KL's train system, while impressively extensive, has a few glitches. Major glitch: all the lines are owned and operated by separate companies. Apparently companies in question did not coordinate when planning stations. As a result, there are woefully few spots in the system where one can transfer from one line to the other (say, from monorail to LRT); even at transfer points, one may have to exit a train station and walk a bit to get to the other. A minor quibble, really, given the quality of the grub here (you can see where I place my priorities). And given that it was on the long, hot, open-to-tropical-downpours haul from monorail to LRT at the Sentral transfer point that I discovered Jesal Sweethouse, I'm even more inclined to be forgiving.
Jesal has a website and a proper store in Ampang, so I suspect it's been around a while and has a slew of steady customers. Their operation right at the entrance of the covered arcade leading from the monorail at Sentral to KL Sentral Station is more makeshift, just a banner and a couple of tables loaded with Punjabi sweets, fronting a slapdash-ish open prep area. It does a steady business, not all of which, I suspect, can be attributed to its commuter-friendly location.
Craving sugar after a spicy lunch on Sunday, we went in search of Jesal and were devastated by the presence of another shop in its spot in the arcade. Not to worry ; as we soon discovered, Jesal has merely moved temporarily to a larger spot in the sprawling Deepvali (Indian festival of lights) bazaar behind the arcade. And, happily, for the period leading up to Deepvali its offerings at the Sentral spot are greatly expanded.
This lady is running the show, no doubt about it.
Tasting is very much encouraged, even expected. "Try this, darling, it's very good," she says, handing me a piece of cashew sweet topped with silver leaf. "One hundred percent cashews, nothing else save for a bit of sugar." It is very good, and I say so. She's unsurprised and proceeds to fill a container for me.
"Now this." Very nice, these lentil balls, spiced with a bit of cardamom -- but I'm in the mood for something richer. Lentils are so wholesome; if I'm going to be bad I want to be really bad.
Ah, now this I haven't seen before at an Indian sweets shop: chocolate and coconut "bars". As a kid I loved Almond Joy and Mounds bars; in my book a coco-choco combo is beaten only (and barely) by a coco-palm sugar combo. These are wonderful -- not a fudge bomb, nor a death by chocolate ... just lots and lots of shredded coconut, moistly bound by unassertive but true chocolate flavor. The kind of wan (but good) chocolate flavor that means there'll be no need to stop at 1, or 5, or 8. Load 'em up, please, and while you're at it how about a few of those other chocolate things, the ones with the nuts instead of coconut. And throw in a few of those milky nut sweets (Jesal offers a second version, topped with pistachios) for a healthy balance.
On the ride home, I wondered what the heck we were going to do with three tubs of Indian sweets. But they didn't last 24 hours.
And I haven't even begun to explore Jesal's savory offerings.
[I'd welcome any and all help identifying the sweets in this post's pictures.]
Jesal Sweethouse, at the Sentral Station arcade Deepvali bazaar until November 1. After a two-week hiatus, find Jesal in its old spot at the entrance to the arcade, or visit the store at No. 45-2 Ground Floor, Leboh Ampang. Pssst ... Jesal takes special orders for kulfi <swoon>, paneer, khoya, and rasmalai. Tel. 03-2031-6773.