[Penang, Malaysia] South Indian banana leaf lunch at Theeni Pandarams

Banana leaf lunch today at the newish South Indian eatery, ๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ถ ๐—ฃ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—บ๐˜€, which was just established last year, 1 Sep 2021.
It occupies the old Thong Chai Medical Hall building on the intersection of China Street and Penang Street in the Little India district of George Town.

The restaurant name, Theeni Pandarams in Tamil, the lingua franca in Penangโ€™s Little India, roughly translates as โ€œFood Gluttonsโ€. :joy:

The eatery was started by 3 business partners: Murga Reddy, Govinda Reddy and Rishi, who used to run a travel agency down the road here in Penangโ€™s Little India. When the COVID pandemic shut down international travel, they decided to switch to the F&B industry instead. After all, everyone still needs to eat in the midst of a global pandemic.

We opted for the standard set for 4 persons (MYR189/US$45/ยฃ34), eaten using hands, sans cutlery, the traditional way:

Our banana leaf rice set consisted of:
Nandu masala (crab curry)

Kanava varuval (squid masala fry)

Mutton kuzhambu - these were bone-in mutton pieces, cooked with potatoes, best-described as messy-deliciousness when consuming it.

Iraal masala (Spicy masala prawns)

Meen varuval (fried mackerel fish-steak)

Kozhi kozhambu (chicken curry)

The rice all came with 4 types of cooked vegetable sides:
Kose poriyal (cabbage stir-fry), Urulai fry (scalloped potato fries), Arasanikaai poriyal (yellow pumpkin fry) and Pudalangaai poriyal (snake gourd stir-fry), plus Pappadum & Moor Milagai (crisp-fried sun-dried chillis)

Rasam (spiced, tamarind soup) was served towards the end of the meal, with a sweet, warm, buttery kesari (semolina pudding) for dessert.

I also loved that the chef here, Madam Padma (proudly showing her turmeric-inflected, yellow-hued hand) used Alagappa curry powder, my personal favourite brand, giving their curries that familiar aroma and taste.

Theeni Pandarams
82A, Lebuh Penang (Penang Street), 10200 George Town, Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +604-226 1557
Opening hours: 11am to 10pm, Tue to Sun. Closed on Mondays.


Awesome looking feast and, as always, excellent pictures and descriptions. Thank you.

And Iโ€™m making a note of that restaurant name


Theeni Pandarams was hardly 15-months-old when it impressed the Michelin inspectors enough for its inclusion in the inaugural Michelin Guide 2023 to Kuala Lumpur and Penang under its Bib Gourmand list.

We made a return visit for lunch today and, if anything, its cooking (by head chef, Madam Padma) has improved even more.

Our lunch vegetarian set, priced at only MYR11.90/US$2.70 per person, included unlimited servings of steamed white rice, with three very tasty vegetable sides: ๐˜ฌ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜บ๐˜ข๐˜ญ (cabbage stir-fry), ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ช ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ป๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ถ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜บ๐˜ข๐˜ญ (spiced potatoes) ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ฑ๐˜ถ๐˜ฅ๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜จ๐˜ข๐˜ข๐˜ช ๐˜ฑ๐˜ฐ๐˜ณ๐˜ช๐˜บ๐˜ข๐˜ญ (snake gourd stir-fry), together with ๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฎ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ณ (light lentil gravy), ๐˜ณ๐˜ข๐˜ด๐˜ข๐˜ฎ (tamarind soup), ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ช๐˜ณ๐˜ถ (Indian yoghurt) and crisp ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฑ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฎ๐˜ด.

We also ordered a spicy chicken ๐˜ท๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ถ๐˜ท๐˜ข๐˜ญ (spicy, dry-fried chicken curry, MYR9.50/US$2.15) as an additional side.

Michelin definitely got it right with this one!


Looks delicious! Canโ€™t remember the last time I ate on a banana leaf - probably at a wedding as a child!

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I wonder if this restaurant is the only instance of a traditional South Indian banana leaf establishment getting a Michelin mention. I wonder if the inspectors were European and how they navigated this eating culture :grinning:

In your last picture, I saw a spoon and fork placed on one side of the leaf. This really calls for caution because itโ€™s so easy to stab/tear the leaf with utensils, and then watch out!

@Saregama I make it a point to have a banana leaf meals every time I travel back, often at home (leaf from parentsโ€™ garden), or a restaurant, or I may get lucky and be invited to someoneโ€™s feast (being the familyโ€™s designated eater). The entire sensory experience is unparalleled.

Banana leaves were everyday/every meal plates in an eco friendly cycle: no washing up or storage required, as a neighborhood cow or goat would eat them up. Now, an EPS (abbreviation for the Tamil phrase for banana leaf meal) requires planning. :face_with_diagonal_mouth:


Kuala Lumpurโ€™s ultra-popular Sri Nirwana Maju received a mention, but no Bib Gourmand.
I was a regular at Sri Nirwana Maju when I lived and worked in the city back in 2011-2016 - I never thought of writing about it for CH or HO as itโ€™s ultra-casual, and highly-commercialised. On weekends, the line to get in was so long, it even got its own busker!

MIchelin mentioned that their inspectors who came to Penang were French - I did wonder the same. Perhaps they had a local person accompanying them. They would also visit the same establishment at least twice.

The wait-staff, Praba, gave each of us a set of spoon & fork, in case we wanted to use them, which we didnโ€™t. Thatโ€™s the nice thing about this restaurant, they try to anticipate what you might want even before we asked.


Thank you for your amazing posts and informative answers.

I am still trying to picture what I imagine are conventional French people eating with their fingers off a banana leaf. I love it!!


Thank you for the follow up report, bringing my attention back to this one.

The banana leaf service reminds me of a Sri Lankan place here that also served South Indian. Sri Lankan meals were served on banana leaves. But they were never as full as these - maybe I just wasnโ€™t waiting long enough for them to bring the various elements out!

I partook of an Onam Sadya at a Kerala restaurant on a faux banana leaf, looked much more like these. Is there is preferred/ritual/standard placement of the elements on the leaf as there was for the Onam Sadya.

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Iโ€™ve read articles which explained how different items are served on a banana leaf:

But in Malaysia/Singapore, what we usually see is that the mound of rice is placed at the centre of the leaf, and the vegetable sides are served in a line on the top part of the leaf. Other meats or extra sides are usually served separately in their own saucers.

Banana leaf lunch at Muthu Banana Leaf Restaurant, Penang.

The serving below was at Shobanaโ€™s Kitchen, a Keralan eatery in Penangโ€™s Little India:

My banana leaf lunch set included spiced Keralan vegetables like ๐™ข๐™ช๐™ก๐™–๐™ฃ๐™œ๐™ž (radish), ๐™˜๐™๐™ค๐™ง๐™–๐™ ๐™–๐™ž (bottle gourd), and a refreshing salad made from ๐™ซ๐™š๐™ก๐™ก๐™–๐™ง๐™ž๐™ ๐™– (cucumber) & ๐™จ๐™–๐™ซ๐™–๐™ก๐™– (onions) tossed in curd. A Keralan relish called ๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™Ÿ๐™ž๐™ฅ๐™ช๐™ก๐™ž, made of ginger, jaggery, tamarind and green chilis, was provided on the side.


Thanks for the link.

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