The best place to find authentic and tasty samosas and onion bhaji in Penang is at the crossroads of the Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Queen in George Town’s little India district.
There is a cluster of outdoor stalls in this area selling samosas at 1 to 2 MYR a piece depending upon the filling and onion bhaji at 0.5 MYR each, as well as a range of other Indian snacks and sweets at value for money prices. This is Indian street food as it is served in India, which is slightly different to what you will find in Indian restaurant in Europe and North America.
About Little India in George Town
George Town has had a large Indian community since it was established by the British East India Company in 1786. Some came to the island as convict labour to work on building projects for the British, however, most came voluntarily to work on the docks as stevedores. Most of the dock workers were Tamils. Other Indian communities also developed at the same time including Gujaratis, Punjabis, Malayalees and Telugus, and it is the people from these groups who for the larger part established the shops and eateries.
The Indian community and the area in George Town that they occupy has shrunk over time as the demographics of the city has changed. There was a large influx of immigrants from China from 1850 to 1890 and the various Indian communities were pushed out of large parts of George Town and into what is now Little India. Originally the whole area around Chulia Street to the Chowrasta Market to the west and to Lebuh Bishop to the east of Chulia Street was predominantly an Indian enclave. Little India now occupies a much smaller space around Lebuh Pasar, Lebuh King, Lebuh Queen and a section of Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling.
What marks these areas out as being Indian communities is that the shops and restaurants are owned by people of Indian heritage and sell products from India. People from other ethnic backgrounds go shopping there, as do tourists, however, products like saris and Bollywood videos have limited appeal to non-Indians. What non-Indian people come here to buy is food.
Little India in George Town has a really good range of Indian food and types of restaurant to eat it at. At its most basic there are stalls selling street food including samosas and bhajis, but also roti with pots of pre-cooked dhals, sambars and vegetable curries nearly the same as you would find on the streets of Chennai. There are also street stalls selling nasi kandar. Slightly more expensive are the shop house restaurants selling tandoori meats and naan breads, amongst other dishes. For diners with a higher budget there are also smarter glass fronted Indian restaurants with menus, waiters in uniform and alcohol on sale.
As well as restaurants and shops, Little India is also where you find the city’s most important Indian Temple, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, which has been operating since 1801 although the temple was not built until 1833. Located on Lebuh Queen, the most distinctive feature of the Sri Mahamariamman Temple is its 23.5 ft highly decorated ‘gopuram’ which stands above the main entrance to the temple. A gopuram is a a classic feature of south Indian Dravidian style Hindu temples and is a tower covered with colourfully painted sculptures and carving of Hindu deities and characters from Hindu mythology. The temple is open to visitors from 06:00 to 09:00 and 16:30 to 21:15. Its free to enter although they will ask that you take your shoes off.
Location of the Samosa Stalls in Penang
- The stalls where you can buy samosa and onion bhaji are located on the cross roads of Lebuh Pasar and Lebuh Queen in George Town, Penang.