PETALING JAYA: Indian food is one of the highlights of Malaysian cuisine, with almost everyone having cravings of tucking into a generous helping of rice and a spicy curry every so often.
The city of Petaling Jaya has no small number of banana leaf restaurants; with many of these being household names and having their own legion of loyal customers.
Located in the quieter suburbs of the city is Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen and as indicated by how packed it is on a Sunday afternoon, it too has something that makes people come back for more.
The restaurant is a haven for fans of Malayalee cuisine, though there are many other delights to sate local taste buds as well.
Speaking to FMT Lifestyle, co-owner Pradeep Kumar explains that Malayalee dishes originate from the Indian state of Kerala, and is distinguishable from its use of coconut which greatly refines the flavour and taste of food.
Located in the Bukit Gasing area, Shobana’s is a comfortable and spacious air-conditioned eatery; the perfect place for friends or family to gather for luncheons on a blazing hot afternoon.
Pradeep explains that besides being a dine-in restaurant, Shobana’s offers catering services for private parties as well as large-scale weddings of up to 500 guests.
As it is within a residential area, don’t be surprised to find it packed with hungry customers at lunch hour.
Stepping into Shobana’s, you’ll be spoilt for choice considering the vast array of delicacies on display. With culinary delights ranging from mutton varuval to chicken moolie, it’s hard to decide what to gorge yourself with.
A little self-restraint helps, or you’ll end up ordering a little of everything.
After taking your pick, you can expect to be served relatively fast.
As befitting a proper banana leaf restaurant, the fresh leaf laid out in front of you will be promptly loaded with a generous helping of piping hot rice. You can also ask for a chapati if you wish.
And as is tradition, an assortment of fresh vegetables and pickles will be served out onto your leaf.
You will also be provided the option of drenching your rice with either chicken curry, fish curry or dhal. To top it off, a basket of papadum is a must.
Check out the restaurant’s pride and joy, the mutton varuval which is deliciously fall-off-the-bone tender.
The fish puttu is also a must-try, being soft, flaky and flavourful. Traditionally made using shark, the puttu in Shobana’s uses mackerel instead, Pradeep says.
The sambal ikan bilis is a dish meant to cater for local tastes. It is crunchy and spicy enough that you may want to take a packet home as a snack.
Keep an eye out for the fish sothi, a tumeric-yellow curry just as creamy as it is milky.
The burst of flavours as you bite into the sothi-soaked fish is the result of the rich coconut used in the dish.
Speaking about fish, the fish molee is a must-try as the flavour is rich even when immersed in the tasteful curry.
Give the chicken molee a taste too, the subtle spices and creamy curry settles in well with the tender chicken meat.
For the adventurous, tuck into some thoran, which is a classic and healthy vegetable dish that Shobana’s prepares using banana flowers.
After all the savoury and spicy meals, what better way to cool off your tongue than with a drink of iced mooru.
Pradeep explained that the ingredients used in Shobana’s dishes are bought fresh from the market every morning, particularly the PJ Old Town Wet Market.
Muslim patrons can also be assured that the meat used in Shobana’s is bought from halal suppliers.
“We don’t stinge on quality ingredients,” he said. “There is no compromise on the quality of our food.”
A restauranteur with three other dining establishments and nearly five years’ experience in the industry, it was surprising to learn that Pradeep has been a sea captain for over 13 years.
He has a personal attachment to Shobana’s, however, as Shobana was the name of his beloved late mother.
Just as his mother took care of his family, Shobana’s gives back to the community through its collaboration with charity organisations.
Shobana’s has been involved in a substantial amount of charity work that has seen their food arrive on the plates of the hungry.
If you are looking to enjoy a meal at a place with heart, head over to Shobana’s for a scrumptious, hearty experience that will invoke memories of a home-cooked meal.
Shobana’s Kerala Kitchen
357C, Jalan 5/57
46000 Petaling Jaya
Business hours: 8am to 4pm daily, closed on Mondays