To say that Burma Burma is an exception to the rule may be an epic understatement. We don’t say that lightly, considering the establishment serves solely vegetarian food and has not a sniff of alcohol on its menu. Yet it is in its fourth year of culinary success in India’s restaurant scene, with more people finding these quirks endearing rather than a nuisance.
Don’t get me wrong—being an enthusiastic aloo-eating (and less enthusiastic paneer-eating) vegetarian, I was delighted when I asked to go try the new Burma Burma that opened in Noida earlier in August. The conversation between my editor and I went a little like this:
She: “Would you like to go review this restaurant in Noida?” Me, slightly skeptical: “Okay…” She: “The food’s all vegetar--” Me: "Enough said.”
And here I am today, wishfully recounting my experience. At Burma Burma, Kitsch meets Asia meets your eccentric grandmother’s living room. It is a departure from the other restaurants in DLF Mall of India, which either have open doors, or more casual dining spaces. Geometry is everywhere in the restaurant: with mandalas on wooden mats hanging on the wall, intricate chandeliers made of cane, and wood separators.
What exactly is the cuisine served here? The answer was waiting for us between the covers of the menu. It falls under the umbrella of Asian food, although it’s mostly food from Myanmar (once Burma) along with influences from China, Thailand, Nepal and, can you believe it, even the North East of India.
Maybe that’s why when my first dish ‘the samosa soup’ was served, it hinted of familiarity. The soup had, true to its name, a triangular samosa gently dunked into a broth of spices, spring vegetables and made of black chickpeas. Packed with a lot of flavour, it isn’t a dish for those with a low threshold for spice.Some may even say it tastes a little like rasam.
To pacify my taste buds on fire was a platter of three Burmese salads. As someone who often steers clear of leafy things, I was in for a surprise. The first of the trip was a tangy salad, with shredded raw mango with red chilly powder and crushed peanuts. You could call it the kimchi salad of Burma Burma. To my sensitive Indian palate, however, it was reminiscent of the jhaalmudi I’d had folded in a newspaper cone on the streets of Calcutta, albeit with an Asian twang. The others were a tea-leaf salad and one with sunflower leaves and wheat flakes. Laphet is a fermented tea leaf variety grown abundantly in Myanmar, and in often makes its way into the kitchen, to be brewed into tea, had as a meal with potatoes or in this case, feature as the green star of a salad.
The most noteworthy starter is the Tohu Mash with Parantha. This is a chickpea-based dish with spices, onions and tomatoe, and is meant to be dipped into with the accompanying mini paranthas. Anyone who is missing an Indian touch in their food so far should order this, as the paranthas are similar to laccha paranthas and the vegetable as flavourful as, if not better than, your favourite one made at home. (Just don’t tell your family that.)
We also munch on humble lotus stem crisps, which has been fried, dried and dusted with spicy curry powder and paparika. Order this and keep munching on it in between dishes, to keep it spicy.
After that, things were a bit of a blur what with the mock meat skewers and the steamed tofu bun gracing the table. While the bun was very much like a bao, and the filling rather excellent, I am not a fan of mock meats, and neither was my partner-in-dine who is a hearty non-vegetarian.
You can’t visit Burma Burma and not have a taste of its khow suey, which is perhaps the best-known dish from the Burmese cuisine. Of the close to six options, I chose a different variant, the dry nangyi khowsuey. These are noodles tossed in roasted gram flour and corn chips, with all of the additional six toppings we love about the khowsuey but none of the soup. This was accompanied by a side of the three-mushroom stir fry, which had a very strong taste of coconuts with tamarind and turmeric.
Despite the lack of spirit being served, the mocktails are so delectable that you don’t quite miss anything at all. The Spiced Ginger, was a party in a glass and came with salt on the rim, a popsicle in the drink and lots of fizz, mint and ginger. We also ordered the Burmese Blossom, which is what you get when your watermelon juice grows up and goes to finishing school—it has the added pizzazz of cherry, rose and cranberry juice, and please note, comes with a steel straw.
The meal ended blisfully on the sweetest note of a Rangoon Baked Milk dish. Like all good stories, the plated dessert had intensity (the baked milk), a plot twist (the crunchy almond nougat), romance (a raspberry gel) and an element of surprise with the crushed frozen rose that is brought along with it.
We had journeyed from the savoury to the sweet, from Burma to India and found that it was a trip worth making again.
Pocket pinch: ₹ 2500 for two
Where: Burma Burma, 3rd floor, DLF Mall of India, Noida