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Sep 3, 2012 08:10 AM

Kuala Lumpur - Chettinad cuisine at Vishalatchi, Little India (Brickfields)

I know that Chettinad cuisine has a reputation of being hellishly hot but, after tasting Chettinad cuisine, albeit in high-end restaurants in Chennai, I thought I had the cuisine all figured out - until I ate at Vishalatchi in KL's Little India this evening.

Oh my, 5 minutes into my meal and sweat was dripping from every pore in my body. My tongue was numb and my lips was burning. It was also an abso-bloody-lutely delicious meal!

What I had:
- Mutton "Peratal", a dry lip-smacking mutton curry, fragrant with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise & cloves, further scented with lemongrass, fresh turmeric, curry leaves & fresh coriander sprigs. The sauce was thickened with candlenuts ("buah keras"), crushed almonds & cashews. There were mutton chunks (bone-in), tendon and marrow. It's a dish which I just *know* was way beyond my chilli-tolerance level, but which I simply could not resist.
- Chicken "Veruval", another South Indian classic - this was also another dry curry preparation, complex but with a perfect balance between its coriander and cumin spices, further accentuated by fennel, cinnamon, cloves and that "Queen of Spices" again: cardamom. The gravy was gingery and had a rough texture from the addition of dry dessicated coconut. Like the Mutton Peratal, it contained a more-than-generous amount of ground dried chillies - more potent than the fresh ones.
- "Idiyappam" or string hoppers: fine-textured Indian steamed rice noodles: a perfect foil to the spicy dry curries.

I was also given a selection of curry gravies to pour over my "idiyappam": yellow vegetable dhal curry (which contained segments of drumstick/"murunggakai" vegetable), a super-spicy chicken curry gravy and coconut chutney.

For sweets, I tried the hand-moulded "Kozhukattai" (Tamil: கொழுக்கட்டை) - something which I'd never had before, but was utterly scrumptious: steamed rice-flour dumplings filled with grated coconut, jaggery & mung dhal. It was a sort of India's answer to Chinese "Red Tortoise Cake"/"Ang Ku Kueh" (Chinese: 紅龜粿). I liked the skin of the Indian version better as it's not stretchy/chewy like the Chinese version which used glutinous rice flour.

Drink was sweet lassi - which turned out to be the best-tasting I'd had this year - in Malaysia, Singapore & India ;-)

Vishalatchi's service was friendly, prompt & efficient. This place is definitely a keeper!

Address details
Vishalatchi Food Catering
19, Jalan Travers
Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2274 6819

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  1. Sounds wonderful - to a point. :-)

    In a general sense - I wonder about the correspondences between "extreme chili tolerances"/"extreme chili taste needs" and the ability to taste foods that do NOT have extreme chili (Scoville scale) scales. In the West, as much as in te East.

    There have been many, many threads on CH which argue about whether something has "taste" or not, seemingly based on whether something was "hot enough" or not; or discussions where Cantonese cuisine was judged "tasteless" because it did not go BANG! KAPOW! WHAM! ZING! on the palates of the protesting folks. Etc etc etc and any number of variants on the subject, including discussions on the relative merits of regional Indian cuisines in other threads.

    There is a current "infamous" thread on what are the "best" Chinese restaurants in the USA which turns out to also involve (surprise, surprise) whether someone thought Cantonese cuisine was bland versus (the poster's decidedly strong preference for) ZAP! POW! WHANG! Sichuanese tastes.

    C'est la vie.

    6 Replies
    1. re: huiray

      I remembered being brought to Spices 3, a very popular Sichuanese restaurant in Oakland, by American colleagues who adored the food there. The food was so numbingly-hot, I couldn't eat anything there!

      1. re: klyeoh

        Heh. What was their reaction? Were they surprised that there were folks (including people of Chinese extraction) who did not consider extreme heat to be necessary for food to be good? :-)

        I hope you asked for some other dishes "as well, to (ahem) complement the 'amazing' dishes your friends ordered".

        1. re: huiray

          My colleagues were surprised - someone from Singapore .. who couldn't take as much chillies as they did?!

          They over-ordered - so I didn't ask for anything else. Anyway, I went over to Colonial Donuts afterwards - BEST in Oakland :-D

      2. re: huiray

        I'm one of those who needs my food to be ultra-fiery hot. Our Eurasian feng which we cooked for New Year will have small chilli padi to add some "oomph". Of course, you would have guessed by now that Curry Devil (or as we call it among ourselves "curry Debal") is named because it is devilishly hot!

        Any absence of spicy chilli in any dish is easily remedied by some cut, red chillis or chilli padi on the side. My husband's Cantonese, but he's got used to my cooking. Well, I also cook a mean angled loofah and tunghoon dish with lots of minced pork which is his favourite.

        Of course, not all Eurasian cooking is hot, and we also have shepherd's pie, potato & salt fish croquettes (Pasteis de Bacalhau), minchi and others.

        1. re: M_Gomez

          Duly noted. :-)

          Care to share more details of that angled loofah and tunghoon dish?
          Have you ever made "tai yee ma kar lui" for your DH?

      3. BTW I would have loved those curries too - if the heat was dialed down a bit. They do look good visually. That idiyappam looks just like mei fun in the photo. :-)

        I grew up eating decently hot curries too but I'm not a chilihead either. The spicing of those dishes sound wonderful - but if I made them I would use less chili and adjust the sweetness/saltiness accordingly...