Xiang Yun Vegetarian House

Special thanks to Xiang Yun Vegetarian House for extending this food review invitation.

Xiang Yun Vegetarian House (香云素食坊) has moved from Yeap Chor Ee Road (Jalan Yeap Chor Ee) to Bayan Point behind Alora Hotel. This family business started as a hawker stall at Kompleks Lebuh Nipah which is still being operated by the matriarch.
The people behind this restaurant are vegetarians themselves. The recipes are result of years of adapting housewife-style cooking with vegetarian ingredients. Back in the old days, vegetarian food was considered bland and unpalatable. However, Xiang Yun is determined to prove that vegetarian food can be as tasty as non-vegetarian food, if not better.
While the original stall focuses on hawker-style food like Hokkien Mee (福建面), Curry Mee (咖哩面) and Chee Cheong Fun (猪肠粉), this air-conditioned restaurant features family-style cooking. The modest dining area provides a sense of homely ambience. A collage of magazine cuttings decorate one side of the wall.
Xiang Yun Vegetarian House differs from many vegetarian restaurants in how it makes meat substitute (素肉). Instead of gluten which is easier to work with, Xiang Yun uses soy pulp (豆渣). Although soy (黄豆) has significant amount of purine, soy pulp is relatively safe for consumption. Pound for pound, soy pulp has even lower purine content than red meat.

