[Penang, Malaysia] South Indian breakfast at Janaki Vilas

Janaki Vilas is perhaps the most popular spot to get a South Indian breakfast along busy Batu Lanchang Road. It’s located in a small, rustic tin-roofed shack - but experience tells us that such places are where we’d find the most authentic street food. 90% of its clientele are local Tamil-Indians, and its business was busy & brisk.

But it has not always been that way for Janaki Vilas - 100 yards away, there is an old food court, known as Lee Huat today. Back in 1973, when it was just a cluster of food stalls under big trees at the junction of Green Lane (now Jalan Masjid Negeri) and Batu Lanchang Road (now Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim), there was a famous “roti canai”-man who represented Penang in the inaugural “Penang Week” held in July 1973 in George Town’s sister-city, Adelaide, South Australia. He went back to Adelaide a couple more times since - showcasing his paratha-flipping skills there. He also later proudly put up the sign “Adelaide Murtabak” at his stall in Batu Lanchang. But the legendary stall closed down some time in the 1990s when the old chap retired - there was no succession planning on his part.

Janaki Vilas picked up where Adelaide Murtabak left off. But it went further - besides just roti canai and murtabak, it also offers the other popular South Indian breakfast options like the thosai crepe, steamed idli rice cakes, crisp savory vadai donuts, and stir-fried semiya noodles.

What we had for breakfast this morning:
Steamed ivory-white, pillowy-soft discs of spongey idli and crisp-fried vadai

White coconut chutney served with the idlis

Vadai, with yellow dhal curry

Kal thosai is a soft, moist, savory crepe, served with coconut chutney, a dhal curry, and a spicy-red fish curry here

Crisp, griddle-fried roti canai (paratha), perfect with a spicy curry dip

I didn’t see another of my fave South Indian breakfast option - the thick, savory upma, so, may have to return again for it.

Address
Janaki Vilas
218, Jalan Tan Sri Teh Ewe Lim (Batu Lanchang Road), Jelutong, 11600 Penang, Malaysia
Tel: +6018-9144480/+6018-8740012
Opening hours: 6am to 1.30pm Mon to Sat. Closed on Sunday.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold