Last Updated: October 2, 2020
Most people I know are taken aback when they find out that my mother is vegetarian, and that I used to be vegetarian for five years. I don’t blame them, considering my idea of a good meal is a gloriously messy burger or a juicy steak.
There’s this misconception that vegetarian cuisine is bland, boring and just full of greens. I wouldn’t give up meat for the world now, but that notion is just plain wrong.
In particular, people find it hard to believe that you can get Asian flavours like Indonesian or Malay food in vegetarian food. Luckily, I chanced upon Warung Ijo—and I knew I just had to share this gem with everyone, vegetarians and meat lovers alike.
Located along Beach Road, this vegetarian Indonesian restaurant has been around since July 2019. With the goal of changing our perspective of vegetarian food, Warung Ijo is quite possibly the first Indonesian eatery in Singapore that’s meatless.
I stepped into the restaurant, grateful for the respite from a scorching weekday afternoon. Whimsically-designed, with swing seats and even a bicycle frame as wall decoration, I immediately felt at home in the space.
To quench my thirst and cool down from the heat, I tried the Avocado Smoothie With Chocolate (S$5.90). Made in-house, this creamy, nutty drink was surprisingly light and refreshing. The swirls of chocolate added some sweetness, though it wasn’t overwhelmingly so.
Drink in hand, I proceeded to try the dishes. Quick and fuss-free, the Rendang Fried Rice (S$9.90) is a great choice if you’ve popped in for a short lunch break.
The “meat” in this dish has been replaced by lion’s mane mushroom, which added so much texture and juicy, earthy flavour that I would actually prefer this to meat. The rendang wasn’t too spicy, which allowed me to fully appreciate the smoky, coconutty flavours.
I liked the fried egg too, with a spectacular oozing yolk. There’s just something so satisfying about breaking the yolk and watching it drip down the mound of fried rice. The rice held just the right amount of wok hei too, and I could hardly tell the difference between this and non-vegetarian varieties.
If you like your dishes spicy to the point of burning, ask for their homemade sambal. Served in a small unassuming portion, I didn’t think much of it initially—it wasn’t even the usually fiery red. But just a tiny bit had my tongue burning and I was breaking out in a sweat.
Those who are dining here with a group of friends, you can order a few of the following dishes to share.
The Sambal King (S$9.90) is a medley of eggplant, lady’s finger, petai and long beans, all generously coated with savoury, spicy sambal.
Perfect for getting your daily allotment of greens, in the tastiest way possible.
My favourite sharing dish had to be the Gulai Fish (S$15.90), an impressive platter of fried “fish’ swimming in tangy, spicy Indonesian curry. The “fish” is actually made from beancurd, which retains that soft, tender texture but also soaks up the curry much more easily than real fish.
I really liked the zesty, bright notes of the gulai, which complemented the rich spices and coconut milk pretty well. Make sure you get a bowl of rice to go along with this dish so that you can drizzle the curry over it.
Get the Ayam Penyet (S$12.90) to share as well. With lion’s mane mushroom taking the place of chicken, this dish had a decent bite and crispy outer layers.
It comes with housemade chilli, a bright, citrusy concoction that’s sharp on the tongue. Dip sparingly, unless you’re confident in your spice tolerance levels.
The Bergedil (S$2 per piece), unfortunately, didn’t pack as much flavour as I hoped. Usually, bergedil comes with a strong belacan (shrimp paste) flavour, which was lacking here.
That’s not to say that this vegetarian bergedil wasn’t tasty. This iteration was slightly sweeter, tasting clean, and fresh on the palate.
Still hungry? Go for the Lemper (S$5 for two pieces), one of Warung Ijo’s best-selling dishes. This signature Indonesian snack consists of homemade glutinous rice with seasoned vegetarian chicken, all wrapped up in banana leaves.
The hint of coconut fragrance in the rice is what really brought it together for me. Before I knew it, I had finished both pieces. No wonder it sells out really fast!
The Head Chef, Jack, let me in on a secret; I have to try the Chendol (S$5.90). It’s technically not on the menu, and everything is made from scratch, so there are limited quantities daily.
I dug in once the chendol landed on my table. They even make the gula melaka sauce in-house—which explains the ambrosial flavour profile of the sauce. Smoky, sweet and delightfully caramelly, this was addictive.
The green jelly noodles tasted a little different from those in your regular chendol—Jack explains that it’s made by hand, and they’re certainly softer and more fragrant.
After polishing off the food (and getting the rest to-go), I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed by Warung Ijo. I walked in expecting the usual vegetarian fare, but I’ve been won over by the effort that goes into making these meatless dishes.
If you have vegetarian friends, or if you’re going meatless, make your way down to Warung Ijo. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy such a delightful feast!
Expected Damage: S$20 per pax
Our Rating: 5 / 5
337 Beach Road, Singapore 199565
337 Beach Road, Singapore 199565