KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 20 — I’ve always jokingly referred to banana leaf rice as the “Indian chap fun” (economy rice). You start with a serving of rice, a selection of vegetables and then you heap on the proteins.
In keeping with tradition and culture, this meal is usually served on a clean, large banana leaf. On finishing your meal, you should fold the leaf inward to show gratitude or praise for the proprietor and cook(s).
Let’s not forget the fun way of eating, which is with your hands! Yes, if you wish to go authentic, use your fingertips to gather the rice and all from the leaf, shape them into a ball and shove it into your mouth.
Indian restaurants are aplenty at Brickfields, the Little India of Kuala Lumpur and they are easily accessible by public transport. However, there are other “hotspots” for good banana leaf rice within the Klang Valley — namely Lebuh Ampang area (Masjid Jamek LRT), Bangsar (Bank Rakyat-Bangsar), PJ and two popular ones in Taman Tun (MRT TTDI).
In Brickfields Vishal Food & Catering is an old timer that has amassed a loyal clientele over the years for consistent food and decent service.
Along the same row, Visalatchi’s Restoran or Sri Rajavel Chettinad are worthy alternatives.
Just opposite from Nu Sentral, established banana leaf restaurant SSR Curry House has moved from Anzgam Clubhouse to operate in Metro Kitchen Restaurant. Local patrons will be delighted to know that they can now enjoy their favourite banana leaf rice for lunch there.
A short distance away in Bangsar, banana leaf rice also reigns supreme among chic French cafes and bars. The go-to haunts are Nirwana Maju, Devi’s, Raj and recently, Bala’s Banana Leaf.
My pick? Bala’s.
I particularly appreciate the attentive service which is a notch above any other banana leaf restaurant in the Klang Valley. That and the fact that the team proudly shuns any use of food preservatives, MSG or artificial flavourings in their food. Food selection is extensive and are prepared reasonably well — rich and tasty with proteins and greens cooked appropriately.
Old timers Devi’s and Nirwana Maju are merely steps from each other on Jalan Telawi and each possesses specialties that their loyal customers would recommend in a heartbeat. For Devi’s, it is the crab curry while Nirwana’s fried bitter gourd and deep-fried squids are legendary.
Within KL, Lebuh Ampang boasts a few South Indian restaurants which serve wonderful Chettinad cuisine.
The Betel Leaf is slightly more upscale (matched by the prices) and is ideal for those seeking comfortable, air-conditioned dining space. The decor, tableware and plating of the dishes are visually pleasing, complementing the cultured vibe of the space.
Things are basic over at Sarimala Villas Chettinad Mess but the food is no less tasty. If you enjoy offal, don’t miss the goat stomach curry here!
Also in KL, there is Jaipur which is one of the best options this side of TTDI. The newer contender is Aunty Manju’s with her mutton marrow curry and fried chicken.
Macha & Co deserves a mention for innovating a much-loved classic by improving the setting and ambience in addition to extending the standard banana leaf meal hours. Now you can have it for breakfast right up to supper!
Banana leaf rice in a restaurant within a mall may seem “sterilised” but judging by the queues, it has turned out to be a brilliant idea. You can’t go wrong ordering the Varuval Fried Rice or the Dhal Fried Rice. Durian fans should give the Durian Paper Thosai a shot.
There are many other banana leaf rice outlets worth a visit in Petaling Jaya and names such as Sri Paandi, Kanna, Kavitha’s and Curry Leaf @ Damansara Utama and Acha Curry House come to mind. However, they are between 1km and 3km away from the nearest LRT stations.
1. Macha & Co
32-1 The Curve, Jalan PJU 5/16, Dataran Sunway, Kota Damansara Petaling Jaya, Malaysia.
LRT/MRT: Mutiara Damansara
Distance: 400 metres
Operating Hours: 8:30am – 11: 30pm
2. Vishal food & Catering /Visalatchi’s /Sri Rajavel Chettinad/SSR Curry House at Metro Kitchen Restaurant
LRT/MRT: KL Sentral/Tun Sambathan
Distance: 600 metres
Operating hours: 7:30am− 03:00pm (Vishal food & Catering /Visalatchi’s /Sri Rajavel Chettinad )
Operating hours: 11:30–3pm (SSR Curry House at Metro Kitchen Restaurant)
a) Vishal food & Catering /Visalatchi’s /Sri Rajavel Chettinad − Jalan Scott.
b) SSR Curry House at Metro Kitchen Restaurant
− Jalan Tun Sambathan
3. Restoran Jaipur Curry House/Aunty Manju’s
Both shops are on Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur.
Distance: 600 metres
Operating hours. 6am to 9.30pm (Restoran Jaipur) and 7am to midnight (Aunty Manju’s)
4. Bala’s Banana Leaf/Raj Banana Leaf/ Nirwana/Devis’
They are all located on Lorong Ara Kiri 1, Lucky Garden/ Jalan Telawi Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur.
LRT/MRT: Bank Rakyat-Bangsar
Distance: 1000 metres, or else take the Rapid KL bus T850.
Operating hours: 8am–midnight
5. Betel Leaf / Laskmi Villa/Sarimala Villas
Both places are on Lebuh Ampang.
LRT/MRT: Masjid Jamek
Distance: 600 metres
Operating hours: 11am-11pm