GEORGE TOWN, Oct 22 — N. Nandiini, 29, and her father, M. Naganatharsubramaniam, 58, have been running the Seelva Pure Vegetarian Cafe at the Batu Lanchang Food Court in Penang for the past seven years.
Every Wesak Day since setting up shop, they have provided free food to all at their stall and also distributed free meal packages at Datuk Keramat along the annual procession route. This year, the free food service was extended to twice a month.
“This year, we decided to extend this to the first and 15th of the Chinese lunar month, each month, because the Buddhists eat vegetarian meals on those days,” Nandiini told Malay Mail Online when met at her stall named after Lord Shiva, a Hindu deity.
The father and daughter are actually Hindus and don’t even celebrate the Buddhist festival. But they got into the act of providing the free food service when they were approached by a neighbouring stall owner at the food court shortly after starting their business at the Batu Lanchang Food Court.
Nandiini related that their neighbour who sells bags and sewing craft products had got together with other friends and started a freebie service every Wesak 11 years ago. Back then, the group gave out free mineral water and sweets to devotees who participated in the annual Wesak Day parade.
“We think what the group of friends is doing is a good thing, that’s why we agree to do this and extend it to twice a month this year.
“We sat down and discussed it and we agreed to do it because serving vegetarian food to people is good,” she said.
She demurred on disclosing the cost of the now twice monthly free meal service, only saying that it was sponsored by the group of 20 people in their 20s to 50s who are mostly Buddhists and who also preferred to remain anonymous.
One of the sponsors, who asked not to be named, said it is their way of giving back to the society.
“We don’t hope to get anything from this, this is just something that we feel could help some people who may not afford to eat or who may not have tried vegetarian food before this,” she said.
The group extended the sponsored food service to twice monthly from June, but Nandiini said not many people were aware of it then. Now, she says she and her father are kept busy on those days.
She said she serves about 200 people on regular days, while the number of patrons to her stall is slightly more than that on the first and 15th of the lunar month. She added that she has not really kept count as she will dish out the food until they run out of ingredients.
“We are open from 11.30am to 8pm on those days and all food ordered at our stall is in our regular menu and it is free.
“This is our way of encouraging more people to try vegetarian food and it is also for those who are contemplating to be vegetarian but don’t know where to start,” Nandiini said.
The stall serves purely vegetarian food and does not use garlic and onions which are also a no-no for some strict Hindu and Buddhist vegetarians.
“Other than some of our curries, some of our food is also vegan as we do not use eggs or dairy in the preparation of the food,” she said.
She added that they only use all natural ingredients for all their food and most are made from scratch.
“We don’t use preservatives or factory-processed vegetarian meat, we make all of it ourselves,” she said.
Among the wide array of dishes available at the stall are popular Penang fare like Hokkien mee, pasember, koay teow soup as well as popular Indian snacks like vadai, murtabak, thosai and not forgetting Malaysian favourites nasi lemak, nasi goreng, satay, roti canai. They even have burgers.
Seelva Pure Vegetarian Cafe
Batu Lanchang Food Court
Open: 1pm - 11pm (Thursdays - Tuesdays)