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When people think of Myanmar (formerly Burma), they probably think of the exquisite Burmese jade or the famous human rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi. But Burmese cuisine is much less known to the world. It is influenced by its neighboring countries, India, Thailand, and China, and therefore is perceived as an “Asian Fusion” cuisine.
One of our favorite places to enjoy diverse and authentic Asian dishes is called Pike Kitchen, a food hall with a variety of Asian cuisines and numerous dish choices. Last week, when we visited Pike Kitchen, there seemed to be a new stall with a big display menu with pictures of dishes that were unfamiliar to us. A young man with a bright smile greeted us and told us they serve Burmese food.
After learning about our new year resolution of trying exotic foods (yes–we do talk about our resolution with others offline), the young man, a native Burmese himself, recommended Burmese coconut chicken noodle soup. According to him, it is the most famous and popular dish in Myanmar, so we added it to our order.
Served in a solid wood bowl, spring rice noodles are doused in a rich yellow soup that is thick and creamy with a pleasant coconut milk flavor, which reminded me of Thai soup that also uses coconut milk as the main ingredient. The stir-fried chicken pieces in the soup tasted similar to the chicken stir-fried in Chinese cuisine. The noodle was tender and chewy. Chopped onions and lemon slices were placed in a separate plate which can be added into the soup as wanted. They brought a distinct freshness, which balanced the salty taste and subtle greasiness of the soup.
I couldn’t help but link the dish with the Burmese culture, which, like their cuisine, is influenced by other neighboring countries, but also maintains its uniqueness and charm. The meaning of culture is often reflected in its seemingly simple dishes. Just like travel writer, Deborah Cater said, “You have to taste a culture to understand it.”