Malaysian Restaurant For Healthy Cauliflower Fried Rice
On the days when I crave fried rice, I don’t think of finding a healthy version. The shops I usually gravitate to are hawkers like Uncle Soon Fried Rice for their spicy and punchy sambal wok hei, or any Chinese restaurant nearby.
Kenneth Lai knew his dishes couldn’t compete with those affordable mom and pop stores in the Malaysian market, so he co-founded a brand around cauliflower rice to form Cauli & Rice.
His not-so-healthy beginnings
The sale of cauliflower rice was actually accidental for Kenneth, who first started selling fried chickens from a central kitchen for take-out and deliveries under the M Fried Chicken brand. “It’s probably the opposite of the idea of being healthy,” he realized.
The brand had some success selling fried chickens that were paired with good old fried rice to act as belly fillers. But soon they noticed an influx of customers who were just buying the fried rice without the chickens. Orders like these would come in quite often, making them realize that their fried rice had standards.
So, the team set out to improve their fried rice with Malaysian flavors in mind. Kenneth also asked his co-founders, “How are we different from the rest of the truly glorious hawker places where the sifus to serve fried rice in a fragrant wok?
“And then I remembered drinking cauliflower rice some time ago. It’s light in taste, low in calories, and almost looks like white rice when the cauliflower has been shredded.
The team immediately rejected his idea.
Having never tried the cauli rice themselves, they were even more skeptical about frying it. But they eventually compromised, deciding to put it on the menu as an option, while still having white rice on hand for their rice bowls.
Maybe Kenneth even had an “I told you so” moment for his team when they sold out every 2kg of cauli rice at lunchtime. It was only the first day of their market test in Subang Jaya 2 years ago, and 2 weeks later they were shredding 10 kg of cauliflower rice per day.
“We were humbly surprised by its acceptance, so we started to focus from M Fried Chicken towards selling cauliflower rice for Cauli & Rice,” Kenneth told Vulcan Post.
Bowls cooked to order
Fresh cauliflowers are delivered to Cauli & Rice’s kitchens where they are rinsed and dried to prevent additional moisture build-up, as cauliflowers have a high water content. The vegetable is then shredded with the restaurant’s custom machines to produce cauliflower rice in sizes that mimic white rice. It will then be stored in a refrigerator inside containers to be fried to order. This process is usually done on a daily or 2 day basis.
Assembling a bowl of rice at Cauli & Rice is similar to salad bars and poke bowl shops. Customers can choose their preferred type of rice and vegetables as well as raw and cooked foods to build their bowls.
However, with Cauli & Rice, all ingredients are cooked to order to reduce waste. Raw ingredients that don’t run out at the end of the day are simply packaged, refrigerated and used for the next day.
1 standard serving contains 350g of cauliflower rice, and its founders also had to make sure that the cauliflower rice was well seasoned with Malaysian-inspired flavors, as it can be quite tasteless without.
“The flavor of cauli rice is quite bland and light on its own, which is also why it is suitable as an alternative to normal rice where it can complement the flavors of other dishes or ingredients without overwhelming them,” Kenneth said.
“We have our homemade soy sauce concoction that we cook ourselves to enhance the flavor and give it a little salinity to the mild, neutral flavor of cauli rice.”
The top 3 sellers in the store are their Belacan Caulirice, Garlic Caulirice, and Tom Yam Caulirice, priced between RM11.90 and RM13.90 each. In honor of Malaysian love for curry, they also launched their Curry Caulirice (RM12.40) in April this year.
Do not target the Keto segment
My first guess from the company was that it was probably aimed at customers with a low-carb or ketogenic diet, as cauli rice tends to be a favorable alternative for that.
Not to mention, the ratio of customers ordering cauli rice to bowls of white rice is 75:25 respectively, according to Kenneth.
When asked about the dietary preferences of his customers, Kenneth said, “With our experience speaking to customers, I would say that a majority, like 80-90% of the people who order our cauli rice are health conscious people, who usually put more effort into their well-being.
Taking into account the soy sauce used in the rice, he added that the dishes are not actually 100% keto. Indeed, he believes the ketogenic customer segment may be too niche in the country and does not yet have enough data to justify its economy.
Therefore, Cauli & Rice is targeting the Malaysian mass market that just wants a quick and healthy dish to pack and take out, which is also why they are located in areas with heavy foot traffic.
It’s a lot of cauli
Since its debut in 2019, Cauli & Rice now has 3 outlets located in Subang, Damansara Utama (DU), and recently Sri Hartamas, all of which are densely populated residential and work areas.
Every outlet today remains a take-out and delivery kitchen without food courts – a business model they used even before the pandemic. Despite this, they were selling around 6-10 kg of cauli rice per day, with a significant drop to 3-5 kg per day during MCO 1.0.
“There was a post-MCO 1.0 period where we were doing almost 35kg per day for 2 outlets after the DU branch opened in May 2020. So we were shredding around 1 ton of cauliflower in a month. Kenneth explained. Translating this into bowls, they were selling around 100 servings of rice a day.
With the promising reception they have seen over the years, the Cauli & Rice team are hoping to eventually open a retail outlet that hosts dinner parties to establish a physical presence.
- You can read more about Cauli & Rice here.
- You can read more about other Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: Kenneth Lai, Co-Founder of Cauli & Rice
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