Opted for a South Indian-Tamil vegetarian thali lunch today:
3-year-old Garden Banana Leaf occupies a ramshackle, tin-roofed dining area, surrounded by lush trees and herb bushes which almost obscured it from Free School Road. It’s a very popular eatery, especially among South Indian/Tamil vegetarians who formed the bulk of its clientele.
Garden Banana Leaf’s offering is a lunch thali set which changes daily, depending upon what its owner-cooks find best in the markets on that particular day. I rather liked thali sets - it takes the need to decide what to eat completely out of our hands, and yet, we would eagerly look forward to what the day’s offerings are going to look like: sort of like seeing what’s inside a Christmas stocking.
For today, the thali set consisted of biryani rice, tomato-moong dhal (mung bean) curry, pumpkin patchadi, cauliflower pakoras, mango pickle, thovaiyal (chutney), topped with a papadum and mor milagai (chilis marinated in yoghurt then sun-dried), plus a small decanter of moringa leaf rasam soup.
No cutlery were offered, unless one asks for them. Else, it’s go wash your hands, and then dig in!
We finished off with some very sweet semolina-carrot kheer dessert, and hot mugs of milky, spiced masala tea.
This is one of the tastiest South Indian vegetarian lunch spots I’d tried - the brisk business and endless train of customers coming in says it all. Am amazed it took me this long to discover it!
The Garden Banana Leaf
50, Jalan Free School (Free School Road)
11600 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6017-896 2331
Operating hours: 12 non to 3pm Mon to Sat. Closed on Sundays.