In good healthy company

Head to this Bangsar café for healthy vegetarian meals that are flavourful and refreshing, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup

 HOW do you make a “healthy” nasi lemak?

At The Good Co, it means using millet grain instead of rice and virgin coconut oil instead of coconut milk. And in place of deep fried peanuts, the cafe uses the roasted version.

It’s also vegetarian, so fried anchovies are replaced with tempeh, while the sambal is rich with savoury notes of lemongrass instead of the usual array of animal protein.

But in terms of spiciness, it still packs a punch. Cucumber and salad leaves fill half the container. As substitutes go, it’s not bad.

I tried Scallop dee-kap, another of its salads. Seeing how it’s a play on the phrase Sawadeekap, it’s obviously Thai-inspired. That said, it’s not a take on a specific recipe, but it has all the components of a Thai dish.

The dressing is made with passionfruit and a good dose of chilli, while the scallop is actually eryngii or king oyster mushroom.

It also has mango, vermicelli noodles and a mix of salad leaves. I poured in the dressing, shook the container and the result was a sweet, sour and spicy salad in a jiff.

 MEATLESS MEALS

The Good Co. is the brainchild of Miss Malaysia Universe 2008 Levy Li. Six years ago, her father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and she was with him during his treatment in the United States. Her father did not survive, and his passing changed Levi’s life in more ways than one.

“Going through that experience, talking to doctors and reading up on the issue, I decided to become a vegetarian,” she says. “I’m not against eating meat if it is chicken that you rear yourself but a lot of meat nowadays are pumped with chemicals. Here, we also go for organic and locally grown vegetables whenever possible.”

Levy founded the business with her brother Gavin, and it’s become a family affair with Gavin’s wife also helping out.

“It’s very important that we talk to the customers, explain why we do things a certain way and get their feedback,” says Levy. “And we keep the price to less than RM20 for most items because we want it to be accessible to more people.”

Gavin adds: “Five years ago, the market was not ready for healthy vegetarian restaurants. The food was very bland and people had a misconception about what it is about. But what Levy is doing here with the menu is different from all that.”

 HOT STUFF

When The Good Co. started, virtually every meal is served cold. Cooking vegetables at a high temperature destroys the nutrients, says Levy. But Malaysians aren’t keen on cold foods, so they’ve added new menu items to meet demand.

This includes hot oatmeal and soups. I tried the tomato and bell pepper soup and it was lovely with the sweet, natural flavours of the vegetables.

Sliced olives in the soup help give it a briny bite. I took the leftovers home and put it in the fridge, and it was equally flavoursome when eaten cold.

But for something really cold, there’s the smoothie bowl. There are two options: Acai Bowl with Acai, dragon fruit and bananas, and Golden Bowl with mangoes and bananas. I had the latter, and it was very refreshing with a natural sweetness from the fruits. The garnish of blueberries, goji berries and pepita seeds are a thoughtful addition to the mix.

The cafe also does sandwiches, made with artisan breads that don’t use sugar in the recipe. The daging tarik sandwich is their take on the pulled meat sandwich, which instead of beef or pork, is made with shredded mushrooms.

Homemade BBQ sauce keeps it moist and savoury enough to satisfy meat lovers.

 TAKE IT AWAY

Since The Good Co does a lot of takeaway, Levy gave me several items for my colleagues to try. I gave the Iron Man juice to Entertainment writer Loong Wai Ting, and her verdict?“If you like beetroot, you’ll love this. It has a very earthy flavour from the beetroot, and it’s a bit sour from the lemon juice. Also, the goji berries add a good bite to the juice.”

Another colleague, Sulyn Chong, tried the Energy Jar with mashed bananas, rolled oats, chia seeds and carob peanut spread. “I don’t fancy mashed food but this is a good blend of flavours and texture, and I enjoyed the peanut chunks,” she says.

Meanwhile, I had the Japanese Jar which was the cafe’s December Special, made with matcha overnight rolled oats and adzuki beans. Like Sulyn, I’m not a fan of the recipe’s soft mushy texture, but I agree with her at how well the different elements come together.