Padang’s Vegan Restaurants: “Blasphemy” or a Better Option? – Food

Loved by many, Padang food is known for its rich taste with the use of coconut milk and chili paste among other spices. While they traditionally use meat and animal products – especially beef products and even offal – some restaurateurs decide to recreate Minang dishes by offering the vegan version.

At a glance, Padang Restaurant run by 30-year-old Yulmi Hari Fandi looks like any other restaurant in Padang. Newbies – especially locals – might be curious about the restaurant’s decorations, which include a Buddha statue, Ganesh idol, and other religious symbols. It was interesting because most of the Minangkabau who run the restaurants in Padang are usually Muslims.

An assortment of Minang dishes were on display in the restaurant window from rendang to podcast – just like the other restaurants in Padang. These dishes, however, were far from typical Padang cuisine.

Yulmi Hari Fandi, 30, from Solok, West Sumatra, was criticized by his family after going vegan and opening a Padang vegan restaurant in Bali in 2017 (JP / Amahl S. Azwar)

Yulmi Hari Fandi, who prefers to be called Hari, does not use any meat or animal derivatives to cook the restaurant’s dishes. He opened Warung Padang Vegan (Vegan Padang Diner) in 2017 to help people who prefer plant-based foods have more options when dining out or ordering food.

Besides being well known for its main ingredients, namely coconut milk and spicy chili, Padang cuisine is renowned for its use of beef, chicken, poultry, and even offal or organs. Himself a vegan since 2016, Hari, from Solok in West Sumatra, was determined to only serve Padang plant-based dishes.

“I just want to help people get healthy,” Hari said. Jakarta Post in an interview at his restaurant on Jl. Teuku Umar in West Denpasar, Bali.

Take rendang for example. The world-famous dish is traditionally identifiable for its chunks of beef simmered in coconut milk and chili peppers. While there are other varieties of rendang, including jackfruit rendang, this dish is best known for using meat or poultry as the main ingredients.

Hari’s rendang range included jackfruit rendang, potato rendang and rendang jengkol (fruit of the dog rendang). Hari’s restaurant also serves jengkol cooked with a spicy chili sauce or jengkol podcast.

While jengkol is known for its bad smell, the rendang and the dog’s fruit podcast are popular restaurant menu items. Hari said rendang jengkol was especially popular among foreigners.

Smelly but Delicious: Despite its acquired smell, rendang jengkol (fruit of the rendang dog) is a prominent dish in Warung Padang Vegan, especially among foreigners.Smelly but Delicious: Despite its acquired smell, rendang jengkol (fruit of the rendang dog) is a prominent dish in Warung Padang Vegan, especially among foreigners. (JP / Courtesy of Warung Padang Vegan)

“There is this Frenchwoman who loves our rendang jengkol so much. Every time she shows up here and the dish is over, she gets bored, ”Hari said.

Every now and then, Warung Padang Vegan is visited by people oblivious to plant-based food – despite the large sign in front of the restaurant. Hari patiently explained to them the dishes they served.

“Every now and then I even have to spell it: no meat, no milk and no eggs,” he said.

A customer once wondered if the vegan version of Padang’s dishes could be as tasty as regular dishes. Hari simply told the customer that he could leave the restaurant without paying if he didn’t find the food delicious.

“He ended up emptying his plate – and paid,” said Hari, who used mushroom broth and coconut milk as the main ingredients for his dishes – among others.

When Hari decided to open a vegan restaurant in Padang, he received criticism from his parents and relatives in Minang. For them, eliminating meat and animal products from Padang’s food would make Hari restaurant less popular and, therefore, not be profitable.

Hari, who went vegan in 2016, said he didn’t open the for-profit restaurant. Instead, the restaurant became his way of helping others, including animals. He admitted that growing up in a Padang family made it difficult for him when he started being vegan.

“My parents asked me: why go vegan? Animals are created to be eaten, they said. But I said to myself: animals also need to live, ”he said.

