Ankit Gupta, the young and dynamic director of the Burma Burma Restaurant and Tea Room says his being a herbivore has nothing to do with him opening a vegetarian restaurant. That very obvious thought does cross the mind though, doesn’t it? And, yet, he’s right. Because his family has been running a restaurant for the longest time ever in Mumbai, where non-vegetarian fare is served and he himself has no problem in cooking meat/fish/eggs or anything else, especially when he trained for his Hotel Management degree, not so long ago. And so, it was just an entrepreneurial moment that led him and his childhood friend Chirag Chhajer to start a chain of Burmese restaurants all over the country.
That said, if we are to go by popular lore, Burmese food is largely non-vegetarian. So, why please only the veggie palate? Gupta enlightens me, “A lot of Burmese food is also vegetarian if you discount the fish/shrimp sauces used as a base for most foods there. We skip that here, in my restaurants and keep the whole thing all about veggies. For the ones who miss meat, the choice of eating mock-meat is also there. That takes care of everything.” He says the Burmese period of fasting and prayer is like the Christian Lent when they abstain from all foods that are non-vegetarian and that is really the time you get to see all that diversity in a herbivorous menu that teases and tantalises the senses. So Gupta used this to fashion and market his restaurant into primarily vegetarian Burmese. Reason being, it in a way, helps Indians to eat all that rich plant food, without being put off by strong fishy smells. This he says is a prime factor why truly authentic Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and other Asian cuisine is not such a big hit with vegetarians and largely Indians. Bright idea? Well, yes, it seems so far.
Of course, his choosing this particular Asian cuisine, about which I can safely say, will not have too many people raising their hands in a general knowledge interview, was because his mother’s family is from Myanmar and he has always been familiar with the cuisine. He knows the food; he knows how to sell it too. And that his family was always in the hospitality business just made his job easier. Go vegetarian, go healthy and market exoticism seems to the mantra of his venture that has branches in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. That it seems to be attracting a lot of foodies, as seen in most of their joints, means Gupta has the formula right.
Now, what most people know of Burmese cuisine is the ubiquitous Khow Suey that any average cook can dish up. But it’s only when you tread further into the interiors of the land of the Burmese that you really get to know more. Lotus roots, sunflower seeds, fermented dried mustard, tea leaves, bamboo shoots, tofu; the list just keeps on growing and getting more interesting. The Burmese also like to not just drink but also eat their tea too so you get a lot of this beverage and its components here.
I did, of course, taste the commonly eaten Khow Suey here (the signature one bowl meal of coconut milk stirred with lemongrass, tamarind and diced Asian vegetables served with an array of DIY toppings choice of udon, hakka, whole wheat and flat noodles) but I think the whole point of going to a new place is when you open that mind and try something new just so you can learn about it. So dont shy away from trying the Mohingar, the national dish of Burma (rice vermicelli soaked in seasoned curry made of banana stem, ginger, lemongrass and onion topped with lentil crisps) that was divine and very satisfying.
The Salad Sampler with three different kinds of salads such as the Tea Leaf salad: mix of fermented tea leaves, fried garlic, nuts, sesame seeds, tomato and lettuce; the Raw Mango salad: mango shreds mixed with roasted red chilli, crushed peanuts, lettuce and brown onion and the Lotus Roots Salad: crunchy lotus roots mixed with roasted gram flour, red chillies, lettuce, tomatoes and tamarind, won me, a strict non-vegetarian over to the world of herbivores. Add to that the tangy Lotus Stem Crisps (Kyar Yoe Kyaw) that we kept munching in between and finally the best of the lot according to me was the Coconut Rice with Peanut Chutney: jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk with shallots and ginger and lemongrass, served with peanut tomato chutney. Fulfilling, soul satisfying and the kinds that make you want to just sit down and relax there and never get up!
In fact, after the full meal, instead of the desserts, which were there on the table but since they didn’t excite me much, I settled for their very fine teas; they have almost fifty blends. Their signature blend, the White Tea was what I truly enjoyed (the leaves of which can be only picked when the tea plant forms new buds and are the highest in antioxidants.) So, no green, black or Oolong for me; the white tea with all that accompanying drama of being brewed right on our table, was just the right ending to a good meal.
Other than a bit of help understanding the dishes which their servers are well equipped to deal with, Burmese cuisine is truly demystified here and coupled with the soothing ambience, it’s worth a re-visit since they have quite an exhaustive menu.
I will be going back for the Samosa Soup, if not anything else. Yes, that’s Samosas dunked in some kind of a magic broth. Sounds interesting?
Burma Burma Restaurant and Tea House
D-4208, Third Floor, DLF Mall of India, Sector 18, Noida, Uttar Pradesh – 201301
Phones: 0120 6296251 / 52