Vishal Food and Catering, Brickfields: Lessons From My Dad

This post is part of the I LOVE KL series which I’ve recently started and aims to showcase a tapestry of personal stories weaved in together with the love for our home city. I am also looking at collaborating with guest writers who loves their food as much as their city in the future. Email me if you would like to share your story at mailto:qwazymonkey@gmail.com

***
Sri Kandaswamy Kovil_1.jpg

Calvin: How come old photographs are black & white? Didn’t they have color films back then?
Dad: Sure they did. In fact, those old photographs are in color. It’s just the world was black & white then.

When I was younger, the only comic I could relate to was Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes. I could empathize with the kid who’s imagination was bigger than his vocabulary (or even mine at that time). I know exactly how the world was a complicated place for a six year old stuck with a dad who often gives outrageous explanations when asked a straight question. My own dad (not Ah Pa) was no different. I’m not calling him a liar on my very first real mention of him on this blog, but dad had the tendency of making facts up when he didn’t know the answer. He’ll never admit that he doesn’t know, even when proven wrong. It’s probably hardwired in his head that its a sign of fragility if he admits it. Either that or I didn’t get his sense of humour.

Of course, I was gullible enough to belief everything he said back then. He is after all my dad, who’s lived much longer than I have.

6-year-old Me: Why is this place called Brickfields?
Dad: It’s the only place in the entire city where every building is built using bricks.
6-year-old Me: Then what’s the rest of the city made of?
Dad: Mud. It’s called Kuala Lumpur for a reason.

Vishal Food & Catering_2.jpg

Honestly, I’ve learned a lot from my dad. I’ve learned how I need to sometimes take his words with a pinch of salt. I’ve learned how to open my eyes, observe things for myself and form my own conclusions, especially when he starts to share his own bizarre takes on things. I’ve also learned on my own accord that Brickfields has gotten its name from its brick-making days as the whole area was a clay pit and good quality bricks are made of clay. The area was established and developed by Yap Kwan Seng, the fifth and last Kapitan Cina of Kuala Lumpur, who foresaw an increase demand of bricks for the fast-growing city.

These days the only trade involving bricks are the ones made of ice. Huge frozen blocks are cut and separated by the hands of a solidarity figure under the sweltering heat. I don’t know how the guy do this on a day-to-day basis. My new Threadless t-shirt (ironically features a graphic of an Eskimo planting popsicles in his snowy yard) was soaking in sweat as I stood there watching him cut each of these bricks into 8 smaller ones and transferring them onto his motorcycle which he’ll then distributes to the eateries around the area. I now have so much more respect for ice in my teh ais (iced milk tea).

Vishal Food & Catering_3.jpg

Dad often refers to Brickfields as “Little India“. He may not be wrong judging how this is an enclave containing a large community of Indian people, and in many aspects, larger than that of the city’s official Little India in Jalan Tengku Kelana. In fact, this neighbourhood houses one of KL’s foremost Ceylonese Tamil temples. The photogenic Sri Kandaswamy Kovil, sits between the closed end of the present Jalan Scott and the muddy Klang River. It was built in 1906 by the growing Sri Lankan Tamil community who left their homes in hopes of finding work on the new railways being built by the British. These devout Saivites believed that, “no one should live in a place that has no temple.”

With them, these migrants also brought along a myriad of Indian cuisines, of which is now Brickfield’s most alluring trait. One can find any sort of food from all parts of India right here. Being the most popular of which is the Banana Leaf Rice. If you’re up for that, there’s no better place to have it than at Vishal Food & Catering, which is located down the street from Sri Kandaswamy Kovil temple.

Vishal has been around for about 5-years now, prides itself in serving authentic Chettinad cuisine. This southern Indian cuisine is best describe as India’s spiciest yet most aromatic due to the variety of spices used in the preparation of mainly non-vegetarian dishes. However, Chettiars do not consume pork or beef. They started off as a little canteen with long rectangular tables that were lined up in rows along the length of the room with seats facing each other. Operating right above its current ground floor premises, they served lunch to the workers of their own printing factory. Nowadays, the mess hall is much bigger as they serve a larger clientele who makes a beeline for their wonderful food. Try to make it here early to avoid the crowd.

Vishal Food & Catering_4.jpg

The one thing I like most about having banana leaf rice is the riot of colours that comes with it. First comes the green leaf, then *plop* comes the bright yellow and mushy vegetables, another *plop* and you’ll get a mountainous scoop of white rice. Wait a little while for the petite waiter to return with silver reflective buckets and watch carefully as he floods your rice with a shower of golden d’haal and amber curry. Top that all with a succulent and fragrant piece of bright red fried fish cutlet and some papadom. If that’s not a visual feast, I don’t know what is.

Also try to order some side dishes to accompany your meal. We managed to try some exotic Minced Shark Meat (now, don’t look at me like I killed it), which frankly could have been any other meat floss cooked with onions, turmeric and a variety of other spices. Heck, it could be an omelette and still taste the same to us. On the other end of the scale we were most impressed with the Dry Mutton Curry, their weekend specialty, which was absolutely gorgeous. Another thing they are good at is the Rasam – a sourish soup traditionally prepared with tamarind juice, lentils and vegetable. So, do grab one of them stainless steel cups when the waiters make their rounds with their silver platters.

