Wednesday 22 January 2014

Sri Nirwana Maju, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur

Sri Nirwana Maju is a bit of a Bangsar institution. It's always packed, at all times of day with customers piling onto plastic tables, and sprawling onto the pavement outside. This photo was taken at almost 11pm on a Wednesday night; there was barely a seat available.

Why is it so popular?

SNM serves banana leaf curries that are delicious and cheap - it's the ultimate Malaysian mamak experience.

We found ourselves a small space amid the din and ordered one banana leaf rice.

This is what you get with your banana leaf rice: A massive helping of rice, some cucumber, curried long beans and deep fried bitter gourd. The Indian long beans and bitter gourd are seriously tasty, and the multiple members of staff wandering about are usually happy to give you a top up. They also come around with sauces for the rice:

I believe the choices available are chicken, mutton and dal. We went for chicken, making things look like this:

First of all, the deep fried bitter gourd is just a bundle of fried, crispy, greasy goodness. It's also got a lovely red colour which, in contrast with the green leaf underneath, looks very appealing. The curried long beans are not quite as greasy but equally as tasty. The cucumber is a healthier option, but if that's what you're after then you are probably in the wrong restaurant!

Included with the banana leaf rice is also a side of tasty popadums:

All this goodness serves as a compliment for the curries and extras you want to order. We went for the chicken Masala RM5 (approx $2).

I am undoubtedly the king of overstatements in our marriage, but it was Erin who described this as 'possibly the nicest curry dish she's ever eaten'. This was actually the third time we've ordered the dish so it clearly stands up to repeat visits. 

It is a fantastically spiced chicken curry with succulent chicken pieces that are just bursting with flavour.

The only complaint is that the chicken comes on-the-bone, which although is the traditional method, it can be a bit fiddly to eat.

Overall - Erin said if it was off-the-bone it should get a 5. Unfortunately it wasn't so it gets 4.5 / 5

Along with the curry, we ordered a roti canai. 

For those of you who haven't been to Malaysia, roti canai is an Indian flatbread made from dough containing copious amounts of ghee (clarified butter), flour and water, and they come with a range of dipping sauces. When I first visited Malaysia in 2005 my friend and I left the place raving about them having eaten one almost every day.

Overall - This was a pretty standard roti - nice and flaky with that satisfying dough taste 3.5 / 5

Those who know me in Malaysia will testify that I have a weakness for what we ordered next...

Murtabaks have become my go-to end of the night food choice, replacing my old favourite - the kebab. You don't need to be drunk to order a murtabak in SNM though, the mutton ones weren't available so we went for a chicken one.

This is a murtabak:
They are rotis stuffed with fried onion, egg and in this case - chicken.

Murtabaks are one of those guilty pleasures that you know are bad but yet are so good, especially these ones at SNM. The chicken is nicely spiced and shredded, and is much more plentiful than the egg and onion (it is often the other way round...). The whole thing wasn't heavily spiced, so despite being greasy, it wasn't too heavy for us.

Overall - This is the best murtabak I've had. By far.... - 4 / 5

The menu

We are big fans of SNM; it's one of those places that makes you love being in Malaysia. It brings out all three ethnic groups in numbers, and has a bustling, lively atmosphere that is more endearing than annoying. It's also actually quite fun watching Indians, Chinese and Malays all tucking into their food with their right hands (although we used the cutlery....). 

What's important though is that it delivers where it matters; the food is great and seriously good value - our total was RM32 (approx $10) for all our food and two freshly squeezed orange juices. I'm a curry lover from a nation of curry lovers, and you simply can't get anything like this for a 1 quid-a-dish back home. 

Sri Nirwana Maju, we salute you!

A happy leaf

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