Kuala Lumpur (like Singapore) has a dearth of Sri Lankan eateries. When I first moved there from Singapore in 2011, there was only one Sri Lankan eatery of note: Aliyaa in Plaza Damanasara - pointed out to me by my new neighbours, a older Malaysian couple of Jaffna-Tamil descent. Aliyaa’s still there - quite an expensive restaurant, and very much priced to take advantage of the wealthy eighbourhood it’s located in.
Fast forward to the present day - I no longer live in Kuala Lumpur, but do make trips down there every now & then - and I discovered from my most recent trip last weekend that there are now two other “proper” restaurants which serve Sri Lankan food. One was Yarl Restaurant, which has progressed from a road-side shack to a newly-refurbished shophouse in the Brickfields (Little India) neighbourhood. __Yarl Restaurant__was first set-up a few years ago using funds provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help Jaffna-Tamil refugees fleeing the Sri Lankan civil war (1983-2009). A decade after the war ended, the restaurant still pulled in the crowd - mainly Malaysian-Tamils in search of good Jaffna-Tamil food. It’s widened its offerings to include freshly-made Sri Lankan-style appams, but still retained its rustic, rough-at-the-edges feel.
The other Sri Lankan restaurant where I had lunch last Sunday was Lankan Cafe, a casual bistro with a more “upmarket” feel compared to Yarl, and with a wider menu.
- There were 6 of us, and we ordered a selection of appams to share - egg appams, sweet appams sprinkled with jaggery sugar and plain appams.
Taste-wise, the appams had a “slight” sweetish taste reminisscent of Malaysian-Tamil appams, so it’s possibly “localised” to suit the local Malaysian palate. Their appams were also cooked using shallower mini-woks, unlike the ones at Yarl which were exactly the same as those we had in Sri Lanka back in June.
These were accompanied by the omnipresent Sri Lankan sambol triumvirate: pol sambol (spiced, grated coconut with Maldivian fish), katta sambol (ultra-spicy minced chilis) and seeni sambol (spicy, caramelised onion relish).
Another appetiser we had were the mutton cutlets - little croquettes with a crisp shell encasing spiced, minced mutton filling. Delish with the seeni sambol (actually, anything would taste good with seeni sambol!)
One of the lunch items we came for was the Lamprais, which is only available on weekends. Lamprais is a Dutch-Burgher dish which is esentially rice with a selection of curried meats & vegetables, wrapped into a parcel using banana leaves, then oven-baked.
Unwrapping a lamprais would unveil an aromatic, delicious rice parcel, flavoured with curries and infused with the scent from the banana leaves.
The version here included spiced chicken and mutton, a hard-boiled egg, and aubergine curry, with golden-fried shallots.
One can never visit a Sri Lankan restaurant without ordering a Sri Lankan crab curry. There were 3 versions available - we were recommended the Mantara Crab Curry. The liquid, chocolate-coloured sauce was absolutely delicious. The crabs - NOT fresh at all, with powdery, dry flesh. Sorely disappointed. I’d definitely avoid ordering this dish again if I do come back here.
The other main dish - Mutton Bone Marrow Curry saved the day: the perfectly-cooked mutton shanks were blankered with a spicy, deep-flavoured curry generously studded with chunks of mutton meat. Short straws were provided for diners to suck the marrow out of the mutton shank.
- We ordered some stringhoppers/Idiyappam for the carbs to accompany the curried dishes.
Overall, it would have been a really good meal, but for the big, big road-bump that was the unfresh crabs.
388, 1st Floor, Jalan 5/59, Taman Petaling
Bukit Gasing, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Opening hours: 10am-10pm, Tues-Sun. Closed on Mondays