Vishal Food & Catering_5.jpg

Dad may not always know everything, but the things I know about Brickfields – especially on where to eat – were all from him. He has showed me where the best banana fritters are located and also where one can find great Chinese food in this unlikely area. He has also showed me one of the best Ais Kacang (local shaved ice dessert) stall in town, which serves the a mean Coconut ABC Special and Cendol right in front of the 7-Eleven. A perfect treat to cool your palate down after a fiery meal. I wonder if they get their ice from the iceman earlier. And thanks for the lessons, dad!

Ah Keong's ABC_6.jpg

*** 

Vishal Food & Catering 
15, Jalan Scott, Off Jalan Tun Sambathan, 
Brickfields
50470 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603 2274 0502
Business Hours: Open for breakfast and lunch

Ah Keong’s ABC Stall
(in front of 7-Eleven)

Jalan Padang Belia
Brickfields

50740Kuala Lumpur
Business Hours: Open from 10 am to 7 pm daily

***


Other post from the I LOVE KL series includes:
- Restaurant Hong Ngek, Jalan Tun HS Lee: How Could We Have Not Met?

26 Responses to Vishal Food and Catering, Brickfields: Lessons From My Dad
  1. boo_licious
    February 18, 2010 | 1:17 am

    I love Brickfields too! My fav Sunday hangout joint. Your dad rocks for teaching you all those things.

  2. Lyrical Lemongrass
    February 18, 2010 | 1:43 am

    I get all teary eyed whenever I go back to Brickfields now. It was my "home" in the 90s and a good part of the Noughties. So that ice-man…yeah, I've known him for about 15 years….same with the ABC/Cendol peeps. In a sense, I am hoping that modernisation doesn't come to Brickfields that fast, although the signs are there, what with the conversion of the Lido kopitiam to a local coffee chain and the reference to the area as Sentral instead of Brickfields to increase property prices. Vishal…I remember the days when we had to climb the rickety stairs to the hidden food hall upstairs, and we had to remove our shoes before entering as a sign of respect. Now, huge garish paintings line the walls as commercialisation takes the front seat. Your pictures are lovely, and your stories, very heartwarming. Thanks, BFF. :-)

  3. Lyrical Lemongrass
    February 18, 2010 | 2:00 am

    P.S. And thanks for sharing those wonderful stories that your dad shared with you. I especially like the mud bit. :-D

  4. J
    February 18, 2010 | 3:20 am

    Luverly post! :)
    Sentimental and yummy at the same time…
    (*lol* Haha.. Sweet treats just under the dental clinic. It's almost evil!)

  5. Sean
    February 18, 2010 | 4:38 am

    hey, have u seen this website? http://cityofsharedstorieskualalumpur.com/ maybe u could adapt this blog post and contribute it as an essay to the site. your writing is beautiful enough that it can stand alone even without the photos =)

  6. Hide and Seek
    February 18, 2010 | 5:00 am

    Chances upon your blog, and found myself never heard of these places (both this entry and the previous one in High street) despite living in KL for 25 years… @@

    Love KL, and definitely love you blogging more about KL. Great photography :) Thanks for sharing!

  7. gfad
    February 18, 2010 | 8:00 am

    What a beautiful post. :) It was a very lovely day indeed, full of good food and great company. The myriad of smells around Vishal reminded me of my childhood hols at my grandfather's shop in Bt Gajah – the incense, the food, the drain(!), the car fumes. I also remember the olden days of storing ice then – blocks all covered with sawdust. Is nostalgia a sign of old age?? :D

    Now I have new memories of new friends, squatting toilets and texting messages!! :D

  8. babe_kl
    February 18, 2010 | 8:50 am

    i love love love this post a lot. learnt so much ;-)

  9. qwazymonkey
    February 18, 2010 | 2:07 pm

    Boo: It is mine too. Lets hang out there one of these Sundays

    LL: I was shocked too when I saw the chain kopitiam there. I used to fight for a place to eat at Lido Kopitiam too. I wonder where that Chicken Rice aunty has gone to.

    BFF: I was inspired by our chat at another chain kopitiam place. :)

    J: What good observations! Of kors we couldn't care less. Just slurp away.

    Sean: Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'll give it a shot.

    Hide & Seek: Thanks for dropping by. Love to share more in the future.

    GFAD: How can one forget about the squatting toilet-sms story. That's classic! GLad you enjoyed your day out. Can't wait for the next time you come around.

    Babe_KL: So sweet words. Thanks heaps. I'm still learning though.

  10. J2Kfm
    February 18, 2010 | 3:30 pm

    Geez, what a touching story. Can be made into another Petronas ad jor… wait, does Petronas even have one this year? I didn't notice.

