KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — For close to 40 years, Chanai & Chaya has been serving appam, thosai and roti canai in the TTDI wet market.

When Devayani Govindan Nair opened it in 1985, it was one of the first stalls to serve food in the market.

Today, it sits amidst a row of stalls on the second floor, all selling food and frequented mostly by office workers and local residents.

To make my way there from the market’s main entrance on Jalan Wan Kadir 2, I headed up the stairs on the opposite end and turned left at the top.

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These days, Vijay, 41, runs the business. As a kid, he started helping out while his grandmother (Devayani), and later on, his mother ran the stall.

Newspaper clippings of Vijay’s grandmother, Devayani Govindan Nair, who opened the stall back in 1985.
Newspaper clippings of Vijay’s grandmother, Devayani Govindan Nair, who opened the stall back in 1985.

"I came on some weekdays, after school and most weekends too,” he says. Pointing to the quiet woman making appams, he adds: "This is Ida; she’s been with us for 24, maybe 25 years.”

Like most of the stalls in the market, Chanai & Chaya is open mainly for breakfast, and maybe an early lunch.

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When I arrived at about half past nine, most of the office crowd had cleared out. I got a plain thosai (RM3.50), one idli (RM1.80) and a sweet appam with brown sugar (RM4).

Like a canteen of sorts, self-service is the way to go here.

A plain 'thosai' and 'idli' with coconut chutney, 'dal' and 'sambal'.
A plain 'thosai' and 'idli' with coconut chutney, 'dal' and 'sambal'.

I watched as Vijay made my thosai in mere seconds — I never tire of watching circles of the fermented batter solidify and crisp up in a flash.

After that, it’s up to me to ladle on my choice of chutney, dal, chicken curry or sambal. "Today is red chilli and coconut chutney, but we also have green chilli as well as onion chutney on other days — we alternate,” Vijay told me.

The thosai was just how I liked it: a touch sour, light and airy all around and slightly crispy on the edges. The idli was similarly sour, but much closer to a fluffy cake in texture. Both went great with the coconut chutney, which is my favourite condiment.

As I sat with my thosai, I watched as a vendor from downstairs came to the stall. Decked out in wellies, she was clearly a regular and came to take away some vegetarian fried noodles.

A sweet 'appam' with brown sugar and coconut milk is a great way to end your meal.
A sweet 'appam' with brown sugar and coconut milk is a great way to end your meal.

Vijay later told me that they have a wider variety of offerings on weekends, including vegetarian nasi lemak and fried mee hoon.

I couldn’t refuse a sweet bite to end the meal, and the brown sugar appam was just the thing.

Paper-thin around the edges, pillowy soft with just the right amount of sugar sprinkled over the middle, it was a real treat with some coconut milk for added measure.

It had been a long couple of days leading up to this one, and yet, in that moment, nothing else mattered. Sweet, rich, creamy — it was the kind of soul-soothing nourishment that Chanai & Chaya has been serving for nearly four decades, and hopefully many more years to come.

Look for this sign on the second floor of the TTDI wet market.
Look for this sign on the second floor of the TTDI wet market.

Chanai & Chaya

TD 61 & 62, 2nd Floor, Pasar Besar TTDI, Jalan Wan Kadir 2, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 7am-1pm.

Facebook: @chanaiandchaya

Instagram: @chanaichaya

* This is an independent review where the writer paid for all the meals.

* Follow us on Instagram @eatdrinkmm for more food gems.