He admitted that the residents of Padang’s criticism of him as a vegan went beyond his diet.

“They basically compared being vegan to believing in other religions [than Islam],” he said.

The experience prompted Hari to decorate his restaurant with symbols of all religions: Buddhism, Hindu, Christianity and others.

Every now and then, Hari would greet women wearing the hijab and ask them if they knew they were entering a vegan restaurant.

“They said, ‘Yes, we know.’ It shows that there are Muslims who go veg, ”he said.

Vegan style: Another kind of Padang: the menu at Warung Padang Vegan.Vegan style: Another kind of Padang: the menu at Warung Padang Vegan. (JP / Courtesy of Warung Padang Vegan)

Separately, Irene Umar, 36, who runs Loka Padang, a vegan restaurant in Padang, Jakarta, said the establishment has been criticized in particular by residents of Minang – telling them they are not being respectful.

“I invited them to sit down and have a taste for themselves,” Irene said via WhatsApp, adding that most of the time people who criticized Loka Padang ended up enjoying the food.

Officially open in 2019, Loka Padang is now available at Sudirman Park and Grand Indonesia in central Jakarta, as well as food delivery service apps.
While promoting herself as the Padang vegan restaurant, Irene said many of her customers are not vegans.

“They [simply] find [Padang vegan dishes] surprisingly delicious, light and guilt-free, ”said Irene.
Choices

“It’s blasphemy,” Tria Meirina Mulyasari, 35, a Jakarta-based office worker, said when asked for her opinion on Padang’s vegan cuisine. She recalled that her boss brought two boxes of vegan Nasi Padang after returning from opening a vegan restaurant in Padang. For Tria, this would be the

the first and last time she tasted Padang vegan food.

“There is a void in my esophagus after I eat them. A hole. Because I feel like I’m lying to myself, ”she laughed.

While admitting that there were traditionally plant-based Padang dishes, Tria still found regular Padang dishes to be superior to vegan dishes.

Erwin, 35, who works in Tangerang, Banten, became a vegetarian in 2002. He said he liked the herbal restaurants in Padang because most of the vegetarian restaurants he knew focused on Chinese cuisine. .

“I love Padang’s vegan food because I love curry and spicy food,” he said, adding that his decision to stop eating meat was purely spiritual and not necessarily for reasons. health.

Erwin himself believed that Nasi Padang (Minang-style rice with various side dishes) was too popular and that his vegan version would never replace it.

“Everyone has their own segment,” he said.

Popular: The vegan version of Loka Padang on Padang satay is one of their best dishes.  The restaurant refuses to use fake meat in its ingredients and only focuses on herbal options.Popular: The vegan version of Loka Padang on Padang satay is one of their best menu items. The restaurant refuses to use fake meat in its ingredients and only focuses on herbal options. (JP / Courtesy of Loka Padang)

Kate Walton, an Australian writer who lived in Indonesia from 2011 to 2019, said that although she is not vegan, she tries to eat plant-based foods as much as possible.

“I think Padang style vegan cuisine is phenomenal. There are so many vegan or vegetarian choices. For example, the word “rendang” actually refers to the style of cooking called ‘merandang’, rendang can therefore be prepared with jackfruit, mushrooms, eggplants, potatoes, cassava leaves and even fern tips, ”she said, noting the versatility of Padang’s cuisine.

At the end of the day, it’s all about choice.

Irene de Loka Padang admitted that it would be “too far away” to expect everyone to go vegan. For her, it’s enough that people can now consider vegan dishes as an option – just like when they choose Korean or Balinese restaurants.

“We respect everyone’s choices,” she said.

Tria agreed with Irene’s statement. While she wouldn’t put her mouth close to Padang’s vegan food, Tria didn’t care about Padang’s vegan restaurants and who chose to eat there.

“Vegan padang is OK, as long as I don’t have to eat it,” she said.


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