    Anyway, Brickfields to me is a most uncharted territory. Aside from the Indian food, I have not tasted anything else. Not even the legendary banana fritters hanging "from the sky" …

  11. Lyrical Lemongrass
    February 19, 2010 | 3:17 am

    All the stalls at Lido kopitiam have moved a few doors away to another shop, so they're still there. What I really really miss, though, is the aunty at another lorong near 7-11 who used to sell curry mee (really kau kau wan); she moved away several years ago and I can't find her. *sob*

  12. Wandernut
    February 21, 2010 | 4:57 pm

    Lovely post, Monkey.
    Now heart is all fuzzy and tummy is all rumbling. At the airport waiting to board my flight back to SH in half an hour. Red eye flight. It's 1.00am. Hungry.

    Gong Xi Fa Cai, Monkey.
    p/s: saw that blackboard thingy in E&I's kitchen. LOVE IT!

  13. qwazymonkey
    February 22, 2010 | 12:41 am

    J2KFM: Don't think I saw any Petronas ads this year. Then again, I've stopped watching TV. U.MUST.TRY.BANANA.FRITTERS!

    LL: U Must show me all your favourites there.

    Wandernut: GXFC to you too. Hope you have a safe trip back. How unfortunate for us not to meet this time round. :) Perhaps the when you're finally back for good.

  14. CUMI & CIKI
    February 22, 2010 | 2:38 am

    wiki munkey! love the research.. dat's wot im talking about ;) gr8 shots.. and GREAT to be back!

  15. Nic (KHKL)
    February 22, 2010 | 3:40 am

    Bro, this is a wonderful post. You've repainted those black and white memories very well. Am definitely looking forward to your KL series. Rock on!

  16. fatboybakes
    February 22, 2010 | 3:45 am

    i swear, take out the comics, you're sounding more and more like your BFF (except dotted with grammatical errors, whereas the queen's is usually perfect).

    lovely post, so introspective and touching. i used to LOVE calvin & hobbes too. have every single book. hey, is your profile picture a gif? i swear it just moved.

  17. thule a.k.a leo
    February 22, 2010 | 5:32 am

    LOL! it seems that we have something in common.. Calvin & Hobbes!! I have each and every single book… now I am thinking to buy the Box COllection taht cost around RM600++!! But wait till the budget permits first!

    My first memory of Brickfields is the church! My close cousin used to stay there when he first went to KL to study. I picked him up and we would go hanging out together. Apart from that, the next one would be the horrendous traffic jam everytime I sent him home.. sigh!!!

  18. Life for Beginners
    February 22, 2010 | 6:54 am

    Totally heartwarming. But. My fave part:

    6-year-old Me: Why is this place called Brickfields?
    Dad: It's the only place in the entire city where every building is built using bricks.
    6-year-old Me: Then what's the rest of the city made of?
    Dad: Mud. It's called Kuala Lumpur for a reason.

    ROFL. So farnie. You comix rawk, always! :)

  19. fatboybakes
    February 23, 2010 | 5:54 am

    yesterdays baby blues strip reminded me of your post.

    hammie asks dad: did you vote for George washington?

    dad replies: erm, no

    hammie looks at him in disbelief and disappointment…

    dad replies: oh, my horse broke down on election day.

    hammie: oh, phew.

  20. thenomadGourmand
    February 23, 2010 | 7:47 am

    This got to be one of your best post so far!
    Really lovely.. for once I wasnt concentrating on the food but more on the story!

  21. qwazymonkey
    February 23, 2010 | 3:22 pm

    C&C: Hehe. I learnt from the best – u guys of cos :)

    Nic: Thanks thanks…will aspire to write better stories in the future. *stress*

    Ah Pa: Well there only enough room for one Queen in the blogosphere and it ain't me. My profile pic is still there! Are you drinking again?

    Thule: Yeah man, tell me about it. I so WANT that box set!!! But so darn expensive lah

    LFB: *throws a mud pie in your direction*

    Ah Pa again: Hammie's like super cute! Wonder why he doesn't have a huge nose like his daddy?

    TNG: Thanks thanks! Glad you liked it.

  22. UnkaLeong
    February 24, 2010 | 12:07 am

    Lovely write up. Most of the places I now share with Becks was also introduced to me by my dad when I was a wee lad. *hugs*

  23. wmw
    February 25, 2010 | 4:49 pm

    Wonderfully written and love the photos! I can relate to reminiscing the good 'ol days :o)

  24. seventh stranger
    February 28, 2010 | 12:08 pm

    your camera skills are good eh! nice. justice done to the food! nice nice. i think we're so blessed having living in kaye elle and sing chio por with lottsa food and if we're ever sick of local food, can always go for other types…….
    good to know you're still keeping the love!

    in the name of food, we trust!

    i:s

  25. qwazymonkey
    March 1, 2010 | 7:45 pm

    Unka: I guess we are all our fathers' sons.

    WMW: Thanks! The old days are hard to come by

    7th: Hey long time no hear from you. Agreed, we're blessed with so many beautiful food and places in our countries.

  26. seventh stranger
    March 16, 2010 | 4:19 am

    hey, your pictures are looking pretty good! nice work!!!!
    food galore, what can i say… it's KAYE ELLLE!!!!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Trackback URL http://alilfatmonkey.com/vishal-food-and-catering-brickfields-lessons-from-my-dad/trackback/