A big segment of the Indian community are devoted vegetarians. In a 'State of the Nation Survey' carried out in 2006, The Hindu (a newspaper in India) reported that a whopping 40% of the population in India are vegetarians. I have no idea what percentage of the Malaysian Indian population do not eat meat. I do not think it would be in the same proportion as India. Still, with commonality in customs and religion, I believe the Indians form the biggest vegetarian community in this country.
Yet the vegetarian food scene in Malaysia is not Indian. It is dominated more by the Chinese. It is so very difficult to find an Indian vegetarian restaurant in this country. But we managed to nose out one.
The place is Saravanaa Bhavan Indian Vegetarian Restaurant. It is located in the PJ new town area on Jalan 52/2, off the main road Jalan Sultan. It is a few shops away from the PJ new town EON Bank.
Saravanaa Bhavan is a nice makan place. It is bright and well decorated, with smartly attired waiters who unfortunately are not very conversant in English and Malay. We had a little problem ordering our food as we were not familiar with the dishes and the waiters were not able to explain them clearly to us.
Still we managed. Our orders turned out very much to our satisfaction.
I had the salty lassi (a yogurt drink) to start the meal. That was so very good. It was very refreshing and was even better than salty yogurt drink I had in the Iranian restaurant. The lassi was thick, cold and have a very plasant flavor. If you ever come to Saravanaa Bhavan, do not forget their salty lassi.
Besides serving Indian dishes, the restaurant also offers a limited Chinese selection. Like these spring rolls that we had for starters. The rolls were totally un-Indian. They tasted good. The stuffing, though vegetarian, was very nice and tasty. Great start to a good dinner.
The Indian dishes started with this Gobi-65, a deep fried spiced cauliflower. The cauliflower was crunchy and was nice to the bite.
Next was the Paneer Saagwala - a paste of spinach sauteed with onions, garlic, tomato and cottage cheese. I was rather apprehensive and skeptical when I first saw it. It did not look very beautiful. But my fear evaporated when I tasted it. It was delicious. I particularly like cubes of cottage cheese in the spinach.
The vegetarian mutton curry was simply great. The curry flavor was most authentically Indian. A very delicious curry indeed.
The Aloo Gobi Masala was steamed potato and cauliflower in onion paste and North Indian spices. It was perhaps not as great was the other dishes we had. Still we had no complaint. We like it nevertheless.
We had 2 types of naan to eat with the various dishes. The butter naan was rather oily. I much preferred the plain naan. The naans were nicely prepared. They were served hot. The sides were crispy. They form the staple for a truly toothsome meal.
We also had some briyanis. We had a bowl each of mushroom and plain briyani. I enjoyed the rice. The basmati was fluffy and aromatic. They went very well with the dishes we ordered.
It was a totally satisfying meal. We are already planning our next visit. But the Indian vegetarian dishes did not come cheap. In fact it was considerably most expensive than their meated counterparts. The salty lassi was RM7. The spinach paste was RM12 and the mutton curry was RM10. Perhaps there should be some competition.
Where have all the Indian vegetarian restaurants gone?