Banana leaf is a way of life. A cacophony of curries and accoutrements, laid out on a single leaf, reminding you that everything good in this world is grown from the ground up, right down to the plates. Sorry, no butter chicken here.
It’s just what the doctor ordered when you have a pit in your stomach that only the finest dhal can fill.
We can all agree that nasi lemak is the perfect bundle of coconut rice, sambal and ikan bilis to carry anywhere, at anytime. We’ve even made it a condom flavor (gross).
And roti canai and prata are the perfect snack, quick, tasty – you can even buy prata in “unicorn” colors now (also gross).
Sure, it’s a one-way ticket to a post-meal nap. It’s also where you can take any visitor – vegetarian or non, spicy or mild – there is something for everyone, and it’s also just kinda cool. You get to use a giant leaf as a plate, and waiters come around and fill it will all sorts of tasty curries and veg. Order a few fan favorites a la carte. Drink the rasam (a light soup said to aid digestion). BOOM. Golden.
Here’s the thing: Where there is demand, there is supply. And with supply comes ubiquity. Ubiquity just means that you will have no idea what’s good or bad until you sit down, a clumpy ball of basmati falls onto a wilted leaf and suddenly you realize — I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Coconuts KL is here to sort it out for you. We’re listing 10 of our favorites, and including pro tips so you’re not left ordering the mutton when you should really getting the crab.
And these are in no particular order. After all, how do you pick a favorite when you love it all?
Full disclosure, nine out of 10 times that we eat banana leaf, it’s here. Visalatchi is just that good. In the heart of Brickfields, and always with the freshest food, we’ve never had a bad meal there. Ever. And we eat a lot. Ask for the Indian rice. Special mention goes to their crab curry, chicken paratal and special chicken curry.
Vishalatchi Food Catering
Brickfields 18, Jalan Scott, Off Jalan Sambathan, Kuala Lumpur, 50470
2). Ganapathy Mess
Ganapathy Mess is a PJ favorite. It’s in a house, which is pretty cool. Go in and make sure that if you do anything in this life, you get the crab rasam. It will leave you with tears of joy in your eyes and feeling things you never knew you could feel about food. Just don’t call it crab soup. It’s rasam. We’re not savages. Oh oh oh! And the chicken varuval. And the prawn sambal! AND DO NOT FORGET THE RASAM.
Sri Ganapathy Mess
No.47 Jalan 1/10, Section 1, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Another PJ joint to keep on your list is Acha’s. Here is what you need to get: the salted fish curry. Yes, a bit out of the norm for some, but it’s really what they do best here. Also, don’t say no to the crab curry. It’s an umami spice bomb in your mouth that will leave you dancing until you pass out from a food coma.
Acha Curry House
271 Jalan 5/51, Petaling Garden, Petaling Jaya 46000, Malaysia
In the best of Brickfields competition, Vishal’s is in the top three. Smother your rice with their rich curries, and don’t forget to order the mutton varuval, chicken 65 (so very necessary) and the fried fish. Live life on the wild side, and get the non-white rice option. A bit more flavorful, and it makes your meal that much more extra.
Vishal Food & Catering
Off Jalan Scott & Jalan Tun Sambanthan 3, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A total classic, and one that is still great. It’s busy. Business is always bustling, so don’t take it personally if the waiters move on quickly — they’ve got a lot of bellies to fill. Here’s our pro tip: We actually like going to Raju’s for breakfast. Yeah. Crazy. Get the squid, get the roti, order a teh tarik if you need a spike in blood sugar (sometimes we do!). If you’re trying to be healthy — go with a fresh coconut.
No 27 Jalan Chantek 5/13, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
6). Aunty Manju’s
Quite possibly one of the healthiest vegetarian banana leaf meals around. There is something so wholesome about Aunty Manju’s, you feel safe bringing anyone, even the less adventurous, here. Get the thosai. Get the roti. See what fresh food they’ve got that day. Say hi to the crab curry for us. Meat eaters, and mutton-lovers … come here, we need to tell you something. They serve a mutton bone marrow curry that will have you believing all the goodness in the universe is in front of you. Get it. Please. Then tell us about how amazing it was. They serve it only on Wednesdays and weekends last we checked. Call ahead and ask to be safe.
18, Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7). Raj’s Banana Leaf
The first (and only, as of now) banana leaf restaurant to see the market opportunity for franchise, and expand all over the city ain’t all that bad, kids. They have fresh coconuts, fresh juice, and the sweetness of their ice limau is on point. The mutton biryani is huuuuge. HUGE. And tasty. Also, Raj’s have put their business in some damn convenient locations — Bangsar, Sri Hartamas — they got you covered.
Raj’s Banana Leaf
Locations throughout KL
8). Moorthy’s Mathai
Purists among you, chill out. Look — they serve beer and the bitter gourd is always crispy, never soggy, and most importantly, they’re restrained when they salt it. Honestly, sometimes you just need the crispness of a beer to cut that fried chicken you just ordered. Yes, get the fried chicken. If you like it spicy, get the rasam too. It will knock your socks off.
Moorthy’s Mathai Indian Rice
144A, Jalan Vivekananda, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, 50470
9). Devi’s Corner
Haters, and health inspectors, to the left. Devi’s has one of the best crab curries in the city, hands down. Here’s the catch — you need to go for lunch and don’t go late. Once it’s finished, it’s gone for the day, and if you decide to eat there at 6:00pm, you will find only a fraction of the selections you can get at lunch. OK? So go for an early lunch, and get the crab curry for sure. Live wild like us, and ask them to mix the fish and crab curries together over your rice.
Devi’s Corner Banana Leaf
14 Jalan Telawi 4, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Yah, yah, yah. Nirwana is perennially busy, sometimes feels nearly impossible to get a seat at, and there are a few places we might personally pick over this iconic Bangsar banana leaf. That said, Nirwana has a whole slew of die-hard fans for a reason. Their bitter gourd is straight-up the best in the city, and their salted chilies make my heart weep with joy. Their waiters are also very nice, and generous with those portions. They don’t have a crab curry, but the a la carte squid is gooooood. And that bitter gourd. You can’t argue with it. Go, (maybe) wait in line, eat.
Nirwana Banana Leaf Bangsar
43, Jalan Telawi 3, Bangsar Baru, 59100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Looking to turn over a healthier leaf? Read Coconuts KL’s write-up on poke bowls for some food inspo.
Want to know more of where to eat around Southeast Asia? Check out our list of Bali’s best burgers.
Going to Bangkok? Don’t forget to read our list on the city’s best late night spots to eat.