Kuala Lumpur - Fish-Head Curry at Appu Uncle Curry House
I *love* fish-head curry to bits. For those who doesn't know this dish - it's a quintessential Singapore/Malaysian dish of Indian origins which involved a gargantuan (snapper) fish-head, cooked in a spicy South Indian-style curry with tomatoes, okra, aubergines, onions and, in some places, tofu puffs or even pineapple slices.
Fish-head curry restaurants in Singapore (e.g. Apolo, Samy's, Muthu) and Malaysia are usually Indian-owned, but the clientele are multi-racial: Chinese, Malays, Indians - just about everyone and anyone.
I found the perfect spot for fish-head curry in Kuala Lumpur this week - Appu, near the iconic Rothman's intersection (it used to be roundabout which *everyone* in KL knew) in Petaling Jaya.
Appu's fish-head curry did not have that overpowering fenugreek scent which one finds in versions many such restaurants back in Singapore, but was light, piquant, yet absolutely delicious.
Accompaniments to the fish-head curry would be steamed white rice served on a banana leaf, supplemented with three types of vegetables: a cucumber-pineapple-yoghurt relish, spicy water-spinach, and braised gourd-cabbage-grated coconut, plus crisp papadums.
Side-orders include spiced fried chicken (very good!) and grilled turmeric-marinated squid.
I particularly liked the warm, friendly and personable service here - family-owned with very genial staff.
Appu Uncle Curry House
14, Jalan 19/3, Seksyen 19 (Rothman's roundabout)
47301 Petaling Jaya
Tel: +60 12-555 4958
Oh yes, penang_rojak, that old faithful, Sanur, is still there in Centrepoint, although with the forthcoming move of Robinsons Dept Store (the mainstay and anchor tenant of Centrepoint for as long as I can remember) to the Heeren, things may change for this mall.
The customary long queues outside Sanur during peak meal periods, so common back in the 80s/90s have dissipated somewhat as Singaporeans are spoilt for choice these days, with the advent of high-quality Cantonese fare courtesy of efficient chains like Crystal Jade, Imperial Treasure, etc., affecting stand-alone family restaurants of all ilk.
Some South Indian breakfast options at Appu's this morning:
- Sweet appam: moist, thick, soft rice pancakes, served with a sweetened coconut milk dip;
- Idiyapam (called 'putu mayam' in Malaysia): moist steamed rice vermicelli, served with freshly-grated coconut and brown sugar.
Both were very good :-)
More South Indian breakfast options tried this morning:
- Roti canai, the light, crisp Indian-Malaysian take on the paratha. It's similar to Singaporean roti prata. Served here with a blandish yellow dhal lentil curry, and a more piquant, reddish-hued chilli-spiked curry sauce.
- Paper thosai (or "dosa" as it's called in most parts of India. In Malaysia, the term is Tamilian as majority of Indian-Malaysians are Tamils). Super-light and very crisp here. Not pretty to look at here, but tasted mighty good. Also served with yellow dhal, plus coconut chutney.
- A mug of hot, frothy "Kopi Tarek", the quintessential Malaysian breakfast beverage of milky, sweetened coffee poured from one huge metal mug to another to ensure it's perfectly "shaken", and which resulted in the foam on top. The tea version is called "Teh Tarek".
Most welcome, mookleknuck. Do check out Appu's if you're in the neighborhood.
But if you want to be in a dining precinct with more dining/retail choices, go to Bangsar (Jalan Telawi/Jalan Maarof area). You can find even better South Indian options at places like Saravana Bhavan and Anjappar's, and banana leaf rice (with fish-head curry) at Sri Nirwana Maju (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809420).
There are 3 distinct "Little India" districts in KL. The official one is along Jalan Tun Sambanthan (Brickfields) with colourful arches and retails stores. But the eateries there looked grungy at best.
The more bustling Little India is the area near Masjid India (the Indian-Muslim mosque) with its busy pedestrian-clogged streets, reminding one of Dhaka (Bangladesh) or a Chennai neighborhood. Large Indian-style department stores like Hanifa offers their Indian customers everything they require, whilst wonky Bengali, Pakistani and Indian eateries offer some rustic fare.
The third Little India is up in Sentul, more sedate than the other two these days.
Confession: I've actually *not* explored KL's Indian dining scene as much as I have for Singapore's back home. KL's Indian culinary options are very Tamil-based, so all other "regional" variations - Keralan, Moghul/North Indian, etc., are still Tamil-influenced. Most Indian-Malaysians are Tamils, descended from the early migrants brought in by the British during the colonial days in the 19th-century and early 20-century. After gaining independence from the British a few decades back, Malaysia's racially discriminatory policies against those of Indian (and Chinese) descent resulted in a less vibrant Indian presence today, unlike in Singapore where the Indian diaspora has grown and become more varied.
Since I re-located to KL two years back for my current job, I'd also been visiting India (Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi) on business trips, where the food there is more piquant and complex, compared to the watered-down versions one gets in KL, so I tend not to seek out and explore KL's Indian food scene as much when I'm in town.
I've only walked around the first two districts as I had no reason to check out Sentul. Thanks for the information on the Tamil-influenced food in KL; have you had the chance to either have Tamil food in India or visit Mumbai for business? I'm planning a trip to the latter next year and am starting to gather recommendations.
I was in Chennai last year, but haven't been back to Mumbai for a while already. My only trip to India this year was to Delhi.
Some Tamil recs in Chennai:
You can visit the India/South Asia board where I'd also posted non-Tamil options (e.g. Keralan) in Chennai.
For Mumbai, I'd say *don't* miss the "Big Three" local establishments: Mahesh Lunch Home, Gajalee and Trishna - there's a good reason why they'd been there forever. Of course, you can also get stupendous food in the hotel-based restaurants, e.g. Konkan Cafe @ Vivanta by Taj President, or Masala Kraft at Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.