Vegetarians vs Vegans

Malaysia is ranked as the world’s 3rd most vegetarian-friendly country. There’s also a bigger portion of people whose everyday diet frequently doesn’t contain a lot of meat, but they don't necessarily adopt the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle exclusively. Malaysians are made of many ethnic groups, among them Malays, Chinese, Indians. Vegetarian food is rare among the Malay ethnic community. Malay dishes don’t seem to be pure vegetarian. Even anything like Nasi Ulam, or Herb Rice that you’d think is vegetarian, seems to have belacan (shrimp paste), shredded salted fish, or dried prawns. Even stir-fried vegetables tend to have stocks of chicken or little dried prawns. It is more much easier to find vegetarian restaurants among the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian groups.

The most common vegetarian Malaysian dishes:
  • Noodles with Tofu

  • Crispy Fried Tempe (Keripik Tempe)

  • Oseng-Oseng Wortel (Stir-fried carrots)

  • Atjar Tjampoer

  • Steamed Mushroom Wraps (Pepes Jamur Kuping)

  • Sweet Eggplant Stew (Semur Terong)

  • String-Hoppers (Puttu Mayam)

  • Nasi Goreng

  • Terong Balado

  • Gudeng Putih

  • Laksa Lemak Nyonya

The Difference:

Vegeterian and vegan are sometimes confused, but the two forms of cuisine vary significantly. Let's clarify between these two different food choices, saying at once that the second alternative has a smaller spectrum of choices.



Following a vegetarian diet means eliminating any animal food from your diet. No meat (cow, pork, chicken, turkey), and no fish (including shellfish and mollusks). The reasons behind a vegetarian choice can be either ethical (i.e. dictated by a love of animals) or healthy. In the former case, the vegetarian diet is only a step towards vegan diet, an intermediate step towards a higher level of awareness.


When it comes to veganism, it gets complicated. Vegans exclude from their diet - and from their lives - not only meat and fish, but also all animal derivatives. Vegans do not eat milk and derivatives (such as cheese), eggs, honey and all those foods that in one way or another have caused suffering to a living being. It is therefore clear that veganism more than a diet is a way of life, marked by unconditional love for animals. We have defined it as a lifestyle because being vegan often means changing most of one's daily habits, from clothing (no leather, wool, silk or fur) to leisure time (no sports such as hunting or horse racing or shows that involve animals such as circus or bullfighting) and cosmetics (choosing products that have not been tested on animals). Seen as fundamentalist, vegans are sometimes at the center of controversy. Usually, they are often very empathic people who find it hard to convey to their fellow vegans the reasons for their choices.

The Health Effect:

Vegetarian and vegan diets are rich in cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, which reduce the intake of saturated fats and cholesterol and therefore have protective properties against various chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases. However, these diets, if not planned and integrated, can expose to various harmful nutritional deficiencies, since some nutrients that are fundamental for the body are not sufficiently represented in plants. Vegans in particular are at risk of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, if they give up milk and dairy products and eggs. Omnivores can also take the large consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and cereals on which vegetarian diets are based as an example for enhancing their diets. In general, it would be wise to minimize the intake of meat, milk and dairy products in favor of fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods, which have a positive impact on our overall health.

However, it is important not to drastically change one's eating habits overnight, but to base one's choice on a controlled and well-defined diet.

Find a Balance:

Missing nutrients can be taken through substitute foods of plant origin, which are sometimes 'fortified', such as rice or soya milk to which calcium is added, or some breakfast cereals to which iron and vitamins are added. To balance these diets, it is good to include nuts, linseed and oily fruits, which provide some essential fatty acids, and vegetable proteins provided by soy and legumes which, together with cereals, ensure the intake of complete proteins, such as meat.

The SmartBite Team.

Read also about what do Vegans eat in KLand Vegan Korean Food!


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