Penang’s colourful, bustling Little India district is always a burst of colours, with one’s senses constantly assaulted by a cacophony of noises - loud blaring music, noises from the vehicles, the chatter of people. It’s one of my favourite spots in George Town, as everything seemed so “alive”, and it’s also where I can find lots of good eats. The early mornings, before the tropical sun makes its heat felt, is the best time to be in Little India. Its streets seemed calmer and quieter then. Even then, you can see eateries starting to prepare their dishes for the breakfast and lunch crowds which they anticipate.
Several South Indian/Tamilian restaurants offer the classic South Indian breakfast options of “thosai”, “roti canai”, “idli”, “upuma”, etc. One of these that we decided to try this morning was Sri Subham, a relative newbie (having just opened in Dec 2016), in comparison with the much larger, busier Sri Ananda Bahwan a few doors down which has been dominating the breakfast market in Little India for close to 2 decades.
Anyway, we opted for Sri Subham as it’s quieter, and the waiters seemed more genial & responsive, compared to Sri Ananda Bahwan’s harried-looking waiters who’re more likely to walk right through your frantic waving hand.
What we ordered:
Idli - these are small, pillow-soft white discs of ground lentil and rice flour, steamed and served with various types of curries. Indian literature dating back more than 1,000 years have described this dish as being consumed as far back then. Over here at Sri Subham, all breakfast items like idlis come with 3 types of sauces: a pale coconut chutney, a spicy red-hued tomatoo-onion kara chutney, and a watery yellow dhal curry.
Slather the chutney and dhall curry over your idlis. Do not dip your idlis into the little bowls of sauces here as they are communal - the waiter would refll these and bring it to the next table for other customers.
Upuma - a delicious, thick, lumpy porridge made from semolina and rice. The rendition here seemed very dry and rustic, nowhere as tasty as those I’d tasted in India or even back in Singapore at Saravanaa Bhavan.
Paper thosai - this is a large, wafer-thin, ultra-crisp crepe made from a batter of fermented black lentils and rice flour. Traditional thosai is thicker and softer, but these crisp ones gained popularity about 20+ years ago ever since it was a hit in Karnataka state (where tech-city, Bangalore, is located). A recipe for dosa can be found in Manasollasa , a 12th-century Sanskrit encyclopedia compiled by Someshvara III, who ruled over a kingdom where present-day Karnataka is.
We also opted for a flavoursome chicken curry to go with the thosai. Highly recommended.
Sri Subham is worth a visit if you tire of the crowds over at Sri Ananda Bahwan. Its spread of food closely resemble those served at rival breakfast joints dotting Little India.
47 Lebuh Penang (Penang Street)
10450 George Town
Operating hours: 7am to 10.30pm, daily.