Sit down to scrumptious curries, butter chicken, naan and chapatti at these top North Indian restaurants, which will have you huffing and puffing for more.
With the little KL is exposed to Gujarati cuisine, The Ganga is doing pretty well for itself. Since husband-and-wife team Prabodh and Meeta introduced the weekly Gujarati buffet at the restaurant, those who were curious visited week after week, and word got around on social media complemented by painfully tantalising photos on Instagram. All the success couldn’t have been brought upon a more deserving restaurant.
But first, a little schooling on Gujarati food. ‘As you go from north to south, you basically go lighter on the cheeses and fats, and go heavier on the spices,’ Prabodh explains. ‘The reason being the climate.’ The western state of Gujarat is unique in that it borrows influence from both southern and northern India. ‘Gujarat happens to be a lot more south than the north, and a lot more north than the south.’ In this case, it is restrained in both chilli and cheese.
Vegetarianism is prevalent in Gujarat too; vegetables such as long beans, ridge gourd and squash are cooked in light, watery curries. Another feature that sets Gujarati cuisine apart is the breads. ‘As you go up north, the breads become heavier. Whereas in the south, it’s rice,’ Prabodh says. ‘In Gujarat, you get these thin, sexy chapattis.’ Under the roti umbrella, there are many kinds at The Ganga: chapatti, bhakri, parata, rotala, puri, thepla and mini bhatura. Meeta recommends the breads dipped into a shallow bowl of sev tameta (pictured above), a light tomato curry topped with crunchy bits of fried chickpea flour.
To eat at The Ganga’s buffet without trying the khandvi is a crime. These neon yellow rolls are made primarily of chickpea flour and yoghurt, and produce a smooth, slippery, tangy bite. The dhokla too is outstanding; much like idli, the batter is fermented and the resulting texture is fluffy with a mild graininess. But instead of cooking the batter in individual moulds as one would with idli, dhokla is shapeless and cooked in a flat dish before cut into squares. They are then garnished with mustard seeds, sesame seeds, cumin, green chilli and curry leaves. Dipped into coriander chutney, this snack is often eaten at teatime. Or really, all the time.
There are many Moghul restaurants in KL that pride on stiff service and water fountains at their entrances. But of all of them, Delhi Royale stands out. Despite the impeccably tacky interior and bloated price points, it’s hard to argue against food this delicious.
We’ve waxed lyrical about their starter of tandoori broccoli and we’re not afraid to do it again. It’s basically your least favourite vegetable as a child marinated in a thick, gloopy cashew masala paste, and crackled to life in a tandoor oven. Other tummy-liners to begin with are chat papri (fried dough served with potatoes, chickpeas, yoghurt and tamarind chutney) and raj kachori (crisp, hollow balls filled with potato, topped with curd, chutney and a healthy scatter of crispy sev sticks). At Delhi Royale, it’s easy to cover all the food groups before dinner even starts.
When you do actually get to the meats and breads, the butter chicken is a predictable choice but also a gratifying one. Enriched by a naughty dose of cream and butter, the curry is brilliant when eaten alongside a basket of plain naan. There’s no need for dried fruit or cheese in your bread this time, the curry is plenty decadent on its own. The next day, you will have leftovers in your fridge. Trust us. And when you heat up the food again, you’ll have a fleeting replay of last night’s meal, a fleeting replay of all things rich and debauched in this world.
For the last 60 years, Jai Hind has had one aim in mind: to serve darn good Punjabi food cheaply. Every day, owner Bhoopendar Singh wakes up and tries. The result is a restaurant that has flourished far more successfully than even our current economic structure.
When Bhoopendar’s father ran the place before the ’80s, you could count the number of dishes on one hand. There was chapatti, a vegetable, dhal and a meat dish. These days, the choices are mind-boggling, from mock meats and decadently cooked vegetables on one end to mutton bones piled high in dark gravy on the other. The palak paneer, a staple at any North Indian restaurant in KL, is the best you’ll eat in the city. The house-made buffalo milk paneer cubes are juicy and firm, bathed in a rich, forest-green gravy of puréed spinach. The dried chilli chicken and aloo parata are firm favourites too, but we recommend something a little more offbeat: baingan bartha. Smoky eggplant is simply skinned and stir-fried with onions, garlic and spices. It’s no rocket science but there’s something hauntingly addictive about deeply caramelised eggplant and onion in a single bowl.
The sweets are a must at Jai Hind. North Indian desserts have suffered a bad rep of being generally too sweet, but here, focus lies in high-quality ingredients and technique. The gulab jamun, deep-fried milk curd balls soaked in syrup, are a revelation – imagine spongy, milky balls of dough completely drenched in a sticky rosewater-cardamom liquid. All sweets, including laddu, burfi and jalebi, are handmade at the lot next door.
