From a smattering of dishes offered at the Taaja’s (by Bibi Sarkar in the 1980s) to first the pop-ups and then a dedicated restaurant by Chanda Dutt (Chanda’s Khaukswey), Kolkata is no stranger to Burmese food. And now the entry of Burma Burma, steeped in culture, tradition and flavors from the land of the Irrawaddy, has broadened the canvas.
This restaurant and tea room, spreading over two floors in the iconic Stephen Court on Park Street, is the largest among the outlets opened so far (in Gurgaon, Delhi, Noida, Bengaluru and Mumbai) by co-owners Ankit Gupta and Chirag Chhajer.
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Interestingly, many of the recipes have been drawn from the culinary repertoire of Gupta’s mother who lived in Myanmar with her family until 25 years of age.
The restaurant has been designed to give the feel of an urban Burmese home with snatches of colonial influence (you may recall Burma – or Myanmar as we know it today – was under British rule from 1824 to 1948). ‘A colonial style Burmese home that is influenced by the British rule but still firmly rooted in its own cultural heritage and traditions,’ according to the owners.
For example, a colonial façade with large wooden windows juxtaposed with hand-painted images of Bagan (an ancient capital city, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site) on the inside wall. Original vintage photos of Burmese families adorn the wall above a long running sofa with a woven chattai paneling which is a reminder of the luxuries of a colonial home.
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When it comes to food, there is a significant twist. Burma Burma offers only vegetarian dishes, a tad disappointing for fish and meat lovers. But Burmese food is also about fresh vegetables, which is perhaps good news in this time of pandemic crisis.
Start with the salads (thoke) and soups. Fermented ingredients are often used in Burmese cooking. Maybe you can start with the Laphet Thoke or the salad made with fermented tea leaves along with fried garlic, nuts, sesame seeds, tomato and lettuce. But if you are not yet ready to experiment, you may try the Tayat Thi Thoke or the raw mango salad. Samuza Hincho consists of samosa served in a tangy soup made of spring vegetables and spiced black chickpeas.
The Kyar Yoe Kyaw was an interesting dish from the starters section – lotus stem chips dusted with paprika and curry leaves. Although not a personal favorite but it was difficult to fault the mock meat skewers on their presentation or taste.
Depending on your hunger pangs, you may choose from their small and sharing plates, which include dishes such as Avocado with Pappadam, Tofu topped with Burmese Dressing, Tofu Crackers, Bamboo Shoot & Ginger Paste, Black Rice crackers with dip and Tea Leaf & Sticky Rice Crackers Ichakoi.
The staples revolve around rice, noodles, and curries. Apart from Mohingar (the national dish of Myanmar), there is a fair selection of Khowsuey tweaked to give you a taste from different regions of Myanmar. The signature Burma Burma Oh No Khow Suey is a meal in a bowl, with coconut milk stirred lemongrass, tamarind and diced Asian vegetables served with an array of toppings; you can choose from Udon, Hakka, Whole wheat, and flat noodles. Or you can go for a Shan Khow Suey made of rice noodles with pounded mock meat, sweet soy and pickled greens.
Did you know there is a dry khowsuey too? The Nangyi Khowsuey consists of hand tossed rice noodles with gram flour, roasted red chili, garlic and tamarind, and served with corn crisps.
Keen for some rice? Try the Burmese Fried Rice consisting of wok-tossed rice with vegetables, white peas and fried onions. The gentle flavours of Kayunin Mao strike a pleasant note as you dig into the steamed banana leaf packet stuffed with organic black and sticky rice and white pea, and served with coconut cream, crushed brown onion, paprika and sesame.
As if it was not enough to present us with delightful desserts, Burma Burma has made a celebration of it. We got to see how the desserts were being made at the grand-looking live kitchen with its 13-feet long dessert bar. Spoilt for choice, we finally decided to have the Ye Gethoo, a Burmese Falooda made with condensed milk, assorted coconut jelly, colorful noodles topped with tapioca, keeping the hand-made ice-creams for our next visit.
According to a restaurant representative, Burma Burma has recently launched its First International Desserts menu created by one of Asia’s top Pastry Chefs, Vinesh Johny. One of the highlights from this menu is the Rangoon Baked Milk, a combination of house-baked milk along with vanilla whipped ganache, raspberry gel, fried brioche and almond nougatine.
Tea is an essential part of the Burmese culture, and the Burma Burma tea room with a 20-feet long tea bar. They offer more than 30 hand-picked flavours from around the world, curated to match each blend with specific dishes on the menu. Some of the special flavors include Bubblegum Tea, Ayurveda Teatox and the signature Burma Burma blend.
The Kolkata outlet also offers a range of artisanal Iced Teas, such as Lavender Blackberry, Kombucha Elderflower, Cider & Jaggery and Hibiscus & Yuzu to name a few.
Information: Burma Burma is located at 18 M, Stephen Court, Park Street Kolkata – 700071. Tel: 7506061460/9920240097.
Monday to Friday, it is open between noon and 3 pm and from 6.30pm to 10:30 pm; on Saturdays and Sundays, the lunch hour extends by half an hour while other timings remain the same.
Cost for two: Rs. 1,500 plus taxes