Satay (沙爹, RM8.00) is a great way to start a meal together. This appetizer consists of 6 skewers of "chicken", seasoned with turmeric and then roasted till golden brown.
The tenderness of the "chicken" skewers is quite close to actual chicken, minus the undesired burnt marks. The turmeric seasoning makes the soy pulp very appetizing. Some peanut sauce is provided, but I feel that it is insufficient for 6 skewers. Nevertheless, I recommend this appetizer with high regard.
Pasembor (素鲜余, RM5.90) is a salad of Penang origin. It is known as Mamak Rojak outside the state because this dish was initially sold by Indian Muslims. Although this popular street food often uses prawn fritters and boiled squid, Xiang Yun's vegetarian version uses only dough fritters, potatoes and bean curd. Like the original dish, sweet and spicy sauce is used as dressing.
An order of Golden Crunchy Bun (黄金包, RM4.90) comes in three pieces. The pastry crust of the bun is quite delectable and does not feel too oily. In the mouth, the pastry releases a puff of refreshing aroma.
The buns are filled with "pork", although the taste distinctively differs from actual pork. The only thing in common between vegetarian pork and actual pork is the sweetness of char siu (叉烧).
When dining with children, French Fries (美式薯条, RM4.90) is one way to keep them pacified before main dishes are served. Unfortunately, I feel that the fries are too salty. I may suggest using a special type of dipping sauce such as guacamole, otherwise this dish by itself appears unexciting.
One of Xiang Yun's signature dishes is Nasi Lemak (招牌椰浆饭, RM6.90). The sambal paste is still savory despite the fact that no shrimp is used. Spiciness of the paste is kept to minimum to allow its savoriness to manifest more prominently. Overall, I am impressed with the harmonious blending of sambal and rice cooked with coconut milk.
Other ingredients of Nasi Lemak are a piece of "mackerel", "minced meat", "anchovies", pineapple cubes, roasted peanuts and cucumber. The texture and taste of the "mackerel" are quite close to the actual fish. Meanwhile, "anchovies" are made using fried julienned potatoes, which have crispy-starchy texture similar to fried arrowhead (炸芽菇).
Although I have tried the Bah Kut Teh Rice (肉骨茶饭, RM8.90) before, it remains as one of my highlights today. Obviously at Xiang Yun Vegetarian House, no pork is used. Therefore, the dish derives the "meaty" aspect from mushrooms, bean curd skin (腐竹) and soft bean curd. There are also imitation "fish balls", but they appear too springy. I think more flour will make the texture more realistic.
Meanwhile, the herbal soup is similar to the original recipe that uses pork. Wolfberries (枸杞) and fried soy pulp are used to enhance flavor of the rich herbal soup. Leaf lettuce (油麦) is also included. As Xiang Yun is observes Buddhists' dietary restrictions, no garlic is used. I find this dish to be very enjoyable, down to the last drop in the teapot!
For something more tantalizing to the taste buds, the Claypot Indian Curry (沙煲咖哩余, RM12.90) provides the spicy-sour sensation that we love in Indian cuisine. Using kaffir lime and other spices from the subcontinent, the curry saturates the "fish slices" with irresistible goodness. This dish comes in a large portion and is usually meant to be shared around the table.
Teochew Steam (潮州蒸余饭, RM7.90) presents milder taste but is still appetizing regardless. The center piece of this dish is a piece of "steamed fish". Although the gravy appears clear, it has surprisingly thick consistency. Mushrooms, bean curd, wolfberries contribute to the taste of this modest yet satisfying dish.
Today's special menu includes Sambal Petai Rice (叁巴臭豆饭, RM7.90). The biggest challenge for the chili paste is what to substitute shrimps with. Despite my initial skepticism, the chili paste is feels well-balanced in overall taste. Although bean curd is used to lend some "substance", I feel that the amount of stink beans is somewhat insufficient.
Although most menu items at Xiang Yun Vegetarian Restaurant are Asian in nature, there are also a handful of Western dishes. The Cheese Coated Chicken (奶酪素扒, RM14.50) is one such example.
Made from soy pulp, the "chicken cutlet" is covered with a slice of cheese which has slightly melted. In adherence of vegetarian principles, no rennet is used to produce the cheese. As for dressing, the cutlet is dressed with sweet and tangy sauce. Unfortunately, I feel that the dish is too salty for comfort.
On the side is a piece of garlic bread, which I appreciate for its scrumptious crispiness. Fries are also provided, but I think mashed potatoes may be a better call.
In addition to garlic bread and fries, there is shredded vegetable salad with Thousand Island dressing.
Fish & Chips (香酥余扒, RM11.90) uses the similar side dishes as the previous one, but instead of featuring "chicken", vegetarian "fish fillet" is used instead. In order to provide fish-like taste for the fillet, some seaweed is added to soy pulp. A wedge of lemon and tartar sauce are provided.
Similar to Fish & Chips, French Romance (白汁余扒, RM14.50) is a limited-time item from the special menu. Tartar sauce has been substituted by Béchamel sauce, which is a French sauce made from butter, flour and milk. Although the "fish" has acceptable taste and texture, I prefer the fish used in the Claypot Indian Curry.
Between 3:00pm and 5:00pm every day, customers can enjoy any 2 cups of coffee for the price of 1. This promotional offer is meant to keep a steady flow of customers between lunch and dinner, since the restaurant remains open between meals anyway.
The single-shot Espresso (浓缩黑咖啡, RM5.90) is derived from Brazilian-grown Arabica beans. As the beans are lightly roasted, the Espresso carries a steady sense of acidity. Personally, I prefer coffee beans with medium roast. Light crackers are provided on the side.
As for Latte (拿铁), there is a choice whether to use fresh milk (RM7.90) or soy milk (RM9.90). I prefer the soy milk version as it blends seamlessly with the taste of espresso. The type of soy milk is sufficiently creamy to form a frothy layer on top. Since the presence of soy milk may overwhelm the coffee, an extra shot of espresso may become necessary for certain coffee lovers.
Alternatively, the Cappuccino (卡布奇诺, RM7.90) is served in a ceramic cup and has a thicker layer of milk foam. I actually like the natural sweetness of fresh milk. Overall, the coffee gives smoothing sensation as it trickles down my throat. My only nitpick for this drink is the rather faint aroma of coffee.
The philosophy behind Xiang Yun Vegetarian House is to allow people to adopt vegetarianism on regular basis, as opposed to treating vegetarian meals as one-off dining experience or merely to fulfill religious obligations. Therefore, the pricing and portion are designed to make the food here appealing to the general public.

Name: Xiang Yun Vegetarian House (香云素食坊)
Address: 17-G-31, Medan Kampung Relau, 11900 Bayan Lepas, Pulau Pinang
Contact: 04-637-1108
Business hours: 11:00am-10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
Website: http://xiangyunvegetarian.wix.com/bayanpoint
Coordinates: 5.33312 N, 100.29423 E
Directions: From Jalan Kampung Relau, drive along the front of Alora Hotel, then turn around to the next row immediately behind the hotel. Xiang Yun Vegetarian House is located on the left side towards the end of this road. Private parking spaces are available along both sides of the road.

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