Bengalis have been coming to this part of the world (which constituted modern-day Malaysia) for the past 5 to 6 centuries. Today, Bengalis form a small but integral part of Malaysia's large Indian community which is Tamil-dominated, but with strong Punjabi, Malayalee and Telugu presence. However, on top of these Malaysians of Bengali descent, there are about 500,000 Bangladeshi transient workers in Malaysia, many of them in the construction industry. In the past decade, there has also been an influx of highly-skilled IT and finance professionals from Bangladesh into Kuala Lumpur. Which begs the question - why is it so difficult to find a good Bengali/Bangladeshi restaurant in KL?
It took me quite a while (more than 3 years, in fact), before I came across this place, which I'd regard as serving the most authentic-tasting Bengali/Bangladeshi food in Kuala Lumpur. Mind you, Roshona Bilash is a rather simple, spartan restaurant - the sort which, in Dhaka (Bangladesh), you'll more likely find near the New Market (Azimpur) rather than Gulshan, Banani or Baridhara.
What we had:
- Two types of "bhorta" (mashed potato balls) given the typical Bengali flavour with "shorsher tel" (mustard oil): one with pumpkin & purple onions, and the other with scallions, coriander and longbeans.
- Mutton "bhuna": a remarkably delicious dry curry where the mutton was slow-cooked till soft and packed full of the spice-flavours. The use of copious amounts of onions/shallots in the cooking lent sweet, aromatic flavours to the curry.
- Chicken livers-and-potato "tôrkari": also packed full of flavours. My favourite dish for the evening. The livers had the perfect texture: just-cooked and yet moist - a testimony to the chef's good timing here.
- "Chhenchki", cooked with "korole" (gourd) and tiny anchovies.
- "Chorchori", cooked with "uchhe" (bittergourd), onions, spices and slivers of garlic. The bitterness in this dish was very much more pronounced than Chinese or Thai dishes utilising bittergourd.
The Bengalis relish the bitterness in their food very much more than other Asians - as evidenced by the widespread use of the bitterish, pungent mustard oil in their cooking. I didn't opt for the fish dishes (a fave among Bengalis) today, but hope to return and try the ilish/hilsa herring dishes. The cooking here more closely resemble the tastes in Dhaka (Bangladeshi) rather than those in Kolkata, Bengal (India). The prices are low, and its proximity to the expat pub precinct at Changkat Bukit Bintang is a definite plus.
Roshona Bilash Restaurant
46 Jalan Tengkat Tong Shin
Off Jalan Bukit Bintang
50200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 21416061