Jan 12 2012
Although a well-established practice in many other southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, eateries run on charitable principles are rather thin on the ground in Kuala Lumpur. This is partly because the city has less desperately poor people than say Phnom Penh or Bangkok.
It is also down to cultural attitudes towards charity. Laos is 10th in the 2011 World Giving Index (out of 153 countries surveyed), despite being one of the poorest countries on the planet, while Malaysia is in 87th spot, a few places above its even richer neighbour, Singapore. According to the survey, just 37% of Malaysians donate to a charity every year.
The vast majority of what charity there is in Malaysia is faith-based, such as the soup kitchen run by Kechara, a local Buddhist foundation. You can help support their good works by eating at their stylish vegetarian restaurant, Kechara Oasis, or by buying stuff at one of their shops.
Much of the food at Kechara Oasis is Chinese, but other Asian cuisines are also represented, such as Tibetan and Nepalese. The food is beautifully presented, and tastes as good as it looks. Stand-out dishes include xiang chun steamed tofu (bean curd with a tasty mock chicken sauce on top) and the sweet and sour deep fried oyster mushrooms. Prices are reasonable for the quality of the food.
Another place run by Buddhists is the vegetarian canteen at the rear of the Guan Yin Buddhist monastery and temple, near Suria KLCC. As well as the buffet section, with 20-30 choices, other stalls offer noodle dishes to order, fresh fruit and dim sum. The food is not only very tasty, but incredibly cheap. The canteen is open between 11:00 and 13:30 on weekdays.
Last but not least, Annalakshmi offers a different dining experience to anywhere else in KL — the only place that allows you to choose how much you want to pay for your food. Apart from breads, which are ordered from the waiting staff, the rest of the (Indian vegetarian) fare is served as a buffet. As many of the dishes, which change every day, are cooked to old family recipes, Annalakshmi is a genuine culinary voyage of discovery.
Whatever you choose to pay (15-20 ringgit a head is reasonable), the money goes to a good cause, helping to fund the Temple of Fine Arts, which supports traditional Indian performing arts.
POSTSCRIPT: As Devy remarks below, Annalakshmi has introduced a charge of 12 ringgit for unlimited buffet, and 3-4 ringgit for drinks.
Unit 19-LG1, Level B1, Block D, Jaya One, 72 Jalan Universiti, Section 13, Petaling Jaya
T: (03) 7968 1818
Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery Canteen
Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur City Centre
Temple of Fine Arts, 114-116 Jalan Berhala, Brickfields
T: (03) 2272 3799
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