[Penang] Best South Indian Breakfast @ Sri Ananda Bahwan

Sri Ananda Bahwan has its roots back in 1990 in Butterworth (the mainland part of Penang), started by an enterprising Taiping-born Indian woman, Radhabay Iyasamy Naidoo, with help of her 8 children. This Penang Street branch in George Town’s Little India district was her first foray into Penang island, after successfully expanding into Sungei Petani and Kulim in neighbouring Kedah state, and Bangsar in Kuala Lumpur by the late-90s.

The Penang Street branch opened in 2001, and it has remained my firm favourite for South Indian food whenever I visited Penang in those years. For first-time visitors to George Town, do NOT confuse Penang Street, one of the main arteries in the Little India district, to Penang Road, the crumbling main thoroughfare of George Town’s old retail centre.

The South Indian breakfast staples here are generally pretty good - although its standards fluctuated over the years due to the constant & fast turnover of Indian chefs, most of whom come to work in Malaysia from India on 1- or 2-year work visas.

Our breakfast this morning:

  1. Roti canai - Malaysia-speak for paratha. The Malaysian version is lighter and less chewy than its close Singapore cousin, the roti prata. IMO, the Singapore roti prata is pretty similar to Tamilian parotta whilst the Malaysian one is more akin to the Keralan parotta.

A trio of dhal curries to slather over the roti canai:

  1. Upuma - fragrant semolina cooked with mustard seeds, cumin, curry leaves, ginger, onions, coconut and other spices. One of my fave South Indian breakfast item. Eaten with dhal curry.

  2. Idli - steamed, spongey-soft rice-flour cakes, eaten with dhal curry.

  3. Masala thosai (usually pronounced “dosa” in other parts of India, but called “thosai” in Malaysia and Singapore due to the prevalence of the use of Tamil) - a thin crepe with a dollop of spiced mashed potatoes, studded with peas, carrots, onions and ginger, tinged yellow with turmeric, in the centre.

Besides the dhal/lentil curry, coconut chutney, or a spicey kara-chutney will be served with a thosai. The version of thosai I had this morning was folded into a triangle - perhaps alluding to the chef’s origins in Karnataka state.

  1. Teh Tarik - hot milk tea, usually sweetened.

Sri Ananda Bahwan also has a variety of Indian sweets to complement its savoury dishes - it serves rice with both vegetarian and meat curried at lunch and dinner times.

Address
Sri Ananda Bahwan
25, Penang Street (Little India)
Georgetown, 10200 Penang
Malaysia
Tel: +604263 3841
Opening hours: 7am–10.30pm, daily

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― Jonathan Gold