Sunday, October 24, 2004

Malaysian nasi kandar a hit in Chennai

The Pelita outlet in Penang. Nasi kandar originating from here is making waves in Chennai.

The Star Online - Sunday October 24, 2004
Malaysian nasi kandar a hit in Chennai

CHENNAI: Nasi kandar, the hot and spicy curry rice dish concocted by Indian Muslim migrants to Malaysia, is being enjoyed not only by Malaysian curry lovers but also by Indian movie stars here. N. Chandrasekaran, restaurant operations manager of Pelita Nasi Kandar International (P) Ltd, a subsidiary of Pelita Nasi Kandar Sdn Bhd, said nasi kandar has been a hit with locals, including top actors and actresses.

"In a day, you can see at least two or three artistes coming here," he said, and rattled off the names of a string of famous Indian actors and actresses who are regulars at the restaurant.
Pelita, which opened here in March last year, has attracted screen idols like Kushboo, Vijaya Kumar, Shalini, Prasanth and Vasudevan. Pelita's runaway success in India, home of spices for curries and countless curry restaurants, has certainly proven sceptics bent on citing the idiom "Carrying coal back to Newcastle" wrong.

The restaurant, which operates 12 hours a day starting from 11am, gets between 600 and 700 customers each day, Chandrasekaran said, adding that the majority of its foreign customers are Malaysians, either staying or visiting the capital of Tamil Nadu state. "We have some frequent customers and there are some Malaysian customers who would call and order their food and request that the restaurant remain open until they come," he said when met at the outlet located strategically at T. Nagar, Chennai, a shopping district for jewellery and textiles.

Chandrasekaran said its customers preferred both Indian and Malaysian food like murtabak, satay, ais kacang and mee goreng. "Once they have tried them, they will (usually) come back again and ask for the same food, especially ais kacang," he said. Asked whether the restaurant advertised a lot to attract customers, Chandrasekaran said it did not but relied on Malaysians in Chennai to spread the word. "We have about 18 restaurants in Malaysia so the advertising is done in Malaysia. When Malaysians come to Chennai, they come to our restaurant. "

On the other hand, Indians who travel to Malaysia also get to know about our chain of restaurants. When they return home, they come (to our restaurant here) and ask for similar food. Chandrasekaran said the restaurant was usually crowded during Malaysian holidays and festive seasons, with a lot of Malaysians patronising it.

Given the good response, he said Pelita hopes to open outlets in Mumbai and New Delhi.
Pelita, he said, has received at least five inquiries to run franchise operations in India but the management preferred to have its own outlets. Asked when this expansion is expected to materialise, he said: “It is at the initial stage. We have not finalised anything. Our restaurants are expanding fast in Malaysia. Pelita has just opened an outlet in a former bungalow along Jalan Ampang near the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and another in Penang, the home of nasi kandar. Bernama Posted by Hello

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