Malaysian Monday 44: Banana Leaf at Kavitha’s

Monday, July 26, 2010

Banana Leaf – the mere mention sets off a Pavlovian response in me (as I write this, my tummy is growling!). I’m sure there is a proper Indian name for this style of cuisine, but if you say "Banana Leaf" to a Malaysian, they’ll immediately understand that you are talking about a meal of rice, vegetable side dishes and curry, all served on a fresh banana leaf as a plate.

That’s where all consensus ends. Everyone, and I mean everyone has an opinion as to the best banana leaf place around. Like many things, it all depends on your preferences. For Mr. Kitchen Hand and I, our choice is Kavitha’s Curry House in a suburb called Petaling Jaya (Section 5).

We’ve tried many others, based on recommendations from family, friends and colleagues, but we always return to Kavitha’s. Maybe it’s habit: we first started eating here when we were just a-courtin’, well over 12 years ago now (Mr. KH worked in Malaysia for a little while, which is where we met). Since then, every time we visit my family, we try to squeeze in a visit to this place.

The first thing that you notice when walking into Kavitha’s, is the row of ice-cream chillers filled with meat and seafood (rest assured there is no actual ice-cream in there). These meaty morsels have been marinaded with curry powder and seasoning, and we choose some chicken and fish for our meal. These will be deep fried and brought to our table.

Like the trip to the hawker centre I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, this eating spot is not for the faint hearted. Let’s just say the interior is not as sparkling as it should be, and leave it at that. Service can be extremely slow, but the waiters are quite friendly. They just like doing things at their own pace – being on holiday, it’s easier for us to take, but I wouldn’t recommend coming here if you’re in a hurry.

But the whole idea of banana leaf is to take it slow anyway. First, the “plate” is placed in front of you, then the waiters scoop the side dishes of the day onto the leaf. You get whatever has been prepared/ cooked that day – usually three different textures/styles. On the day we visited, we had some fried cabbage, a curried potato dish (I think it was potato), and some fresh cucumber salad with yoghurt.

This photo was actually taken at a different banana leaf sessiona at another restaurant. My photos from Kavitha's were a bit limited because I was concentrating very hard on digging into the food. Sorry. 

Then they bring over the rice, dishing it out until you tell them to stop. Next up, the curry sauce, usually a choice of chicken, fish or dhal, which is ladled over the mound of rice. There is no actual meat in it, just the sauce. Be warned, some places warm up the curry, others aren’t as diligent and it’s a little cold. This time, because it was close to lunch time, the curry was nice and warm.

Top: trio of curries. Bottom, complete rice set,  I'm a bit of a wuss with the curry, usually folks get lots more than this. Again, this wasn't a Kavitha's meal, this was somewhere else that we ate at. It was ok, but Kavitha's was better.

Finally they bring large crispy pappadums. We always ask for more, and if you have two charming little ones at the table, you might score quite a few more extra ☺ We also get a little plate of deep fried bitter-gourd chips and salted chillies.

Ahhh. this is definitely Kavitha's strong suit

By this time, the mains we’d ordered have also arrived. Piping hot chicken and fish, with a tasty spiced crust, and all the juices sealed in. Mmmmm…We’d also ordered a little dish of dry mutton curry (my absolute favourite), and spicy curried chicken. Oh, and the only way to eat banana leaf properly is to use your hand (preferably the right hand). Don't worry, there are sinks at which to wash up after :)

And this

And this

Depending on what you order, food can get a bit pricey. There is usually a set price for the rice, veges and sauce, then you pay extra for all the other things you order, like the deep fried dishes and the extra curry dishes. Unfortunately, I cannot remember what we paid for this meal, and this is not the sort of place that issues receipts either. I do remember thinking it was reasonable – not cheap but not exorbitant either.

After all that food, the only sensible thing to do is to roll home and have a siesta ☺.

All done. We still quibble over which way to fold the leaf. Some folks believe folding it away from you signifies warding off bad luck. Others believe folding it towards you means to invite good luck in. I believe fold it in such a way that food doesn't fall on you when the waiter clears the table :)

But a quick reminder before I head off. This Wednesday is the last date to get an entry into our Muhibbah Malaysian Monday blog event.

A quick recap of how to join:

The event open to EVERYONE!
It's all explained here, and the summary of the rules are:

1) ANYONE can join in – you don’t have to be Malaysian.

2) Post anything related to food and Malaysia, on a Monday (you can do a one-off, every week, or anywhere in between). It could be about food, drink, a restaurant review, a cookbook, an interesting ingredient, etc, etc.
(Edit: Please link back to either Test With Skewer or 3 Hungry Tummies in your entry, and also include the words "Muhibbah Monday" somewhere in the post. Thank you :) )

3) Send us your name, your post(s) name and post URL by the LAST Wednesday of the month. Please write Muhibbah Monday (#X) in the subject line (eg: it should read Muhibbah Monday #1 for this month). We will pull a photo off your post to use in our round-up.

4) Suresh (sureshchong[at]yahoo[dot]com) and I (its[dot]sharon[at]gmail[dot]com) will take turns to host, and we will let you know where to send each month’s entry. If you would like to take a turn at hosting, do send us an email.

5) On the first Monday of every month, a round up of all the entries will be posted on the host’s blog.

That’s about it.
Mari masak, minum, main bersama-sama! (Let’s cook, eat, drink and play together).
Muhibbbah = Goodwill

Grab a badge if you like

Hope you have a great start to the week.


Esi said...

Ooh, I like the idea of eating your meal in a banana leaf. Sounds really good!

cikmanggis said...

hi Shaz..anda buat makcik lapar hehe malam nanti nak cari kedai makan yg ada daun pisang tp pastinya tiada di Putrajaya..yum yum

3 hungry tummies said...

Oh I am trying to imagine your date at a banana leaf restaurant :) Food looks good, shame there isn't such a place here :(

Von said...

This all sounds delicious! I've only ever had food on banana leaf once and that was when I was little =[ I remember it was really fun though! Now I really wanna to try......

The bitter gourd chips look really interesting!

Deeba PAB said...

Ooooh lookieeeeee...familiar banana leaves! Looks like you had a great feast Shaz! Am lovin' it!

Hungry Dog said...

I like the looks of this meal! Sounds fun to eat, and delicious too. Maybe I'll find a place in SF where I could give it a try...

Juliana said...

Wow, banana leaf as a plate...awesome :-)

grace said...

does it make you sad to know that i've never eaten anything in a banana leaf? it makes me sad. thanks for the terrific share, shaz--it's all new to me!

Barbara Bakes said...

I have never had the pleasure of a banana leaf meal at a banana leaf place. It sounds wonderful.

shaz said...

Esi - it really is so tasty, I really miss this food when I'm in Oz.

cikmanggis - good luck! Harap makcik dpat makan kat kedai daun pisang :)

3 hungry tummies - ha ha, it wasn't a first date, but pretty early in the relationship. Actually, Mr. KH took me to this place, needless to say I was very impressed :) I wish someone would open a banana leaf restaurant in Sydney, or maybe I'm not lookign hard enough?

Von - the bitter gourd chips are interesting but a bit of an aquired taste I think.

Deeba PAB - it was SO yummy :)

Hungry Dog- hope you find one, let us know if you do.

Juliana - :)

grace - glad you enjoyed it

Barbara Bakes - hope you get a chance to try it one day :)