Monday, January 26, 2015

Going bananas over curry

Side vegetables change daily
There's nothing I love more for lunch than a meal of banana leaf curry. I do enjoy nasi kandar or Malay food, but there's something quite endearing and utterly delicious about this humble offering that's originally from India but probably totally Malaysianized.

It brings back memories for me of meeting my Dad at his office downtown when I was in my teens. He would bring me to his favorite banana leaf curry shop and we'd tuck in. I don't remember what we talked about (we weren't great conversationalists) but we did both make appreciative noises about the food.

If there's one thing that K.L. does better than say, Penang or Singapore, it's banana leaf curry. I've had it in Penang and my son, B, has Indian curry in Singapore quite often. B laments that the restaurants in Singapore sadly lack all the side dishes that makes a banana leaf curry meal so enticing. Penang restaurants also come up short in variety. What we both love, apart from the curries and dishes such as fried fish and curry crab, are the side dishes. Vegetables of the day, sambal, chutney, mint sauce and pappadum. And to make it all go down a little easier, some rasum, that sourish, saltish concoction of spices and herbs in a soupy drink.

A packed house every day
It was B who put me onto Acha Banana Leaf Restaurant in Petaling Garden. For years I had been going to Kavitha's which is on the same row, but he assured me that Acha was much better. I had been to the same location years ago, where the owner, an Indian fortune teller, would give you a lucky number along with your meal! But it looks like Acha has new owners, and by the looks of the packed restaurant, is doing really well.

Crispy fried bitter gourd.
In terms of dishes, its menu isn't as wide as more popular places like Raju's along Jalan Gasing or Kanna in Section 19, but what it offers it does really well. Fish and chicken fried on the spot. Yummy curry mutton, chicken and crab. It has the most number of curries on offer, including a really awesome onion curry, crab curry and salted fish curry. Side vegetable dishes change daily but there's always fried bitter gourd (my favorite) and sambal ikan bills.

Help yourselves to the latest curries
 For me, what sets Acha apart from other banana leaf restaurants is its level of service and cleanliness. Once you're seated the banana leaf (a real one, not the paperized version) appears. I always wipe mine and at other places, the paper napkin can come away pretty grimy, but it's spotless at Acha. The side vegetable dishes and curries land on the table in pristine containers for you to help yourself to. After having tried both white rice and Indian rice on several occasions, I've decided that Indian rice, Basmati that's parboiled, goes somewhat better with curries. Orders are taken for the meat dishes, drinks and whatnot, and you're tucking into your meal in minutes.

The staff are quick and friendly, another boon when you want to have your meal and be on your way. After stuffing my face with everything on my banana leaf, all I ever want to do is burp, go home and lie down. It's about all I can manage after an epically gargantuan meal like that!
I got this heart-shaped fried fish once!

Acha Curry Banana Leaf Restaurant
No. 271, Jalan 5/51, Petaling Garden,
46000 Petaling Jaya.
Tel: 012 273 5096/016 296 8809
Open from 7.30 am to 4.30 pm

(They're closed on certain Mondays so do call to check.)
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