If your knowledge of Indian food is simply between Northern and Southern cooking styles, you’ve barely scratched the surface of the diversity of this cuisine. Indian cuisine is steeped in culture and heritage passed down from one generation to another. What makes it amusing, though, is that there is a friendly rivalry between these two regions — who has better food?
Let’s not forget about Western India (with cities like Goa and Gujarat) and Eastern India (West Bengal and Chennai) — they all have their own distinct and rich cuisines, too. What you will find intriguing is that they all have similar food but cooked with different methods and ingredients. Some are even influenced by different cultures along the way especially during colonisation and spice trades. Of course, when this heritage cuisine travels out of India, the flavours and its authenticity change according to its geographical base.
Let’s break it down: Northern-style dishes centre around breads and curries, which include the usual suspects like naan breads, roti, samosa as well as curries like palak paneer (spinach and cheese), makhani (butter sauce) and aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower). Garam masala is a predominant spice and you finish off your meal with tea or chai. Southern Indian cooking, however, is based around rice, lentils and stews. (Yes, you guess it right — banana leaf rice is Southern Indian) But you’d want to know what other dishes like thosai (lentil and rice crepe), idli (steam lentil rice cakes) sambar (spicy lentil and vegetable stew) and rasam (tomato, tamarind and lentil soup) are all from the South. At the heart of all Indian cuisine, it is a harmonious concoction of spices, textures and tanginess that makes its dishes agreeing with the Malaysian palate.
We don’t have to tell you where to have the best banana leaf rice in town — you have that figured out by now. We are asking you to up the ante with these five progressive and modern Indian restaurants that specialises in authentic yet inspired Indian cooking.
Entering the restaurant, you will find a buffet counters designed to represent old brick-and-concrete cooking stoves completed with old pots and pans sourced from India.
The Qureshis has a legacy of over two centuries as a family of chefs in the royal kitchens of Nawabs of Awadh for 10 generations. Over the years, they have developed, even researched manuscripts, and single-handedly brought alive once again age-old recipes like ‘tandoor’ and ‘dum’ — two internationally recognised cooking styles that define Indian heritage cuisine. The new menu features a range of curries, biryanis and an array of reinterpreted classics. These are packed with powerful spice blends and fresh ingredients. Recommended dishes include Hyderabadi Nehari (slow-cooked lamb shank with caramelised onions and spices) as well as Dal Oureshi (stewed black lentils with tomatoes, butter and cream).
Qureshi, Ground Floor, East Wing TPC, No 10, Jalan 1/70D, Off Jalan Bukit Kiara, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, 603-2011 1007
Enjoy Northern Indian cuisine at its best at Flour with a series of flour staples including its signature puri, chapatti and kulcha. Take your pick on a variety of curries from the sweet Makhani Chicken to the spicy Rogan Josh. If you’re there with a larger group, order the Lasooni Gosht — a classic dish of braised mutton in a mild garlic curry.
Flour, 71, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Plaza Damansara, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, +6012-960 0053
The owner of Tifin by Kumar’s want to bring back the memories of his Amma selling local Indian delights in Brickfields. Enjoy unpretentious Indian food here with an assortment of breads and cakes that are served with different curries, chutneys and lentil soups. This is an extension to its parent restaurant, Kumar’s that is one of the most authentic Indian restaurants in town. Try its thosai that is extra crispy on the sides and soft in the centre.
Tifin by Kumar’s, Lot L1-02 & L2-02, Damansara City Mall, Damansara Heights, 50490 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2011 2969
At Nadodi, you get a balance of both tradition and modernity. Its creative use of ingredients and traditional recipes are reinterpreted using contemporary techniques — resulting in a surprising dining experience. You don’t even know what you’re getting especially with its fresh perspective on familiar cooking. Its cuisine traverse through Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and all the way to the borders of Sri Lanka to bring a unique tasting menu to the table. There is also a special menu for vegetarians.
Nadodi, Lot 183, 1st Floor, Jalan Mayang, Off Jalan Yap Kwan Seng, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, +603 2181 4334