Brickfields is a foodie haven to tantalise your taste buds. These three little words “banana leaf rice” are enough to make stomachs growl, what more sitting down to this substantial, satisfying, “finger lickin’ good” meal. You see, it’s normally eaten by hand but some people, including the international crowd, prefer to use fork and spoon.
Brickfields, popularly called Little India of Kuala Lumpur, is one of the go-to places for yummilicious banana leaf rice meals, a South Indian way of cooking using coconut milk and a variety of aromatic spices including those with health-giving benefits.
White rice is served on a banana leaf with an assortment of vegetables, mouth-watering pickles, crunchy papadam and other condiments which are usually sour in taste, salty or hot and spicy. There’s a choice of gravy, which is vegetarian (dhal), fish or chicken curry, to be served on the rice. (I’ve been to eateries that serve banana leaf rice on plastic plates shaped like a banana leaf but that’s another story.)
The portion of rice is generous but big eaters can always ask for more (just alert the waiter to please “tambah nasi”).
Banana leaf rice is meant to be a traditional vegetarian meal. However, for seafood and meat lovers, there’s also the must-try banana leaf rice served with very well marinated pieces of deep fried fish, calamari, fish roe or chicken thigh. You can have all these delicious bad boys in one meal if you want.
Also available are rich, aromatic chicken and mutton curry, chicken and mutton masala, prawn and crab masala, as well as hot and spicy chicken and mutton varuval and chicken and mutton perratal. Yum!
Generous lashings of a variety of side dishes are served, too. These include diced or shredded veggies such as brinjals, cabbages, tomatoes, French beans, pumpkins and small bitter gourds (the deep fried version is really appetising). These dishes are called poriyal (fried/sautéed veggies) and kootu (veggies added with lentils).
In some restaurants, banana leaf rice meals come with the complimentary rassam in a stainless steel cup. This tangy, healthy soup is prepared using tamarind juice as its base to which tomatoes, chili, pepper, cumin and other spices are added.
One roadside stall I went to for banana leaf rice (served on a plate) not only treated its customers to rassam but the vermicelli payasam dessert too to round off a good meal.
More than 30 years ago when I was first introduced to banana leaf rice in Brickfields (the deep fried fish, fish roe and chicken thigh in that restaurant were really great as are now; it’s still around), a foodie friend informed me that, after the meal, fold the banana leaf inwards as a sign of satisfaction with the eatery’s meal.
Some restaurants serving banana leaf rice sell Indian sweetmeats like ladoo, kesari, halwa, ghee balls and many more. You can have also have roti canai, thosai, idli, puri, chapati and Malaysian staple nasi lemak for breakfast, plus the all-time favourite teh tarik and other beverages, before 11am before they get ready to serve the hungry lunch crowd.
Of course, Brickfields is well known for other good eats, too.
Finding a good but affordable home in this amazing neighbourhood is almost next to impossible. But thanks to MRCB, buyers will now have a final chance of getting a home here.
Image credits: letsgokualalumpur.com, venoth.blogspot.my, malaysia.my and timeout.com.
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