Tiger Jit’s Capati is covered by zinc roofs, its exterior embellished only with a bare-boned sign. Framed photos of our king and queen watch over the daily routines. Fans rotate in every direction. It looks like any other shop in KL where frivolities are low and humidity is high. Tiger Jit Singh, who brought the gift of Punjabi food to the masses, founded the 40-year-old operation. After his passing in 2010, his son Balbeer Singh, aka Bobby, took over. You’d notice him right away, a jolly, bespectacled gentleman bellowing inside jokes across the table at regulars.
The food here is Punjabi, but not strictly so. ‘We blend it with Malaysian style to suit the Malaysian taste,’ Balbeer says. But rest assured, all recipes to this day are of his late father’s, untainted by trends. The signature bitter gourd is one such example. The gourds are pried open and its seeds removed and blended to a paste. They are then fried before the paste of its own seeds is stuffed back in. The palak, meanwhile, is unique in that it uses a blend of seven green vegetables, producing a sweet, grassy flavour.
Chapattis are flipped on a hot plate, and sold at a mere RM1.50 apiece complete with two curries (chickpea and potato, and green mung bean) and a dollop of chutney made of eggplant and mango. ‘If you have two chapattis for three ringgit, you’ll be full for half a day already,’ Balbeer says. The aforementioned green mung bean curry, or moong dhal, deserves more fanfare at Punjabi restaurants as it does at Tiger Jit’s. A notch above the calorie level is the parata (plain, aloo, or onion and chilli) that is swivelled about in house-made ghee. Balbeer’s uncle runs a buffalo farm from where the restaurant’s milk supply is sourced, which led to the process of butter-making in the restaurant. Ghee-rubbed roti in warm curry is food at its most honest, something we’d happily return to day after day.
There’s some truth to the restaurant’s hammy title, and it begins with the paneer pasanda. Noted as a chef’s special in the vegetarian section of the menu, it’s paneer sliced into triangle pockets and fried, stuffed with green chutney, nuts and more (mashed) paneer before bathed in a ‘special gravy’ of creamy, spicy deliciousness.
Even if non-vegetarian, this five-year-old restaurant on Jalan Ipoh bristles with vegetarian options from dhals and okra stir fried in masala to mock meat varuvals and chickpeas in thick gravy. One could easily be contented without meat here, but in keeping with Moghul standards, a lot of dishes are dangerously high in butter and oil.
But if you must order an animal, make it the sizzling chicken. It’s blasphemous on paper, but it tastes like butter chicken on a hot plate. You might want to hang your head low after ordering something so promiscuously off the Indian chart (it comes right before the restaurant’s ‘Western’ specials), but all regrets will be perished upon first taste.
Indian Kitchen has long been the ‘empty Indian restaurant in Bangsar’. Competition from Saravana Bhavan, Anjappar and Chutney Mary has relegated it to near inexistence. But really, Indian Kitchen deserves more credit than it gets. It’s been consistent for the last eight years, and the perfect place to pick up a curry on lazy weeknights. It’s our version of the neighbourhood British curry house, if you will.
The baingan bartha (roasted puréed brinjals sautéed with onions, green chillies and tomatoes) scooped on to a bite of papadum is fantastic to start with, as is the hara-bara kebab (pictured below), pressed paneer and spinach patties that are shallow-fried and served with mint chutney. In meat, we usually gravitate towards the more unusual choice of Rajasthani mutton aka laal maas, a thick, fiery red curry cooked primarily with red chillies.
Influences of various northern states are apparent in things like lamb shank in Goan curry and Hyderabadi dum biryani (pre-orders required). Even if you go a bit left field and order something you’re not familiar with, chances are it’s going to be pretty good. Don’t get too distracted by the vintage Hindi song clips running on loop, or risk your dining partner po lishing off the food while your eyes are glued to the TV.
Helmed by Mumbai-born Yogesh and Malaysian Natasha, Flour sets the bar high for the North Indian food scene in KL. Since it first opened in January this year, the restaurant has gathered quite a following, and for good reason too. The spread here is authentic, and much of the menu is inpired by the recipes of Yogesh’s father who used to own several popular vegetarian restaurants in Mumbai.
Flour isn’t just a restaurant that wants to serve good food; it wants to introduce the intricacies of North Indian cuisine to us. The catalogue-like menu goes into detail of the background and how each dish is prepared, and the respect the team shows to the cuisine is reflected in the restaurant’s polished selection of dishes. Take the biryani – light and fluffy long grain rice laced with spices and chock-full of tender meat that’s been marinated in yoghurt; Natasha’s insistence on creating a dish that’s reminiscent of exactly what you’ll get in India has made it a crowd favourite.
A large part of North Indian cuisine is the bread. Here, there are several types of bread freshly made in-house that are perfect for dipping into the various curries and go wonderfully well with a pot of masala chai – the lightly spiced tea balances out the richness of the food perfectly. Because of Flour’s popularity, we recommend making reservations a week in advance to avoid disappointment.