By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen
Move over Samy, there is now a new kid on the block giving you a run for your money. Called Restaurant Susi, this brand new banana leaf curry place in Bercham (drive up Bercham main road from Tasek side until you pass a Caltex station on the right, then turn into the slip road parallel to the main road), is set to rival the best in town and replacing Samy’s as my favourite banana leaf curry eatery.
Opened by a retired consultant Oil and Gas engineer T. Purusoithman (Puru) with the support of his son Dinesh Kumar (also an engineer) and backed by his family with his wife Susila Devi and her sister Komala Devi manning the kitchen, his brother-in-law M. Rajendran out front with Dinesh, Susi Restaurant is humming with good food and activity.
And activity there is by the bushel. Open from 7am till 10pm, the workload is formidable for the two chefs in the kitchen. A Thosai and Roti Canai station out front is manned by an Indian chef from Chennai while brother-in-law mans the fish frying and Char Kway Teow (CKT) (what?! CKT in a banana leaf restaurant??) station outside on the pavement. And a very good CKT it is too at RM4.50 per portion, it has all the pre-requisite ingredients (nice prawns) minus the pork lardons and the lard. CKT available after 6pm.
Other eclectic dishes to be found here (eclectic for a banana leaf place) is their Nasi Lemak which is very tasty with a boiled egg, a very good sotong sambal, and the usual accoutrements of ikan bilis, peanuts and cucumber. Excellent at RM2.50; with fried egg at RM3.50; with chicken RM6.50. Available all day.
Then of course there is the Thosai – paper, soft, have it any way you like. Served with coconut chutney, onion chutney and dhal. Crispy (that’s the way I like it), melt-in-mouth crunch, with a red coconut chutney that is spicy without sending paroxysms of shock waves through the roof of your mouth. The wonderful part of it all is that unlike most other banana leaf places in Ipoh, Thosai and Roti Canai (which is fluffy without too much oil) is available all day and I can go in the evening and enjoy one of my favourite Indian snacks. Or lunch for that matter. RM1.30 Thosai and RM1.20 Roti Canai with fish gravy or chicken gravy or dhal. Chapatis also available.
While on the topic of staples, do try their Ghee Rice (order in advance) which is superb at RM3 per portion, as is their Biryani rice with chicken RM8.50 or mutton RM12. These are only available on Sundays but can be ordered for takeout in bigger quantities on weekdays.
Now for the meat, fish and curries. There is such a wide selection to choose from that I find bedazzling. And they all are cooked to perfection to boot – testimony to the skills of the chefs Susila and Komala who have honed their cooking skills in the home and have now brought their culinary skills and family recipes and making them available for a larger audience. Puru promises no MSG is used in all the food (a very nasty habit that is now prevalent in most Indian restaurants) which is such a relief for me as I have terrible reactions to this particular food enhancer.
I shall only mention the preparations which stood out for me both in quality of ingredients and taste. Beginning with their fried chicken drumstick, a delectably well marinated drumstick deep fried to perfection, succulent and juicy inside, the marinade having penetrated to the core and oozing with flavour – RM3.50 per piece. Still on chicken preparations, their Chicken Varuval (chicken coated in a dry masala) is superb, RM4/7 S/L, and their chicken curry is superlative, the sauce creamy and mild, and the chicken pieces tender without falling apart. Same as Varuval price.
The Mutton Curry had a dryer gravy and nevertheless equally tasty and tender – RM6/8.50 S/L. A special which they have when they can get access to the bird is their Turkey Curry, a sumptuous effort of local free range turkey cooked in a curry sauce with potatoes.
What stood out for me is their Fish Curry, a soupy, tangy gravy full of umami tartness, garnished with ladies fingers and eggplant and depending on the fish available for the day, varies in price from the day I tried with Ikan Tenggiri (mackerel) RM7 per piece to Red Snapper at RM12-15 per piece. I asked if they used the same gravy for Fish Head Curry and was told yes so that will be something for me to look forward to. Must order fish head in advance and it’ll be market price for the day.
The same market price goes for their large prawns which were market fresh and cooked in a yummilicious dry curry. As is their crabs: the day I had them were Mud Crabs but on another occasion they had Flower Crabs which I actually prefer if they’re fresh catch of the day. This is where I tuck in using my hands…eating them last so I can get up immediately to wash my hands!
Susi Restoran is certainly one place I’ll be returning to again and again. For the vegetarians amongst my readers, their Banana Leaf set of rice and three vegetables with papadum is RM6. For the non vegetarians, their choice of meat and fish dishes is so extensive that you’ll need to go repeatedly to exhaust their repertoire. Not to mention their willingness to make special dishes for you if you want them to cater.Susi Restoran51/53 Bercham Idaman 1,Taman Bercham Idaman, Ipoh.Puru: 012 781 7559Dinesh: 012 264 2864Business hours: 7am-10pm. Closed Mondays.GPS: N 4° 38.907’ E 101° 7.892’