Sala’s new vegan Burger Belacan tastes and smells like the real thing

by HAZATUL SYIMA HARON / Pics HAZATUL SYIMA HARON & SALA

BEING healthy has been a goal of mine for the past several years, thus the increased intake in fresh and cooked vegetables, among others. 

When the invite came for the launch of Sala’s new Burger Belacan, I was happy to accept and excited to review the latest offering from the vegan restaurant chain. 

When I stepped into the outlet in Sri Hartamas, there was no mistaking the smell of belacan! This piqued my interest as I’ve always thought belacan cannot be made without using shrimp. Well, I was wrong. 

According to Ser Vegano Sdn Bhd founder and director Fauzi Hussein, he originally found the vegan substitute sold by Chinese sellers at the markets. Although it tastes about the same, but it is less pungent and strong. Therefore, one would have to use a lot to substitute for the real thing.

Anyhow, back to the burger.  

Sala is introducing its spiciest burger ever for a limited time only, in conjunction with our 65th Merdeka celebration this year. The Sala Burger Belacan is available at all its outlets in the Klang Valley, except Sala Avenue K.

The burger honours one of the most unique flavour that every Malaysian knows, the belacan. Adventurous foodies certainly won’t be put off by the milder taste and smell of the sambal belacan used, besides the different textures that the burger offers — from the crispiness of the fresh coral lettuce, the crunchiness of the deep fried tortilla chips to the lightly toasted soft bun.

It is completely meatless as the burger uses patty provided by the alternative meat experts at Phuture Foods, but still tasty. The patty is juicy and rich in flavour as it is specially cooked in an air fryer to ensure that the juices are locked in. As one very satisfied photographer at the launch puts it: “I wouldn’t have known it was meatless unless you told me!”

Besides the burger, I also had a go at Sala’s Nasi Lemak Rendang Mushroom Lah. As a die-hard fan of our favourite national staple for breakfast, let me just say the Rendang Mushroom did not disappoint. 

I had initially taken just a bit of the nasi lemak after a former colleague recommended it, but ended up going for seconds due to its deliciousness. Let me just say, Sala won my tummy over and I’ll be back to try my fav Curry Laksa.

Sala founder Fauzi with the newly launched Burger Belacan. Also seen here are the Nasi Lemak Rendang Mushroom Lah, Bodhi Tacos and High Fibre Chick’n Ranch Wrap

At the launch, I had the opportunity to talk to Sala founder Fauzi on how the Latin-inspired, Tex-Mex, plant-based vegan restaurant came about.

Well, again it revolved around being healthy. Fauzi, who lived in the US for many years, started dabbling into veganism due to his extremely high cholesterol and reluctance to take the medication for it.

“When I came back (to Malaysia), Tex-Mex was not available… Veganism was still new around five years ago, so that’s how I ended up opening Sala’s first outlet in Sri Hartamas.”

He came up with the name Sala as it means living room in Spanish, which is how he wanted the outlet to feel like. A place where people can hang out, enjoy healthy food and be aware of environmental sustainability. Sala, he says, is also an acronym for “Salvar A Los Animales” in Spanish, which translates into Save the Animals.

Since then, Sala was acquired by Berjaya Food Bhd (BFood) in 2020 and has seen accelerated growth to its current seven locations in the Klang Valley. Fauzi remains a director at Ser Vergano and is in charge of research and development for Sala.

The key is balancing between the commercialism and reach that BFood brings with the idealism that Fauzi’s Sala stands for. He admits that it is a struggle but a worthwhile one. 

Going forward, there are plans to expand the vegan restaurant chain further than the Klang Valley, but Fauzi reiterates that it would require a lot of planning to get the details right and to maintain the same quality standards as “the taste should be the same no matter which Sala outlet you go to”.