Actually, we set out that day to try a much vaunted Indian restaurant in PJ’s Old Town. We fought through traffic, only to find it closed. KHAAAANNNN!!!!
With our tummies growling, I suggested the nearby Acha Curry instead; a favourite haunt of the In.Tech (The Star’s tech pullout) crew back in the 1990s.
So we tried our luck and found it right where it’s always been, beside a mechanic’s shop in Section 5. Only it looked very different since my last visit over 10 years ago when the decor was more along the lines of, er, makeshift. Now: sturdy orange tables, a relaxing green paint job, a more permanent-looking frying station, and a waiter using an Android tablet to take our orders.
The techies in us appreciated that last part. After all, we introduced many tech industry types to Acha Curry back in the day, when its colourful proprietor would (when the mood struck) do “magic” tricks like make a Coke bottle stick to the wall, and give us 4D numbers. And of course, the food was unbeatable.
How incongruous it must have seemed for a whole group of tech MNC bigshots in suits with us casually attired journos sweating alongside one another as we wolfed down double helpings of banana leaf rice. Forget base lending rate – for us, BLR meant only one thing.
With the (first) Gulf War fresh in our minds – it was the early 1990s, after all – the proprietor referred to his star attraction, salted fish curry, as the “Mother Of All Curries”; and that popular BLR condiment, moru mullaga (chillies soaked in curd, dried and fried), as “Saddam Hussein missiles”.
Acha seems to be under new management now, but the MOAC is still part of its gravy arsenal. A typical basic BLR meal (RM6) consists of rice, four veggies, pappadom, ikan bilis sambal (heavy on the sliced onion) and your choice of gravy. The eatery provides four – chicken, fish, salted fish and crab – and I believe dhall as well, on request (though we didn’t ask).
A combo of crab and MOAC gravy, with a dollop of tairu (curd) mixed in, brought memories flooding back. What was once a quick meal to break up a hectic work day had now become comfort food, taking me back to when life was simpler, the camaraderie was unforgettable, and the future seemed so bright.
Taste-wise, it effortlessly erased the intervening years; it was as though we had just eaten there the week before.
Here’s what we had: very tender mutton varavel (RM8), richly dark but not too spicy chicken varavel (RM6), crisp fried bittergourd (RM2) with the seeds removed (very important – I consider it the mark of diligent preparation), and fried tenggiri (RM5) cooked just right.
We had teh ais (RM2) and moru ais (RM2.20), though Acha also offers mango lassi, young coconut, lime soda, and “Italian brew coffee” (RM5) which, unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to try. The price per head worked out to RM15.80, well within the budget of this feature.
Breakfast is served from 7am, with the usual suspects: thosai, roti, idli, nasi lemak; then it’s the lunch menu from late morning till the place closes at 4pm.
My colleagues and I returned to work full and happy, with one remarking that at least we had found a new place to eat. Well, new and old. Acha, how we had ached for you – and never even realised it.
271 Jalan 5/51
46100 Petaling Jaya
Tel. 012-273 5096/016-296 8809
Open 7am-4pm every day; closed on the 2nd Monday of each month
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