Banana leaf dining is a tradition brought to Malaysia by the Southern Indians, and one now deeply rooted in Malaysian like. Much akin to The British Sunday Roast, it seems Malaysian’s venture out for a spot of laid-back, elbow deep dining on a lazy Sunday morning. There is no better way to spend the day that to sit around a table with family and friends and enjoy an abundance of tasty dishes, all piled high atop a banana leaf plate. Here are some of KL’s most talked about banana leaf restaurants.
My first experience of eating banana leaf rice was here. It was an exciting experience; a myriad of gravies, crackers and papadums, condiments and side dishes all mounded in front of me in quick succession, after which I chose my fish and meat dishes from the fresh counters inside and my roti, made-to-order on their red-hot cooking tops. It was a mesmerising dance. Raju’s dish up a colourful and diverse meal. Condiments include spicy tomato salsa, crunchy stir-fried green beans and fresh cucumber salad. Their rice is fluffy and white, perfect for soaking up the rich sauces. Their potato croquettes are nicely spiced and satisfying enough, but it’s the fish that steals the spotlight here. I’m not entirely sure what types of fish we ate, however both were perfectly cooked; the first, a whole fish, with crispy edges and skin for nibbling; the second a piece of meaty fish, encrusted in spice for crunch and wonderfully moist and flaky beneath. The meat dishes also provide ample flavour. I enjoyed their chicken curry, spiked with lemongrass and finished with creamy coconut milk. The roti are pleasant enough; the onion-stuffed version being my preferred choice.
Raju Restaurant, 27 Jalan Chantek 5/13, Off Jalan Gasing, Petaling Jaya
2. Fierce Curry House
Fierce Curry House is fierce indeed. The restaurant is most famous for its briyanis, however, the banana leaf is not to be overlooked. As is many more modern mamak eateries, the banana leaf rice is served on a tin tray, rather than an actual leaf, although all the traditional components are present. Fierce’s selection of dishes are decidedly more Indian-tasting than other places I have been, paired with condiments such as a light and minty raita, sweet mango chutney and a thick lentil daal. The spice factor is definitely amplified here too; those greens may look harmless but they burst with fiery chillies. Go easy if you have a sensitive stomach! Mutton is a sure bet here; slow-cooked for ultimate tenderness and flavour. The hot honey-lemon tea is also one of the best in KL, although you may prefer a cooling lassi to ease your burning throat.
Fierce Curry House, 16 Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar Utama
3. Devi’s Corner
Devi’s Corner operate two branches in KL. Be sure to head to the Bangsar restaurant for banana leaf, which is served in their upstairs dining area, while downstairs is reserved to nasi kandar. At lunchtimes, tables are always packed, but service is fast and well-organised. Dining is an communal affair, with long tables spanning the width of the air-conditioned room. The basic banana leaf set here is extremely generous; both in the number of side dishes provided and the amount of each given. You can expect cucumber salad in yoghurt, deep-fried bitter gourd, spiced cauliflower, mango chutney and pumpkin puree, along with a liberal heap of rice. Papadums arrive by the bucket-load (quite literally); crunchy and paper thin, they are perfect for scooping up the tempting sauces. Devi’s crab curry is the talk of the town and a must order. The tender and juicy crab flesh is coated in a hot and richly spiced coconut gravy; a nice change to the usual meats and fish. Also worth trying are the Kerala fish curry with a tangy addition of fresh tomatoes and the fried chicken which is crispy on the outside and juicy in the middle.
Devi’s Corner, 69 Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru
4. Kanna Curry House
Last, but not least; Kanna Curry House, tucked away in residential Section 17. Despite the rather ugly fake banana leaves, dishes are authentic. The restaurant occupies a huge space and trays of fresh, marinating seafood greet customers at the entrance. Spicy aromas from the frying station fill the air. The banana leaf rice here comes with a trio of vegetable sides, papadums and a choice of three curries. Gravies typically include curry sauce, a lentil daal. Kanna Curry House are famed for their fried chicken, supposedly the best in town. Having not tried every fried chicken in town, I cannot attest to that, however, I will say that it was very satisfying. For a hot and hearty mix, top the chicken with their fiery chicken curry gravy and if the spice all gets too much, wash it all down with a fresh young coconut. The bawang goreng (deep-fried onions) are lip-smakingly good; crispy and spicy, yet sweet and juicy. They would make the ultimate beer snack, and do just fine as part of the banana leaf selection.
Kanna Curry House, 29 Jalan 17/45, Section 17, Petaling Jaya