INDIAN FOOD IS NOT SO MUCH A NATIONAL CUISINE AS A MINI-CONTINENT OF CULINARY CREATIVITY, WITH A WIDE ARRAY OF DISHES REPRESENTING THE MANY DIFFERENT RACES/CULTURES/RELIGIONS WHICH COMPRISE A VASTER THAN VAST PENINSULA. India is a subcontinent in every sense of the word, and up to 20 major languages (at least) are spoken there. This diversity is reflected in the cooking, with huge variations in the taste, ingredients and style of Indian culinary expression. Much of this diversity can be cross-sectioned in Kuala Lumpur, making this one of the best places in the world to try Indian food (it even outperforms most parts of India in this respect!) For example, there are more Tamil restaurants than you can poke a stick at, and they serve a variation of food that you would never find in your local Indian restaurant at home. Basically, the Tamil's are a south Indian people who immigrated to Malaysia and Singapore en masse in the 19th century to work on the rubber estates. Thanks to them, the skyline of KL is enlivened by the devastatingly exotic, amazingly colorful, triangular Hindu temples of south India. Tamil bookstores abound, and in the Tamil cafes locals laugh their way through classic Tamil movies, made not in the studios of Bollywood (Bombay/Mumbai) but in Madras/Chennai. As in Singapore, public signs (such as at train stations) are written in Tamil as well as English and Bahasa Malay and Chinese. This is one multi-cultural city!
In a nutshell, Tamil cuisine is vegetarian, and the emphasis is on purity. Tamil cuisine has been described as perhaps the oldest vegetarian cuisine in the world. Some of the Tamil delicacies you might want to sample include dosa (one of my favorite snacks with potatoes and veg curry embedded in super-thin pancakes), idli and vada served with sambar and chutneys.
Here is a list (not exhaustive) of where you can find Tamil restaurants in the supermodern city of KL:
Annalakshmi: 46 Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, Ground Floor, Mid Valley Megamall. Phone: 03/2284 3799.
This is a vegetarian find for those seeking a healthy alternative. The South Indian cuisine features daal, vegetable curries, and pastries. There is an impressive non-meat menu to choose from, and Annalakshmi also offers a scrumptious buffet.
Lakshmi Villas: Lebuh Ampang, Little India.
Here is a review from EZTrip: "On the edge of Chinatown, this is the best south Indian cafe in KL. The ground floor serves various delicious dosais; the first floor specializes in banana-leaf curries (daun pisang), a bargain at around RM6 for two. Open Daily 7am to 7pm.
Madras New Woodlands Restaurant: 42A Sdn Bhd (1st floor), Jalan Telawi Lima, Bangsar Baru. Phone: 03/2825-8256.
Vegan-friendly, international and Indian dishes available at this restaurant, named after the capital of the Tamil homeland.
Mathai's Banana Leaf Lunch: New Lay Sin Coffee Shop, Jalan Tun Sambanthan. Phone: 016/371 9894.
Brickfields is a quaint area of Kuala Lumpur, and I particularly like its colorful Tamil temples. The place also rocks in the food department. One particularly recommended institution is the Mathai's Banana Leaf Lunch stall, located in New Lay Sin coffeeshop. Said to serve the best fried ikan tenggiri in KL, the stall also dishes out mutton curries, other spicy fish dishes, and all the usual south Indian delicacies -- all served south Indian style on a big banana leaf. Expect to pay less than RM10.
Lotus Indian Cuisine: 15 Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya (03/7782 6868); 79 Lebuh Ampang (03/2026 2181).
Open for lunch and dinner, prices start from a reasonable RM6 per person. It is considered a good place to have Indian vegetarian and South Indian food.
Sri Nirwana Maju: Bangsar.
I found this review on the Malaysia Bloggers Forum: "The best nasi daun pisang I have ever tasted in KL must be in Sri Nirwana Maju in Bangsar.
"They give you rice, three types of vegetable dishes, curry, pappadam, dried, salted chilli, some pickled vegetables.
"Ask for their chickn dishes, and you can get a richer version of their standard chicken curry, or the delicious masala chicken or the simply crunchy fried variation.
"The standard curry is good enough, actually. The vegetables are all fried in batter, making each bite crunchy and delicious.
"I love the food. The only problem is with some of the servers.
"One guy asked me whether I wanted chicken or fish curry. I said chicken and he proceeded to dump huge gunks of FISH curry on my rice as he turns his head from side to side. What's up with that?
And when you order, make sure it is not complicated. For instance: when eating with another person, NEVER ask for the same side dish. Ask for different ones.
"Despite obvious communication difficulties, the food is excellent."
Vidya Curry House: Brickfields.
This place serves any number of authentic Indian dishes including chicken, mutton, vegetable and fish biryanis. You can also dine on chicken 65, chilly chicken, black pepper chicken, black pepper fish, cauliflower Manchurian, deep-fried chicken and fish, squid masala, prawn and egg sambal, omelette, fish head curry, chicken curry and mutton curry, and so on, and on.
Lunch and dinners range from about RM4.50 to RM8 per person.
o t h e r + i n d i a n
TAMIL FOOD IS JUST ONE EXPRESSION OF INDIAN CULINARY CREATIVITY, AND THERE ARE PLENTY OF ESTABLISHMENTS SERVING MORE GENERALIZED SUBCONTINENTAL FARE. Here is a list of some of the best, the most exclusive, the cheapest and the most interesting!
Bangles: 60A Jalan TAR. Phone: 03/298 3780,298 6770.
This 27 years old (in 1997) restaurant is believe to be the oldest North Indian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. The setting is cosy with plenty of indian art. Try the butter chicken and fish tikka masala.
