Tamil Street, George Town, Penang

Tamil Street, George Town

Tamil Street is a short narrow street within George Town's UNESCO World Heritage Site. It runs along the southern side of the famous Chowrasta Market, between Penang Road to the west and Jalan Kuala Kangsar to the east. The street is lined with several restaurants serving Indian Muslim and Malay cuisines.

Tamil Street sign, George Town, Penang

A bilingual Tamil Street sign, featuring its Arabic name.

The street was obviously named as the area was part of the large Indian portion of George Town. Up to the mid-20th. century, Tamil Street was predominantly southern Indian in character.


Tamil Street was obviously named after the majority ethnic group that once populated the street. In the past, the Tamils of southern India settled here and opened up shops along the street. The southern Indians also made up most of the vendors inside Chowrasta Market.

As with Chowrasta Road along the northern side of Chowrasta Market, Tamil Street was known as Keh1 Leng2 Na4 Barn3 san1 in Hokkien, meaning 'the southern Indian market'.


The area around Chowrasta Market, including Tamil Street, was once part of George Town's massive Indian enclave. Tamil traders from Tamil Nadu, India, began to populate Tamil Street since at least the mid-19th. century.

Chowrasta Market, George Town, Penang (old)

Chowrasta Market, after its completion in 1890.

As a result, most traders along Tamil Street at the time were ethnic Tamils. Freed Indian convicts would also find employment inside Chowrasta Market.

Chowrasta Market (old picture), George Town, Penang

Chowrasta Market in the 1970s

In 1890, the famous Chowrasta Market was built by the George Town Municipal Council. It was then replaced with the present structure in 1961. The market, which has just recently underwent renovations, is one of the busiest wet markets in George Town. One can find various Penang produce here, such as preserved nutmegs and tau sar pneah.

Meanwhile, Tamil Street remained predominantly Indian in character until the mid-20th. century. Today, most hawker stalls and restaurants along Tamil Street are still run by ethnic Tamils, although one can also find Malay and Indonesian cuisine these days.

Notable Landmark

Chowrasta Market

Political Representation

Penang State Government

N.28 Komtar State Assemblyman : Teh Lai Heng (Democratic Action Party)

Malaysian Federal Parliament

P.049 Tanjong Member of Parliament : Ng Wei Aik (Democratic Action Party)


  1. Khoo S.N., 2007. Streets of George Town, Penang. Areca Book
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