Move over Thai food – Burmese cuisine is bringing tea leaf salads, slow braised curries and a fish soup to the table
You can count the number of Burmese restaurants opened over the last few years on one hand, but the Burman Kitchen, a narrow store opposite the train line in Granville, is setting the bar for the rest to follow and leading the way in opening up an unfamiliar food to a new audience. You’ll recognise a bit of Thai in the citrus, chilli and herbs, some Chinese in the stir fried noodles and Indian influences in biryanis and curries – it shares borders with all your takeaway favourites.
If there’s a dish that unites the Burmese, it’s mohingha. This revered rice noodle soup is dense with cooked, shredded white fish and a little flour to thicken the seafood broth. This soup is eaten any time of the day or night, top yours with additions that ramp up the chilli heat or add citrus sourness depending on your taste. It’s a weekend-only special, and one of the most popular dishes on the menu.
Bolder flavours, mostly from fermented fish sauce, are found in ngapi yea, a pungent dip that is eaten with a platter of fresh and cooked vegetables and mint and coriander to counter the strong, salty, taste. On the flipside, some of the curries run mild: try the spicy lamb and split pea curry touched with cumin and coriander to give it a warmth, not heat. Pair it with a bowl of buttered steamed rice, and the overall effect is similar to Persian-style braised lamb and rice dishes, while the chicken or goat biryani special is a nod to the influence of the subcontinent.
The influences of Chiang Mai and Yunnan just a jump over the northern Shan State border can’t be ignored in this cuisine. Shan Noodles grab Thai mountain area flavours in the cold rice noodles flecked with red chilli spiced pork mince while the htamin jin – a mix of steamed rice, potato, fish and tomato that looks like a soft arancini ball, makes the best of the rivers and rice terraces of Southern China.
They also do salads that will redefine your idea of the standard lettuce and tomato mix. Chicken, century eggs or squid are mixed with tiny dried prawns, a splash of fish sauce and chilli; thick rice noodles are tossed with coconut dressing. If you’ve only ever thought of tea as a drink, then the tea leaf salad (lahpet thohk) gives a whole new twist to a cuppa – soft, soaked fermented tea leaves are mixed with halved green tomatoes and given magnificent crunch from peanuts, fried broad beans, split peas and bean sprouts. Different mouthfuls give you a different textural bite, while the tea adds an earthy smokiness to the mix.
Desserts are a mixed bag of styles, from shaved ice and evaporated milk to the the red squiggles of rice starch jelly chandol and milky falooda, an ice cream and rice pudding mix in a tall glass. Keep it simple with a platter of fresh fruit if your waistband is feeling tight.
You might think of Granville as a place for charcoal chicken, but the Burman Kitchen is carving out room for a new kind of eating adventure – one that’s taking the best of South East Asia and the subcontinent and making something all of its own.
|Venue name:||The Burman Kitchen|
44 Railway Pde
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun 11am-9pm|