• The zakor htamin is a share platter filled with bites from Myanmar's many regions. (Jonathan Ford)Source: Jonathan Ford
The frequently booked Burman Kitchen offers flavours you can’t easily find elsewhere.
By
Jonathan Ford

15 Nov 2017 - 3:08 PM  UPDATED 15 Nov 2017 - 3:08 PM

If you’ve never visited Myanmar, it’s likely that Burmese cuisine is yet to cross your palate. Due to the once isolated country’s location in Southeast Asia, it’s full of unique flavours, textures and styles — it’s the convergence of cuisines from a range of ethnic groups scattered between ocean, river and rainforest.

Thankfully, you don’t need to jump on a plane to try Burmese cuisine. Sydneysider Lay Lay Naing opened The Burman Kitchen in September last year after noticing a distinct lack of accessible Burmese eateries in Sydney. Before this, she made Burmese cuisine solely for her family and friends.

Naing moved to Australia with her husband in 1988, having been exposed to regional cuisine through her mother’s bustling restaurant in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon. She’s kept family a part of her business: her sister-in-law Tin Tin Khine heads The Burman Kitchen with 15 years of cheffing experience in Sydney. Both relish the idea of dishing up delicacies from their homeland to a new audience.

Food is central to Myanmar's culture of community. Families share large platters of meat and vegetables with sides of soup and rice. The Burman Kitchen offers a colourful take on the family platter; the zakor htamin, which doubles as a food journey around the country, is a huge tray of traditional bites from many of Myanmar’s regions laid over banana leaves on a handwoven plate. There’s so much culture and history on this single plate, it’s best to ask Khine for a tour.

Mohinga is Myanmar's soul food. Also known as ‘Burmese breakfast' it’s essentially fish noodle soup. “If you can prepare good mohinga, you’ll make a name for yourself,” Naing says. Catfish is commonly used and because of the vegetables, herbs and other ingredients used, the soup is fragrant and moreish.

The Burmese eat virtually all other meats, too. “In Myanmar, meat is traditionally overcooked due to the hot climate’s effect on the meat,” she says. But centuries of overcooking means the cuisine has adapted beautifully.

You’ll discover a new set of flavours in the lahpet thoke (pickled tea leaf salad). Pickled tea leaves are native to Myanmar and are somewhat sacred: historically, gifts of lahpet have been used as peace offerings between warring groups. Order the salad as a side dish — it’s sweet, nutty and astringent all at the same time, with both crisp and soft textures.

Pickled tea leaf salad (lahpet thoke)

Myanmar is one of the few countries where tea leaves are not only drunk, but eaten too. Pickled tea leaf is a national favourite and this salad is often served at celebrations or ceremonies.

A glass of the tamarind juice with hints of orange and date complements the food’s bold flavours well. And in Myanmar, coconut only appears at dessert time: the Burmese shaved ice with coconut and condensed milk is an indulgent option.

The Burman Kitchen often books out, not only by homesick Burmese Australians but by curious punters wanting to try something new. “It’s always been my dream to open a restaurant,” Naing says. "After I separated and my children grew up, it was the perfect thing to keep myself busy. Now, I’m in here 15 hours a day, six days week by choice and I love it.”


 

The Burman Kitchen is open Tues - Sun, 11am to 9pm.

44 Railway Parade, Granville.


 

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