On weekends, Wuan and I would invariably ask each other the same questions: “What to eat?” and “Where to eat?” We often eat out at shopping malls because we spend quite a fair amount of time there for their accessibility and air-conditioned environment. We have eaten at most of the restaurants in those places and have gotten bored with the same food. We wanted to look for new flavours to titillate our taste buds. In the end, we would invariably end up eating at those few shopping malls because we either could not decide on what to eat or were not sure if the restaurants that we wanted to go to elsewhere were accessible.
Banana leaf rice at Restoran Kanna Curry House, Section 17 PJ.
The same happened last Saturday. As we threw the questions back and forth, I suggested banana leaf rice at Restoran Kanna Curry House. The last time we had banana leaf rice was in December last year in Penang. I checked the GPS map for the restaurant’s location. It is just off the Rothman Roundabout. We have never been to the restaurant before although we pass by the roundabout every now and then on our way back from 1 Utama or Ikano Power Centre.
We were not familiar with Section 17 of Petaling Jaya. We got lost even with guidance from the GPS. When we finally found our bearings and found the restaurant, we developed an instant liking for the place. The restaurant was situated on one of two blocks of shophouses on high ground overlooking a road below. The lush clumps of bamboo and mature trees on the slope invoked a sense of serenity. Traffic was light. Parking spaces were ample. There was a police station a few doors from the restaurant at the next block.
Friendly waiter at Restoran Kanna Curry House, Section 17 PJ.
There was a ramp up to the five foot way, a little steep, but Wuan had no problems getting me up and into the restaurant that was abuzz with activity. The waiters busied themselves with taking orders and serving food. We found a table at the back. The weather was humid. The ceiling fans and mist fans made it bearable. Service was prompt and friendly. We ordered two banana leaf rice. The side dishes that we wanted, namely chicken varuval and deep-fried bitter gourd were sold out. Wuan settled for chicken rendang instead.
The atmosphere was lively with a steady stream of customers coming and going. We tucked heartily into our food made more delicious by several types of curry gravy that we kept adding to our rice for that extra spicy flavour. In fact I ate a little too much. Some of the waiters were having their lunch and one of them asked me if I wanted extra rice. I told him I have had enough but he insisted that I should accept the ladleful of rice that he was offering.
Deep-fried bananas, curry puffs, and vadais at Restoran Kanna Curry House.
Apart from the food, this restaurant gets extra points for the ramp and friendly service. Banana leaf rice is RM5 per person for as much as one could eat. The price for the side orders and drinks were stated on the signboard. The next time we eat at Kanna Curry House, we want to try the deep fried chicken and fishes as well, and not forgetting the vadais, curry puffs and deep-fried bananas. They looked tempting but we were already too full from just eating the banana leaf rice alone.
Deep fried bitter gourd – Passions of Kerala, New World Park, Penang.
How can something bitter be delicious? That was what I used to think about bitter gourd until I was initiated into eating bitter gourd omelette many years ago. I then progressed to drinking bitter gourd and pork ribs soup. That was less palatable but Mum said that it was cooling for the body. I used to run around under the sun and that was supposed to help.
Much later when Wuan and I were dating, we used to share a cup of bitter gourd and green apple juice whenever we were at Jusco Supermarket. This combination made the drink bitter and sour at the same time. Still we drank like it was nectar from heaven as bitter gourd was believed to be detoxifying as well. I have also grown to love bitter gourd yong tau foo, preferably deep fried and served with some gravy instead of in soup.
The one dish that keeps me wanting more is the deep fried bitter gourd from Passions of Kerala in Penang. It was love at first bite for me. Whenever we ate there, it was a must have dish. The batter that coated the thinly sliced bitter gourd gave it crispness and aroma. It was delicious whether eaten as is or with banana leaf rice. I have not found another place that makes it as nice as at Passions of Kerala. No prize for guessing correctly where I will head to the next time I am in Penang. Bitter can be delicious. You better believe it!
Sometimes, it is very difficult to elucidate why I like food from a certain place. Perhaps, it is the taste. Perhaps it is the presentation. Perhaps it is the ambience. I have eaten a lot of banana leaf rice in the Klang Valley but none come close in deliciousness to what I have eaten at Passions of Kerala at Gelugor in Penang. The simplicity of rice served with chutney, a variety of vegetables, beancurd, papadam, and generous ladles of dhall curry, chicken curry and fish curry on banana leaf kept me going back to this restaurant. Perhaps my first taste of banana leaf rice was here and that was how my preference has been influenced since.
Wuan, Reallybites and I went to the restaurant’s other outlet at New World Park at Swatow Lane for lunch one afternoon. As usual, I ordered my vegetarian meal and an extra dish of deep-fried bittergourd that Wuan and I shared. Reallybites had Mcnair fried chicken to go with her rice. The meal still tasted as good as the last time I had it many months back at Gelugor. I also like how the bitter gourd was fried till crispy and could be eaten just like that. I did not try the fried chicken as I was already too full when I finished everything that was on my banana leaf.
At RM5.50 per serving of vegetarian banana leaf rice, it is a bargain as one can have as much rice and its accompaniment piled up on the banana leaf as one can eat. Now I have learnt to stop the food server from giving me too much rice but at the same time asking for a little more chutney. I like their chutney very much. I also like the plain lassi they serve which is thick and flavourful. However, I have cut down on the lassi due to my dietary restrictions. Most of all, do not be surprised when or if you ever find out who cooked all those delicious food. Will I go back for more? Definitely. Passions of Kerala – the best banana leaf rice in Penang, and maybe Malaysia too!