What was once known as the “Francis Light Grid” by the administration of Sir Francis Light, today thrives as Penang’s Little India.

In the initial years, Market Street, or as the British call “Little Madras”, was the central hub of merchants and traders from large parts of South India. As the settlements flourished, so did the culinary landscape.

Image credit: Flickr/Raybec

Brimming with choices, to leave this full-of-life neighbourhood hungry is never an option. As we all navigated the in-lockdown/out-lockdown blues not long ago, a set of new restaurants began to raise the bar.

Some lure with deeply rooted regional recipes, many have brought their fusion game, while others focused on the briyani-beats-all mantra.

We could sense your excitement, so we have compiled a list of new spots that should be on your foodie bucket list.

1. Shobana’s Kitchen

If you think authentic Kerala cuisine is all about thick and rich curries, this new restaurant will make you think again. Having already made a name in Petaling Jaya, Shobana’s Kitchen is now vying for the palates of Penangites.

Boot it with their Coconut Fried Chicken, Fish Molee and Fish Cutlet, add on spoonfuls of Inji Pulli (ginger and tamarind-based concoction) and Chamanthi Podi (dry prawns and coconut condiment) and gravies onto the rice.

In no time, the banana leaf appears like a colourful canvas. Wrap up with Matka Masala Chai. Since a trip to Kerala isn’t near future, this restaurant is the place to be.

Pro tip: Check out their Sunday Special Briyani. Pre-order within 48 hours.

Location: 20D, Penang Street, Georgetown, Penang
Contact Number: 04-2261004

2. Pal Kade

Literally translates to “Milk Shop”, any cow milk lovers are guaranteed to have a good time at Pal Kade. You can expect a variety of coffees, teas and milkshakes made from fresh milk directly from the owner’s farm.

From carrot to chocolate oreo milkshake, saffron to honey cinnamon milk, hot caramel coffee and everything in between, each cup is calci-yum! Also be amazed by how the drinks are briskly made before your eyes.

Pro tip: Get fresh cow’s milk in packets to bring home.

Location: 40, China Street, Georgetown, 10200, Penang
Contact: Facebook – Pal Kade

3. Theeni Pandarams

A meal at Theeni Pandarams is a fun way to spend time with your friends who claim to be ultimate foodies. This cosy restaurant has all the good stuff for a hearty banana leaf meal, but the real deal is their Anbu Briyani Set.

Ideal for sharing, the briyani packs a great punch of spices that complements the prawn, mutton and chicken choices. The set also includes two lassies and unlimited raita (yoghurt-based side) and briyani rice.

If you prefer filling every corner of the banana leaf, add on Chicken 65, Crab Masala and Squid Varuval. Yes, diets go futile here.

Pro tip: Not a fan of lassie? Get their iced brew coffee.

Location: 82A, Penang Street, Georgetown, 10200, Penang
Contact Number: 04-2261557

4. Mayura Spice Kitchen

If you wander in and around China Street for Indian food, you’ll feel as overwhelmed as a kid in a candy store. But if you narrow down your preference to delicious claypot briyani in an inviting ambience, you only need to pay attention to Mayura Spice Kitchen.

Get their best-selling chicken claypot briyani, take photos under the natural light that beams through and dig in. And thanks to their recently revamped menu, you’ll find dishes like Butter Chicken Curry, Prawn Masala and Kadai Mutton to give you that oh-so-worth-it experience.

Pro tip: Their lunch set meals, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, are value for money.

Location: 83, China Street, Georgetown, 10200, Penang
Contact Number: 010-2483651

5. The Crib

Though perched towards the end of Penang Street, The Crib has already caught the hearts of many. The artsy, convivial space is welcoming and compliments the menu.

Their signatures include Spanish Gambas – shrimps cooked in olive oil and saffron, Legged Freak – octopus with Crib’s special herbs and Salt Baked Fish.

If not for the options like Idhiyapam Briyani (string hoppers), Mutton Ghee Roast and Fish Curry, you might forget of being in Little India. Stick around long enough for a boozy night out, courtesy of their cocktails.

Pro tip: Their Salt Baked Fish is served with a flair that lives in your memory forever.

Location: 119, Penang Street, Georgetown, 10200 Penang
Contact Number: 012-2443365

6. The Taste Satti Sooru

Imagine this: Lamb shank, homemade spices, gravies and rice cooked in a claypot over high flame and topped with boiled egg and herbs. Served piping hot, the aroma wafts into your nostrils as you taste meaty, smoky and savoury notes with an undertone of crisp rice texture.

Papadam adds an element of crunch while raita tames down the spices when needed. Your spoon satisfyingly scrapes off every itty-bitty caramelised layer at the bottom.

When you are done, you will understand the hype of “Satti Sooru” at this new eatery.

Pro tip: Fish lovers should check out their Fish Head Curry

Location: 36, Penang Street, 10200 Georgetown, Penang
Contact Number: 010-3841203

7. Vighna Bamboo Briyani

Vighna Bamboo Briyani is often seen as one of the pioneers of bamboo briyani in Malaysia. Having set up branches in Ipoh, Johor and Malacca, they have now set foot on Penang Island.

Helming a secret recipe and never-ending variety, this branch is earning accolades in quick succession.

We are not merely talking about mutton and chicken briyani, but squid, prawn, fish and crab as well. And let those fruit lassies subside the lip-smacking heat. Well, a visit to this briyani joint may not look good in your calorie diary, but it’s well worth it.

Pro tip: Bamboo nasi lemak is worth checking out.

Location: No.27, Chulia Street, Georgetown, 10200, Penang
Contact Number: 011-16903110

8. Meera Briyani

Briyani is one market that is increasingly gaining traction and understandably so, this restaurant is making the right move. Their take on this comfort dish is Dubai Liyari Briyani, which highlights natural Medina Saffron and made without the use of artificial flavouring and MSG.

Be it meat or seafood, portions are generous, sides are simple yet pronounced and the balance of flavours work well. Malaysian favourites such as Nasi Goreng and Mee Goreng are ideal for those seeking a lighter menu.

Pro tip: From time to time, they have Lamb Shank Briyani too.

Location: 116, Penang Street, Georgetown, 10200, Penang
Contact Number: 04-2613864