Bharath's Curry House: 426 Level 4 Suria KLCC. Phone: 03/263 2631.
On the upscale tip in this upscale and futuristic building: waiters clad in classic uniforms and the background music is (naturally) Sultan India. The food is pretty classical as well: entrees include mutton-chop masala, cubed chicken marinated in spiced yogurt, and an array of desserts. Casual business attire suggested and reservations recommended.
Bilal Jalan Tal: Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, 50100. Phone: 03/2692 8948.
One reviewer has reviewed: "To have the best Indian biryani in KL, go to this unpretentious place in Little India. Try their heavenly biryani ayam (chicken biryani), daging, or kambing for a true flavour of Moghlai Indian food.
Bilal Restaurant: 33 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. phone: 03/238-0804.
Great prices, good food and a renowned selection of naan bread make this restaurant highly popular, especially among the backpacker crowd. The chicken and mutton curries are also recommended.
Bombay Palace: 388 Jln Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur. Phone: 03/245 4241,245 7220.
Reputed to be one of the best North Indian restaurant chains in the city (see the row of photos immediately below this review to get a visual impression of this restaurant's luxury and succulence!) Reported to be excellent are the sheared lamb leg, tandori, butter chicken and Indian ice cream with silver foil.
Hamid Shah Cafe: 30 Jalan Silang, Chinatown. Excellent, busy cafe for Malay and North Indian curries and roti. Very good value at around RM10-12 for two. Open 8am to 6pm.
Jewel in the Crown: 34 & 36 Jln Telawo 2, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur. Phone: 603-282-7205 / 7206.
This place used to be very expensive, but prices have dropped to a more comfortable level (around RM20 for a lunch or dinner buffet.) Word is their garlic nan bread is excellent when it is fresh and hot.
Kanna Curry House: 29 Jalan 17/45, Petaling Jaya. Phone: 03/758 4814.
According to one reviewer on the Web: "A popular restaurant for banana leaf rice, busy during lunch hour and find their home made fish ball good. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Price from RM6 per person."
Karuna's Vegetarian Restaurant: Grand Paradise Hotel, 62, Jalan Masjid India, Brickfields. Phone: 03/2273 0100.
Opened in 2003. According to the promotional material sent out at the time of opening: "Karuna's Vegetarian Restaurant specializing in authentic vegetarian cuisine, Karuna's have captivated the industry with its simple yet appealing concept in providing reasonably priced quality cuisine, impeccable service coupled with its attractive authentic decorations. Our chefs are trained to offer an irresistible array of vegetarian cuisine ranging from Chinese, Indian, Malay, Westren and even Thai. At Karuna's the menus comprise anything from Chiken Rice (sic) to Varuval, Pizza, Spaghetti and to the best mouthwatering vegetarian Satay.
"At present, Karuna's outlet is at Grand Paradise Hotel KL Sentral, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur."
Omar Khyyam: 5 Jalan Medan Tuanku. Phone: 03/291 1016.
Upscale Pakistani restaurant. Subcontinental dining at its best. Open daily 11am to 11pm.
Passage Thru' India: Jalan Delima 4, off Jalan Bukit Bintang. Phone: 03/245 0366.
This review comes from 10Best.com: "Handsomely decorated with artifacts, this restaurant offers old world charm. It maintains the tradition of serving food delicacies on a banana leaf, and its working tandoor oven greets you when you walk in the door. Entrees are spicy and flavorful. Specialties include mutton vindaloo and tandoori chicken. Casual business attire. Reservations suggested."
Hours are: lunch Sunday to Friday (12noon to 2:30pm), dinner Saturday to Friday (6:30pm-11pm).
Restaurant Sri Thanalaksi Vilas: opposite Standard Chartered Bank, Port Klang.
You have to go all the way out to Port Klang to get to this one, but this place is good value with prices from RM3 per person. This Indian coffee shop is popular with the local population. Lkwongfx said: "We find their crispy tosai and masala tosai excellent."
Restoran Santa: 7 Jalan Tun HS Lee, Little India end.
Nicknamed the "chapati house", this is a lively place, best at midday to mid-afternoon, with delicious chapatis and curries for around RM5.
Saffron: 5 Jalan Sri Hartamas. Phone: 03/651 1375.
Named after that most noble of Indian foodstuffs, saffron rice, this place has a pretty exotic spread of north Indian and Punjabi food. For example, the eggplant with garam masala is sweet yet tangy, and the vegetable pakoras served with mint yogurt dip will keep you wanting more. This is authentic North Indian and Punjabi food at its best. Business attire suggested and reservations recommended.
The Taj: 35 Jalan Burkit Bintang, Crown Princess Hotel, 50400. Phone: 03/248-9166.
An Indian band with folk dancers and a handsome decor set the exquisite setting at The Taj. The owners even provide a spice guide for guests who fear getting too exotic with their taste buds. Try the salmon tikka in herbs and spices or the flavorful tamater shorba (tomato soup) as an appetizer. A great value for the money. Casual business attire recommended. Reservations suggested.
Some other Indian eateries you can check out whilst in Kuala Lumpur, courtesy of AsiaTrade.com, and other sites:
Daz Corne: Jalan 2, Selayang Baru.
Note: Open only for breakfast and lunch. The Mogul House: 34 Cangkat Bukit, Bintang. Phone: 0/2142 1455. The Taj: The Crown Princess Hotel
City Square Centre, Jln Tun Razak. Phone: 03-2625522. The Taj: Federal Hotel
35 Jalan Bukit Bintang. Phone: 03/248 5333.