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!