It took me 2.5 years - but, finally, I found a restaurant that served the most authentic South Indian food in Kuala Lumpur today: Nagas Restaurant in KL's Little India at Brickfields. Located at the quieter end of Jalan Tun Sambanthan close to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet (hey, KFC is really *big* in Malaysia, okay?), Nagas' food tasted *exactly* as those I'd had in South India - no "Malaysian-isation" of its cooking.
Finding truly authentic-tasting South Indian fare is surprisingly difficult in KL, despite the fact that 10% of the 7 million population in KL and its surrounding Klang Valley suburbs and satellite towns are of Indian descent (mostly Tamils). Most Indian food in Malaysia had undergone some "localisation" as the Indians have been here for centuries. Take the "roti canai", for instance, a much lighter, crispier take on the Indian paratha. Malaysian "sambhar" also tend to be blander, more watery, and less aromatic than the renditions I had in India.
That's why it was such a pleasure to find "sambhar" at Nagas which, at one taste, transports me back to the superb vegetarian food palaces in Chennai: smokey-delicious, kick-butt flavours. The curried chickpeas and dry/semi-mashed curried potatoes both seemed deceptively simple, but possesed complex levels of flavours not normally found in other Indian eateries in Little India.
I chose "idiyappam" - South Indian rice vermicelli - as a foil for the curries. It was perfect.
Whole fresh local coconuts are my choice for a cool thirst-quencher at this restaurant, but it also serves South Indian coffee - do ask for a less sweet version, as Indian-preferred sugar levels may be higher than what we're used to.
3339 Jalan Tun Sambanthan
50470 Kuala Lumpur