Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery Canteen – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Gastro Obscura

It’s not everywhere that you can enjoy a purely plant-based buffet followed by the communal recitation of the “Ceremony of Repentance of the Great Compassion with a Thousand Hands and a Thousand Eyes.” But at Dharma Realm, you can.

This century-old Buddhist temple, built in dedication to Guan Yin, the bodhisattva of compassion, offers a rare tranquility within the bustling confines of Kuala Lumpur. It was one of the first temples in the city to be built with brick and tile. Pass through the renovated majestic building through the main gates, and around the back is the communal area for eating. 

Every day, the lines appear in anticipation for the vast vegan buffet. Local workers, curious tourists, and thrifty adherents queue up to await a lush spread of affordable, healthy, guilt-free options. Offerings run the gamut of Malay classics, from wantan mee to taufu pok and faux char siew; throngs come on Fridays for the special lei chaor “thunder tea rice.” Most importantly, no white sugar, MSG, or preservatives are used in the cooking. Apparently, it’s as rewarding to consume as it is to serve: All the food workers at the temple are volunteers.

Perspiring shoulder to shoulder among strangers over delectable plates of nourishing food may not sound luxurious, but in the afternoon heat, a curious sense of community emerges. 

Diners are invited to partake in chanting after the meal, if the spirit so moves them.

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Dress modestly.

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