Words: Ross Jones Photos: Monica Tindall
Just a short distance from the constant energy of Jalan Maarof and central Bangsar is a small respite of excellent Gujarati cuisine. The Ganga Cafe has been in business for several years, but was recently acquired by our host in November. The result is a unique dialect of Southern Indian food that The Yum List had not experienced before. Lovers of Indian vegetarian cuisine should be sure to add this cafe to their “must eat at” list.
|The Ganga Cafe|
We were warmly welcomed by our hosts Prabodh and Meeta. They summed up their restaurant as a homestyle experience that you might find in the Indian state of Guajarat. Prabodh, is Malaysian by birth; his father immigrated in 1955 and his wife and chef behind the operation, Meeta, was born in India. The Ganga Cafe changed recently from its original banana leaf style to a plated operation and the result has been magnificent. Cuisine at Ganga Cafe is totally vegetarian, containing no MSG, and no eggs. Their commitment to this, coupled with their dedication to quality has produced an Indian cuisine unique to the area and perfect for the demands of the busy Bangsar restaurant scene.
We began our culinary trip to Gujarat with a sampling of their beverages. The Ganga Tea Crush is an extraordinarily refreshing beverage that consists of mint, lime, lemon, and tea with a touch of brown sugar. Definitely not too sweet, and perfect for this hot afternoon.
The Ganga cafe offers a number of traditional Lassis that are excellent and on par with the best in the city. We sampled the Mango Lassi and enjoyed its gentle sweetness and light tangy finish.
The most unique beverage we tried was the Pranic Juice: an excellent juice seasoned with herbs, spices, and a touch of black pepper. Our hosts claimed that it aids digestion. We found it tasty and a bit spicy on the back end. Definitely a unique beverage and worthy of a reorder.
|Ganga Tea Crush (RM7), Pranic Juice (RM5.50), Mango Lassi (RM5.50)|
At the heart of the Ganga Cafe menu is their list of meal sets. These are a variety of size platters ranging from Banana Leaf (large) to G-Lite (small). The diner is given a number of options of Chapatis. This selection of Chapatis is very unique in KL-and there are a number of healthy options to make your bread selection a bit more nutritious. Customers may also choose between different rice sets: brown, biryani, or tomato rice. These rice sets also come with a papadum. We were presented with a variety of different chapatis–some traditional (Parotha – made with ghee), some more healthy (Ayurvedic chapati). All were excellent. The chutneys and dahl were also very well made. It’s important also to point out that Ganga Cafe offers a lentil free dahl for those that do not take well to legumes.
|Indian Breads – Rotli (chapati), Parotha, Puri, Bhakri|
|Masala Thosai (RM4)|
Away from their set menu, Ganga Cafe offers a number of Gujarati specialties. These were new to us and difficult to explain from a primarily western palate – I’ll do my best:
|Pav Bhaji (RM8 with 2 buns)|
One of the foods that we liked the best was the Aloo Tikki – a potato patty coated in seasoned breadcrumbs and fried. These are served with mint and tamarind sauce. They were spicy and excellent.
|Aloo Tikki (RM2 per piece)|
Similar to the Aloo Tikki was the Vada Pav: A similar potato patty, but this time served on a bun with ghee and a spicy flour of chili and coconut. Very similar to a burger, but sans the meat. This was unique and had more of a kick than the Aloo Tikki.
|Vada Pav (RM5)|
One of the house favorites is the Bhathura: A fried balloon of dough served with yogurt spiced with garam masala and a lentil chutney This was quickly torn apart and devoured by our team.
|Chana Bhathura (RM8)|
We were served a number of small bite style foods: the mixed Pakoda: a puff pastry with a special batter and filled with spinach, onion, and fenugreek. The Pani Poori – fried pockets of dumpling filled with beans but the top of the dumpling is cut off (like a convertible car) – served with a sour soup. Right before the diner eats, you pour a spoonful of the soup into the dumpling and quickly shovel it in before the soup soaks through. It’s an expeditious and well planned process resulting in a great snack.
|Pani Puri (RM6 five pieces)|
|Samosa (RM2 per piece)|
An important event to mention is Ganga Cafe’s popular Sunday brunch (11am to 3pm). For RM16 diners choose from a buffet spread of Ganga Cafe’s signature dishes and also some new experiments. It has been a huge hit with expats and locals in Bangsar and something we hope to return for in the not too distant future. It comes with bottomless Masala Tea (a fantastic brew) and, is a great bargain for those wanting to try a new taste of Southern India.
|Masala Tea (RM4)|
The Sunday brunch is too an ideal time to sample some Indian sweets. Meeta adds her latest productions to the smorgasbord and we were fortunate to savor a couple even though our visit was mid-week. Mohanthal proved dense and left a similar texture as does peanut butter on the roof of our mouths. The Gulap Juman appealed to Caning’s fondness of sweets with it sugary syrup and dense powdered milk middle.
|Mohanthal (on the Sunday lunch buffet)|
|Gulap Juman (RM2 per piece)|
|Mukhwas – breath freshener and digestive|
Reflecting on our visit we agreed the food is not overly oily like some experiences we’ve had with Indian food in the city and can truly cater to the various religious and chosen dietary needs of this diverse metropolis. The proprietors spoke in great detail about how Ganga Cafe can cater to Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, and Muslims; something that he is truly passionate about. So all should feel welcome and, all should leave with their bellies and taste buds happily satisfied.
|Eggless Roti Canai (RM2)|
Reasons to visit: no MSG or added nasties; lots of healthy options available such as brown rice and Ayurvedic chapatis; vegetarians of all denominations catered to; our favourites – Aloo Tikki, Pani Poori, healthy chapatis, Masala Thosai, Ganga Tea Crush, Panic Juice.
19 Lorong Kurau
Taman Bukit Pantai (just to the side of Bangsar)
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 2284 2119
Open Tuesday – Saturday 8:30am – 9:30pm
Sunday 10am – 3pm
Closed on Mondays