Changing the eating habits of Malaysians through healthy honest food, The Good Co Café has taken mindful eating to the next level with a creative approach, as Syaza Diyana discovers
Malaysia is a country that prides itself on its variety of cuisines from different cultural backgrounds. We Malaysians love indulging in typical traditional food such as Nasi Lemak, Char Kway Teow, Dim Sum, Roti Telur, Banana Leaf Rice, etc. It’s safe to say that we really know how to enjoy our food.
The culinary aspect of our diverse country is constantly growing and there’s no sign of it stopping, which is certainly great news. One thing that’s evident though, is that the question of health is quite often forgotten. Making wise choices when it comes to food, unfortunately isn’t always our main priority.
Granted, with influential fitness gurus and health conscious celebrities, exposure to healthy living ideas via social media, and the constant fight for awareness on prevalent diseases, more Malaysians are gradually leaning towards eating healthy.
Sustaining a healthy-eating lifestyle however, is not as simple as it may sound. While planning and serving nutritious home-cooked meals may be feasible for some, doing so seven days a week on top of balancing a hectic schedule can be quite impossible for others. It is often much easier to grab a pizza on the way home or stop at the nearest mamak for Roti Canai and Teh Tarik. Restaurants which focus on healthy food options are also not easy to find and are often hard on one’s purse.
Six years ago, something sparked in Levy Li – founder of The Good Co. Café (TGC) – when she discovered her father had fourth stage colon cancer. Li said that cancer did not run in her family’s history and this made her ponder on what the cause could be.
Through research on the disease, she found that one of the culprits was the food that we consume on a daily basis. After this hard hitting wake-up call, Li realised she needed to make a change – starting with herself. She went on a plant-based diet. At that time, Li recalls that the market for those seeking to eat healthily wasn’t as mature as it is today, and she had to mostly rely on her own cooking.
Having personally experienced the shortage of healthy food establishments, Li noted that Malaysians needed more eateries in convenient locations where they could eat affordable meals. With this in mind, Li introduced TGC to the community.
Given that we often never have the time to sit down to a proper meal, TGC has levelled up to accommodate those who are constantly on the go. Their Salad Pots and A Jar of Goodness are all packaged with practicality in mind for those who have no time to dine-in. The Energy Jar – meticulously layered with TGC’s very own smooth carob peanut spread, overnight rolled oats granolas and yoghurt chia seeds – is perfect to curb hunger pangs and provide energy early in the morning while you rush to start the day.
Interestingly enough, TGC has cleverly approached healthy eating by labelling themselves as ‘clean’ and ‘healthy’ rather than ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’. Although they do not serve meat, you’d be surprised by the alternatives provided. I highly recommend the ‘Daging Tarik’ sandwich, assembled with finger-licking organic herb bread, mild cheddar, juicy tomatos, Batavia lettuce, and pulled ‘meat’ made from shredded oyster mushrooms with homemade BBQ sauce. It actually took me a while to fully grasp the fact that I wasn’t really eating any meat.
TGC makes healthy food fun by playing with names and textures like the Scallop-dee-kap salad which is filled with fresh mixed leaves, in season sweet cubed mangoes, basil alfalfa, halved cherry tomatoes, glass noodles, grilled ginger lemongrass ‘scallops’ and, a lovely sweet and sour homemade passion fruit Thai dressing. For those who think salads aren’t enough to stand as a meal, try this and be proven wrong.
As an avid traveller, Li gets her for TGC’s menu from the food in countries such as Japan, Korea, Thailand, the US, and of course Malaysia.
With Malaysia in her heart, Li created the Healthy Organic Nasi Lemak which has the usual elements of the traditional dish but offers a healthy twist. The coconut rice is replaced with aromatic virgin coconut oil millet, ground peanuts are roasted instead of fried, mixed leaves, and cherry tomatoes as well as a fragrant healthy sambal are added into the mix, and balanced with free-range eggs and tempeh as sources of protein.
I also tried out their beautiful Ocean Bowl with its vibrant blue originating from butterfly pea flowers. Eye-catching, fresh to the palate and nutritious, the bowl of goodness is blended smoothly with bananas, honeydew, and lychee. To bring everything together, it’s topped with sliced kiwi, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, desiccated coconut and granola.
Passionate about what she does, Li shares that one of her main goals is to make TGC Malaysia’s healthiest and most affordable fast-food chain with express kiosks nationwide. TGC is already working on the accessibility to healthy food by providing delivery services and collaborating with fitness centres.
Li adds thatcreating longer shelf life products and teaching people to cook healthier for themselves are also part of her goals.
TGC’s aim of providing tasty yet healthy food options has definitely hit the bull’s eye. As their slogan goes, nothing beats honest food.