[Penang] South Indian banana leaf rice at Veloo Villas

Veloo Villas has been operating for more than half a century here on Penang Street , the street that cuts through Penang’s Little India, and not to be confused with Penang Road, the main thoroughfare to the west, traversing old George Town.

Indian banana leaf rice is a lunch fixture for Malaysia and Singapore’s South Indian/Tamil populace, although it appeal now reach across all the ethnic groups & races here: Chinese, Malays, etc. Hot steamed rice, when it comes into contact with fresh banana leaves, used in lieu of a plate, causes the leaves to release a subtle, delicious scent that more than enhances the aroma of the rice dish.

Like all other banana leaf restaurants in Malaysia/Singapore, a standard banana leaf rice set comes with hot steamed white rice, 3 vegetable sides (usually spiced long beans, cabbage and lentils), and a self-serve selection of curry gravies from one of the mobile three-bucket-carriers passed around from table to table (usually containing a chicken curry gravy, a fish curry gravy and a vegetarian curry).

Veloo Villas also has a selection of freshly-cooked meat dishes to choose from: spicy Chettinadu chicken Varuval, milder chicken masala, South Indian fish curry with tamarind-infused gravy, spiced fried local mackerel, etc. Just order from one of the efficient waiters around.

One is encouraged to eat with one’s hands (or right-hand, to be precise), although forks & dessert spoons are available for newbies who don’t want to make a mess at the table.

One popular item not-to-be-missed here is the sweet appam - a moist, spongey sweet Indian crumpet, served with sweet coconut milk sauce. The rendition here is the best I’d had in Penang, and miles ahead of any I’d tried in Kuala Lumpur. Wash it down with “teh tarik”, the quintessential Malaysian hot milk tea beverage - but do remember to ask for it “kurang manis” (less sweet) as the standard version is highly-sugared.

Veloo Villas opens from 6m every morning and serves out the whole paraphernalia of South Indian breakfast dishes: upuma, thosai (“dosa” is pronounced “thosai”, the Tamil way, in Malaysia & Singapore, and here, you can choose from paper dosa, masala dosa, rava dosa, kal dosa, etc.), roti canai (Malaysian paratha), idlis, samosas, etc.

Spiced potato-vegetable filling placed in the middle of a masala dosa, prior to folding it:

Veloo Villas’ location in Little India makes it a convenient refreshment stop amidst one’s shopping at Penang’s colourful Little India district.

Veloo Villas (வேலு விலாஸ்)
22 Penang Street
10200 Penang
Tel: +604-2624369
Opening hours: 6am to 10pm daily


Back to Veloo Vilas for lunch today. The owner, M. Kathiresen, forever ensconced on his seat at the cash register near the main doorway in and out of the restaurant, ensured brisk service by his busy crew of service staff.

We had our standard banana leaf rice meal: a mound of steamed rice with three vegetable side-dishes, pappadum and a choice of curry gravies - dhal, fish or chicken. We added side-orders of chicken peratal (an intensely spicy dry chicken curry), curried eggs, fried barracuda fish-steaks and some very tasty crisp-fried spiced chicken.

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