Banana leaf curry is an Indian thali, done with a distinctive Malaysian twist, and it’s something visitors really should try at some stage during a trip to Kuala Lumpur. I decided to check out a few places in order to find the best spot to indulge in the delicious meal.
Popularity may not be everything when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat, but when a restaurant is bursting at the seams with customers, day and night, it must be doing something right. One such place is Sri Nirwana Maju, an Indian eatery in the Bangsar village area. Sri Nirwana Maju offers a large selection of north and south Indian dishes, but it’s fair to say, most people eat there for one reason, and one reason alone: one of the best banana leaf curries in Kuala Lumpur.
Although no fixed rules exist, a banana leaf curry generally consists of at least three vegetable dishes, as well as pickles, chutneys, and other assorted goodies, served with a big mound of rice, on top of a banana leaf. A choice of curry sauce (fish, meat or vegetarian dahl), which is poured over the rice, and a sour soup called rasam, round off the basic offering. All that food normally costs about 5-6 ringgit.
It’s the quality of this basic offering at Sri Nirwana Maju that explains much of its popularity. But if you choose to eat like a Malaysian, and add extra dishes to what is already an impressive amount of food, then you won’t be disappointed either.
The perfect drink to wash it all down is one of their excellent lassis (yoghurt drinks).
Although generally a lunchtime thing, Sri Nirwana Maju serves up banana leaf from just before midday until the early hours of the morning.
Nagasari Curry House serves up a mean offering in the heart of Bukit Bintang, so it’s at a more convenient location for most travellers to KL. An added bonus is that unlike everywhere else I’ve eaten banana leaf, Nagasari sells beer. The bad news is that banana leaf is only served from noon until 15:00, when the place can get seriously mobbed by office workers.
The logical first port of call in KL for banana leaf should really be Brickfields, given the number of Indian eateries in the area, as well as its convenient location right next to KL Sentral. But quality can be a bit hit and miss. Good banana leaf should be cheap, tasty and filling; several of the places I tried in Brickfields did well on the cheap and filling stakes, but not so well on the taste front.
Just when I was giving up on finding a serious rival to Sri Nirwana Maju, I enjoyed the best banana leaf I’ve ever had in KL, at Devi’s Corner in Bangsar village. The service was a bit disorganised, but the food was well worth the occasional mix-up. The pickles and chutneys were particularly impressive, as was the choice of eight different curry sauces (four vegetarian, four non-vegetarian).
It took just one meal, but Devi’s has shot to the top of my KL banana leaf rankings.
Restoran Sri Nirwana Maju
43 Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 2287 8445
Restoran Nagasari Curry House
Jalan Nagasari, Kuala Lumpur
Upstairs, 14 Jalan Telawi 4, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur.
T: (03) 2282 7591
By Pat Fama
Last updated on 26th February, 2015.