I love India and I love Indian food, South Indian in particular, it’s light, fresh and usually vegetarian. I’m in food heaven here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, finding foods that I haven’t tasted in the last 12 years, since our last round the world trip.
The street right next to ours, here at Back Home Hostel, is famous for all things South Indian, food in particular. You can buy it straight from street vendors in little plastic bags or try one of the South Indian restaurants, the two we tried were excellent.
It’s incredibly cheap.
Many won’t have tried South Indian food, chicken tikka massalla, it ain’t.
The curries of British and Australian Indian restaurants primarily come from the north, heavy with meat and ghee, the South of India is totally different and very distinctive.
Vada are one of my favourites, little savoury doughnuts of lentil flour, spiked with onion, chilis and curry leaves. I buy a couple at a pavement stall, two for under a dollar, for dinner, fresh and still warm. We used to eat them for breakfast in India with sambar and a fresh coconut chutney of pounded coconut, mint and green chilli.
Sambar comes with just about everything in South India, it’s a light vegetable stew, sour with tamarind, with plenty of curry leaves and a few lentils for protein. It’s usually served at your table from a large metal bucket. It’s delicious.
Dosa are fermented rice and lentil flour pancakes, they can be enormous and should always be made fresh, you can watch them making them at the roadside. They usually come with sambar and coconut chutney. The masala dosa is a more filling animal, stuffed with a mildly spiced potato mixture.
Idli are another breakfast favourite, little pillows of fermented rice, again served with sambar and chutney. Great with your morning coffee. I haven’t tried any here yet, I can’t wait!
The star of the show is the thali or banana leaf, as they call it in Kuala Lumpur. A banana leaf plate to mix your food on, a selection of curries, chutneys, curd, poppadom or bread and, of course, sambar.
We just had one for lunch, 7MYR, under $3 AU and it was sensational. The photos I took were rubbish, sorry. A good excuse to go for another one!
If you are into things South Indian, don’t forget to check out the Sri Mahamariamman temple in Chinatown.
Are the Children Liking the Indian Food?
Sort of. They’re used to the curries Mum makes at home, D (9) in particular, is good with a little bit of chilli. Boo ( 6) is less keen.
They both like spices, but chilli is tricky and there is no asking for milder versions with this sort of food, it’s all cooked in big batches, not to order. The children will taste everything, sambar is quite mild and usually one or two of the curries in a thali or banana leaf are kind to children. The thalis always come with a dish of curd ( yogurt) to take the sting out a bit. The trick is to mix a tiny amount of the curries with a large amount of rice, extra rice is usually free. They love dosa, poppadoms and breads and D likes vada.
South Indian food is something we eat to please me, not them, so I think it’s only fair to treat them to a pineapple and coconut pie afterwards. Not at all Indian, but they are the business! Fresh and warm from a little bakery over the road, the only thing I can compare them to is a bakewell tart. So I think we can safely say the kids are in food heaven, too.