I know that Chettinad cuisine has a reputation of being hellishly hot but, after tasting Chettinad cuisine, albeit in high-end restaurants in Chennai, I thought I had the cuisine all figured out - until I ate at Vishalatchi in KL's Little India this evening.
Oh my, 5 minutes into my meal and sweat was dripping from every pore in my body. My tongue was numb and my lips was burning. It was also an abso-bloody-lutely delicious meal!
What I had:
- Mutton "Peratal", a dry lip-smacking mutton curry, fragrant with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise & cloves, further scented with lemongrass, fresh turmeric, curry leaves & fresh coriander sprigs. The sauce was thickened with candlenuts ("buah keras"), crushed almonds & cashews. There were mutton chunks (bone-in), tendon and marrow. It's a dish which I just *know* was way beyond my chilli-tolerance level, but which I simply could not resist.
- Chicken "Veruval", another South Indian classic - this was also another dry curry preparation, complex but with a perfect balance between its coriander and cumin spices, further accentuated by fennel, cinnamon, cloves and that "Queen of Spices" again: cardamom. The gravy was gingery and had a rough texture from the addition of dry dessicated coconut. Like the Mutton Peratal, it contained a more-than-generous amount of ground dried chillies - more potent than the fresh ones.
- "Idiyappam" or string hoppers: fine-textured Indian steamed rice noodles: a perfect foil to the spicy dry curries.
I was also given a selection of curry gravies to pour over my "idiyappam": yellow vegetable dhal curry (which contained segments of drumstick/"murunggakai" vegetable), a super-spicy chicken curry gravy and coconut chutney.
For sweets, I tried the hand-moulded "Kozhukattai" (Tamil: கொழுக்கட்டை) - something which I'd never had before, but was utterly scrumptious: steamed rice-flour dumplings filled with grated coconut, jaggery & mung dhal. It was a sort of India's answer to Chinese "Red Tortoise Cake"/"Ang Ku Kueh" (Chinese: 紅龜粿). I liked the skin of the Indian version better as it's not stretchy/chewy like the Chinese version which used glutinous rice flour.
Drink was sweet lassi - which turned out to be the best-tasting I'd had this year - in Malaysia, Singapore & India ;-)
Vishalatchi's service was friendly, prompt & efficient. This place is definitely a keeper!
Vishalatchi Food Catering
19, Jalan Travers
Off Jalan Tun Sambanthan
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-2274 6819