Probably nothing can make you grin, burp, and rub your belly with utter satisfaction like banana leaf rice — whether it’s served on a banana leaf or not. (The leaf is just a vessel; the food would still taste equally good without it.)
Here are K.L.’s 10 must-eat banana leaf rice. Remember, upon finishing your plate, fold the leaf inward to show gratitude or praise for the proprietor and chef(s)! (The restaurants below are arranged in no particular order. Some of the establishments are not halal.)
1. Nagasari Curry House @ Bukit Bintang
Although the food is a wee pricier than the rest, it’s always overflowing with people. Have its banana leaf rice, and drown it with curries, especially the restaurants’ veggie curries, which are some of the best in town. Unfortunately, these are available only for lunch, so be there early before the place gets mobbed by office workers. (Psst. They sell beer, too.)
2. Sri Nirwana Maju @ Bangsar
An unexpected find in an upscale area of European-style bakeries and fine-dining restaurants. As with most popular banana leaf rice establishments, it’s often crowded. Their service quality stays consistently impressive over the years, and their banana leaf rice — with all the lip-smacking sides and condiments — continues to delight with bold flavor and contrasting textures! Don’t miss its fried bitter gourd and poppadoms
! Also expect long lines at peak hours.
3. Fierce Curry House @ Bangsar
Clean, spacious, air-conditioned. It’s total comfort to dine in. Its banana leaf rice is comparable to other famed ones even though it’s served on banana-leaf-lined metal plates. And the price is reasonable (given its location)! If you really can’t do without eating from a large sheet of banana leaf, simply request it.
4. Jaipur Curry House @ Taman Tun Dr. Ismail
An underrated place for good banana leaf rice that won’t break your wallet. Choose to have either steamed or parboiled white basmati or biryani. The variety of dishes is interestingly unusual, too, and sells out quite fast. Must try its crab curry, which is thick, rich, and heady with the spices. Additionally, it comes with complementary rasam
(a spicy, sourish appetizer soup) and payasam
(an Indian rice pudding dessert). Get here before lunch hours to avoid the crowd!
5. Annalakshmi @ Brickfields
Within the Temple of Fine Arts (where classic Indian music and dances are taught) is this Indian vegetarian restaurant. It opens every day except Mondays, and its banana-leaf-rice-style buffet is available for lunch daily as well as for dinner Friday through Sunday. It’s a sumptuous spread of 10 to 16 dishes, including a dessert section. Popular ones include gobi matar
(cauliflower and pea curry), masoor dal
(red lentil stew), jeera pulao
(cumin rice), bindi masala
(okra masala), as well as their homemade chapati and poppadoms
. The price is reasonable, and the money collected will be for charity! (For your information, the workers here are volunteers from all walks of life — how cool.)
6. Devi’s Corner @ Bangsar
Located near the Bangsar Village, this eatery operates 24 hours a day and closes only on Deepavali. It’s swarmed with people breakfast through supper times! The menu is varied, offering Mamak staples such as roti bakar
, nasi lemak
, and its famed banana-leaf rice, which is served only on the fully air-conditioned upper floor. Expect to be seated beside strangers, since its table arrangement tends to make things communal.
7. Kedai Makanan Raju @ P.J. Old Town (Jalan Gasing)
Tucked in a corner lot at Jalan Chantek, here you'll find authentic south Indian cuisine. Its service may not score well, but its food variety makes up for that. And all foods are MSG free. Despite charging a wee more than its competitors, it's still going strong. It has these words displayed proudly at the cashier: "We have no quarrel with competitors who charge less, after all, they know what their food is worth.”
8. Restoran Kanna Curry House @ P.J. Section 17
Its sign reads that they serve the finest banana leaf rice in the Klang Valley. Now, the funny thing is, even though there's no real banana leaf rice used for serving, this place is still packed with people. Needless to say, its service is fast and waiters are attentive.
9. Sri Ganapathi Mess @ P.J. Old Town
Once a cozy residential spot, it's converted into a restaurant that serves reasonably priced banana leaf rice and other dishes. It's at the corner lot of a row of single-story houses, just opposite Sekolah Kebangsaan P.J. on Jalan 1/10. At lunch hours, parking may be an issue; it's best to park further away to avoid the congestion. The service is fast, but a quirk is there's no printed menu. A waiter will brief you through the day's menu instead. Must try its Crab Rasam.
10. Restoran Sri Suria Curry House @ P.J. SS3 (Kelana Jaya)
Established just April last year. It's not far from the Sri Shakti Eswary Temple. It's spacious and clean, and serves south Indian food with a Malaysian twist to it. Besides having its signature banana leaf rice, you must order its fried chicken, which is beautifully spiced as well as coated in a secret batter and fried to give you an extra crunch.