan… nothing resembles a face or animal. Incredible creativity in using natural ingredients and in presentation.


I was in Kyoto and Nara back in 2017 - promised myself I’d do at least a couple of vegetarian kaiseki meals in either city, as I understood that kaiseki had its roots in the Buddhism-inspired vegetarian cuisine in Kyoto. Quite ashamed to admit that, once I got there and saw all those tempting dining possibilities available, I totally forgot my vegetarian resolution. :joy: