I never understood why vegetarians, who eschew animal products, glorify food that emulates meat. But Kechara Oasis’ defence is this: Encourage vegetarianism by making the vegetarian diet delicious, appealing and readily available. In short, they’re not trying to help you forget the taste of char siew or roast chicken but using substitutes like mock meats (which, by the way, are strikingly similar in terms of texture and flavour) to divert you from consuming real animals. And let’s just say that Kechara’s meat lookalikes – fashioned out of ingredients like gluten, tofu and soy protein – have a lot going for them.
Kechara reintroduces meatless meals with a Chinese, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Western spin, shedding the vegetables-are-boring stereotype that has dogged vegetarianism for a long time. This ‘New Age Vegetarian Restaurant’, as the Kechara House Buddhist Association in Malaysia founder Tsem Tulku Rinpoche calls it, tries to elevate the playing field with a fusion menu (there’s a Nepalese pancake with masala sauce) but also maintains traditional dishes as nostalgia acts, like my pineapple fried rice. It was golden, fluffy and fragrant all the way through. With the absence of meat, you’ll tend to appreciate subtler things, like turmeric, which was the whole point of my rice dish.
Mushroom, tofu and potatoes – that’s a vegetarian party right there. And Kechara celebrates these ingredients in all their guises. My mushroom dish came in the form of ‘eels’ à la Vietnamese. Shiitake mushrooms masqueraded as chewy curls of ‘eel’, which worked in harmony with ribbons of shredded sour mango and a plum sauce glaze. Surprisingly, this imitation fared better than my next mushroom-as-mushroom dish. The butter oyster mushrooms were fried until each piece crunched into nothingness, only relying on the fearsomely rich buttermilk sauce to lend flavour. Where’s the fun in the fungi? The mixed vegetable curry with tau fu pok however, had the instant satisfying hit (and heat) of a homespun dish. Charged with aggressive flavours from cumin, fenugreek and coconut milk, the hot pot was a showcase of local vegetables in a bowl.
What is it about potato you hate? The fact that it’s just starchy filler? That it ruined ‘Toy Story’ for you? Then you haven’t met the Momos – deep fried Tibetan gyozas with a chilli oil dip designed to burn. The humble spud is mashed with cheese and stuffed into vegetable dumplings. Who knew potatoes made such decent stand-ins for meat?
Kechara is festooned with Buddha statues, gilded shrines and candle holders. If you pay no mind to the tacky décor (and servers who only speak Mandarin and Cantonese), food here is actually quite consistent. Kechara is doing enough to convince a potato hater, but not a vegetarian sceptic just yet. Kong Wai Yeng
|Venue name:||Kechara Oasis Viva Home||Contact:|
Viva Home, 85 Jalan Loke Yew
|Opening hours:||Open daily, 11.30am-3pm, 6pm-10pm|