Words: Robin Pascucci Photos: Monica Tindall
I’ve found my new go-to Indian restaurant. Tucked into the row of restaurants on the cozy back street of Lorong Kurau is the delightful vegetarian gem, The Ganga Café. Though this restaurant was a new find for me, it was not Monica’s first visit to the restaurant (they already appear on The Yum List). But the new attractions on their menu brought Monica back, and I was lucky enough to join her to sample these new dishes (and a few of the standards, while we were at it).
A New Look at The Ganga Café
As Monica pointed out, the changes go beyond just additions to the menu. The space itself has been renovated, and the restaurant now has a more contemporary feel to it, with its clean, simple décor. The owners, Meeta and Prabodh, could not have been more welcoming, and it was clear from the moment we sat down to chat how much pride they take in their work and their dedication to providing healthy food that doesn’t skimp on taste.
Garden to Plate
With their garden just behind the restaurant supplying many of the ingredients for their dishes, they are taking ‘local and organic’ to the next level. And the health benefits in their food don’t just come from the freshness of their ingredients (though that is a big part of it). They are also careful to balance the ingredients – not to let any of the fermented dishes ferment for too long, and not to go overboard with any of the spices so that the flavors mix well and complement each other instead of doing battle. As Prabodh puts it, “There is no reason to sacrifice flavor in the process of creating healthy meals.” And I will vouch for the fact that absolutely no flavor was sacrificed in the making of these meals. Every dish was tasty, and the variety was impressive.
Drinks at The Ganga Café
Sumon, the restaurant’s expert drink maker started us off with three different juices from the ten on their drinks menu (all RM10 each). We tried the old favorite on the menu first, the Pranic Juice – a combination of lemon, lime, mint, ginger, cumin, pepper, and soda water which is meant to balance one’s Pranic energy. I could feel mine stepping into line with each minty, zingy sip. It is clear why this juice has been a best-seller for years.
The other popular choice that has long been a part of their menu is the Caribbean Cooler – oddly named since there is nothing tropical or Caribbean in it – until you taste it and are suddenly transported to a sandy beach, quite possibly on that side of the world. The carrots, apples, honey, and lime are somehow balanced in such a way to taste like a tropical fruit juice, sweet enough to accompany the spice of many of the dishes on the menu, but not at all overdone.
Finally, we got to try the new addition to the drinks menu, the Detox Cooler. A simple mix of cucumber, mint, and green apple, sweetened to the tastes of the customer (some sugar or none at all), is cool and refreshing and also went well with the spicier dishes nicely.
Gluten-Free Chapatis and Breads!
From the drinks menu, we moved on to the great variety of flavors that make up the food the team at The Ganga Café offers. And this is where the good news comes in for lovers of Indian food who can’t live without their chapatis but can’t handle the gluten in them. Meeta and Prabodh now have two new options, gluten-free.
The first is on the menu, and has apparently long been a staple of farmers in India who would need to sell their wheat and had only millet for their own consumption. The Rotola (RM 5), millet-based chapatis, have been keeping farmers healthy in India for centuries. Prabodh even attributes his 89-year-old father’s good health to this staple that he has eaten all his life. There is also a Sorghum Chapati available on request, but not on the menu yet as it is difficult and time-consuming to make.
To Go With The Flat Breads
We found both of these to be perfect accompaniments to the Baigan Bhata (RM 14). This eggplant dish was smooth and creamy and so full of flavor that it was difficult to identify all the ingredients that went into it. And the must to go with this was the Ganga Aloo Chat (RM 8.90). The first word out of both of our mouths after trying this salad was simply, “Wow!” It’s made from yogurt, tamarind, masala, red chili powder, fresh coriander, onions, garlic, chick peas, and potato, with optional deep fried strips of puri to give it a crunch (This can be made gluten-free by ordering without the puri).
Some Must-Eats at The Ganga Café
Another item that falls into the must-try-for-healthy-eaters category is the Khichidi (RM 10). This rice and lentil porridge is known as the “sick man’s food” in India thanks to the large quantities of turmeric in it. The golden porridge shines with a dab of ghee on the surface, but is available without ghee for those who prefer a dairy-free meal. It is exactly the kind of comfort food I would want if I were sick, but also worked beautifully as a companion to the more flavorful items on the menu, such as the aforementioned Baigan Bhata, but also the rich, creamy Palak Paneer (RM 15). Connoisseurs of Indian food may roll their eyes at the commonness of this dish, but it is the first thing I will be ordering when I go back to the restaurant (as I plan to do often). It was honestly the best Palak Paneer I have ever eaten.
The Ganga Café’s Old Favorites
I could have walked out of the restaurant happy at this point, but Meeta insisted on bringing us a few of the old favorites on the menu, and I’m so glad she did. We got the Vegetable Platter (RM 25), a colorful plate of grilled mushrooms, cauliflower, capsicum, and paneer with a spicy vegetarian version of kebob. It comes with lemon, raw onions, and a mint chutney to balance out the heat.
With this, we had a Vegetarian Murtabak (RM 10), roti canai stuffed with mushrooms, cheese, onion, coriander, and masala (and a good way to get kids to eat their vegetables, according to Prabodh), and then two kinds of Dhal – both the standard one from Mumbai that they serve with banana leaf, and the Dhal Tadka – or yellow dhal (RM 10.90). The first, though a standard, went well beyond any standard dhal I’ve had, and the second was so different from the others that I would definitely order it again. Thanks to the mashed lentils, it wasn’t at all watery, and the addition of onions, cumin, coriander leaves and turmeric were combined in a way that somehow made this dhal unique for me. It may have been thanks to the garnish of the chili pepper soaked in paprika oil, or it could just be the same magic that finds its way into the rest of their dishes. Indeed, Prabodh swears that his wife, the “juice” behind all the magic in this restaurant, is so talented in the kitchen that she could re-create a dish from smells alone.
Happily stuffed, we made room for one last bite for dessert – the Coconut Ladoo (RM2). Though I often find Indian desserts to be too sweet, this one was just right – a moist ball of coconutty goodness. And accompanied by a smooth cup of their milky Special Masala Tea (RM4.90), it is the ideal ending to the meal – one that I hope to have again very soon.
Reasons to visit: healthy, gluten-free options, balanced flavors, and that amazing Ganga Aloo Chat. Also try their unbeatably-priced Sunday brunch for only RM 25!
The Ganga Café
Indian Vegetarian Restaurant
19 Lorong Kurau
Taman Bukit Pantai
5100 Kuala Lumpur
+6 (0)3 2284 2119