Dharma Realm Guan Yin Monastery Vegetarian Canteen

30 July 2018

For a wholesome vegetarian meal at lunchtime, Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery’s canteen serves a variety of dishes, served by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers.

Hidden along Jalan Ampang amongst Kuala Lumpur’s towering buildings and skyscrapers stands Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery – a Buddhist temple with a rich history that dates back to the 1880s.

​A spiritual refuge that promotes the orthodox teachings of Buddha, over the years the temple has also become known for its affordable vegetarian fast food canteen.

The canteen initially opened as a modest addition to the temple in 1994, in the hopes that more people would be encouraged to adopt a vegetarian diet and understand the teachings of Buddha.

After the temple’s extensive renovations, the canteen reopened in 2006 with a space that can seat hundreds at lunchtime.

“We hope people can see that it’s not so difficult to be vegetarian,” says the temple master, who wishes to be unnamed. She understands that not everyone may want to be vegetarian, but hopes that people will try limiting the amount of meat they consume.

Only open for lunch on weekdays, by noon the canteen bustles with people from all walks of life: office workers, tourists, retired individuals, and residents from nearby often visit the canteen for a quick and wholesome meal.

The vegetables and fruits come from the temple’s farms in Kalumpang and Kuala Kubu Bharu. Grown organically, the vegetables are harvested and brought to the canteen, and are only supplemented from other sources if the harvest is not enough.

Run by a team of dedicated staff and volunteers, some individuals have been serving the temple for over a decade.

“I’m doing this for myself,” says one long-term volunteer, adding that helping out brings her inner peace, and she enjoys spending her time with the tight-knit community.

Mixed rice, herbal drinks, and fruits are staples on the canteen’s menu, but some dishes and snacks are exclusive to certain days. The popular glutinous rice balls are made on Wednesdays and Fridays, curry mee is served on Tuesdays, and lei cha (green tea rice or noodles) and Penang Hokkien mee on Fridays.

The temple’s assortment of handmade buns and glutinous rice packets – prepared by the temple masters and volunteers – are only offered during the first and 15th day of the Chinese lunar calendar. Nasi Lemak is also only available then.

During these auspicious days, the canteen opens earlier for breakfast and offers free meals to help its disciplines – and the general public – keep a clean diet on those days.

“We don’t just want to encourage people to have a vegetarian diet, but a healthy diet and a sustainable lifestyle too,” says the temple master. The temple actively does this through example: the use of table salt and white sugar is replaced with sea salt and brown sugar, MSG is not used, and food waste is composted here.

Over time, the collected food scraps naturally transform into enzymes, and are used as fertilisers on the temple’s farms and for cleaning the temple grounds. The canteen tries to produce as little waste as possible and reminds customers to bring their own lunchboxes when taking away.

At the end of the day, goodness is what the temple hopes to spread through its canteen, and everyone is invited to share a meal at the table.

Address: Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery Vegetarian Fast Food Canteen, 161 Jalan Ampang, 50450 Kuala Lumpur (03 2164 8055). Open Mon-Fri, 11am-2.30pm. First and 15th day of Chinese New Year, 7.30am-2.30pm. Closed on weekends and public holidays.

Text and photos by Stacy Liu


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