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.