A mother's cooking is home to everybody but few have the good fortune of opening restaurants that celebrate the lady of the house! Mumbaikar Ankit Gupta is amongst this select number. Having grown up on the bowls of Burmese goodness made by his mother Urmila, a degree in hotel management and a stint at Taj Mahal later, he decided to explore Burmese cuisine to the fullest. To this he added a new challenge: It would be vegetarian. Burma Burma, the happy-go-lucky addition to 12th main, Indiranagar is a summation of Ankit’s years of Burmese khana, his mother’s inherent Burmese kitchen pursuits. Gupta, his childhood friend Chirag Chhajer and chef Ansab Khan, have come together to plate out Burmese cuisine in fine dine with a tea bar, too.
“My mother is from Burma — she was born there and stayed there for 25 years till she moved back to India in the 1960s when the military took over. That was when she met my dad and they married (arranged). My dad is a hotelier in Mumbai with three old hotels for the past 45 years — Hotel Galaxy, Hotel Legend and Garden Treat Restaurant in Mumbai,“ pipes the young Ankit, adding, “I grew up eating local Myanmar food mum made at home.”
The menu is exhaustive, and we started with Samuza Hincho or Samosa Soup. A cocktail samosa stuffed with potato in an unusual, tangy, spicy soup. Cubes of vegetables, spiced black chickpeas: sumptuous. Then came the famed three salad combo, the popular tea leaf salad or Mandalay Laphet Thoke, a taste to be acquired, a mix of fermented tea leaves in a dressing, fried garlic, nuts and sesame seeds. Interesting but could have used a bit more tea leaf. The raw mango salad or Tayat Thi Thoke with peanuts, red chilly was delicious. The Naykyar Gyun Akyaw Thoke or Sunflower Leaves and Crispy Wheat Flakes Salad has crunchy baby sunflower leaves, crispy wheat flakes, tomatoes and onion, in a tamarind chilly dressing, was a little too salty and sour.
With 80 percent of the tea production in Burma used in making laphet, it is a universal ingredient for rice, noodles, stir fries as well. Next came the Mopi Salai or panfried rice dumplings, half paniaram-like roundels topped with yum papaya salad. Delish with the dip.
We also tried the grilled mock meat skewers which were chewy, moist with its sweet garlic dip. Meaty. Burmese favourite, and akin to our plebeian dal roti, the Tohu Mok Malata or Tohu Mash with Paratha was wholesome. It is shan tohu or lentils cooked with onions, tomatoes and spices served with a Burmese style-layered flaky paratha – akin to a tiny Kerala parantha, golden fried and very home cooked. Our best was the slurp-inducing deliciously imbued with flavour Burma Burma Oh No Khowsuey, the lightest of coconut milk stirred with lemongrass, tamarind and diced Asian vegetables. The toppings of garlic, onion, lime, paprika and spring onion were perfect, and surprisingly, we didn’t miss the egg! Must-have!
“The menu is a mix of street and country style food with home grown recipes from the villages for Burma. I have family there and travel often so our ingredients come from Burma — sunflower seeds, tea leaf salad or laphet, pickled mustard, shang noodles,” explains Ankit. The khowsuey, a community dish had for breakfast in Burma can be found in dry, broth, and different avatars. “There is also Nanji, a dry khowsuey with paprika, a rice noodle, and shang with rice noodles imported from Bhutan with mock meat puree, seasonal greens and micro greens, it’s a one bowl meal,” he adds.
The Kayunin Mao or steamed banana leaf pockets with sticky rice, and mushroom were interesting. We had the steamed bun or paukse with caramelised onion and roasted chilli. Freshest of bouncy bun with a tang and sweet interior, we added their roasted spicy chilli dip - spectacular! Less stuffing would be apt. The Laphet Hatmin Kyaw or fried rice with tea leaf was perfect and went perfectly with the vegetable stir fry. The menu is a feast for the experimental vegetarian, and even won the hearts of the meat eaters at the table. Ankit has already seen full houses and four to five day queues at the first outlet that opened in Kala Ghoda in Mumbai and two in Delhi’s Gurgaon and Saket doing well, with another opening in Noida this week.
A vegetarian restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol is a gamble, though. Ankit feels vegetarian, healthy portions with 80 percent vegan options will be lapped up by Ooru foodies.
For dessert, we tried the coco pina, a coconut panacotta, with toffee and pineapple which was beautifully deconstructed. Delicious, not too coconutty and it had us at the toffee! The smokey avocado ice cream with honey caviar was also tasty. There are bubble teas and a slew of other choices and you must try the pomegranate and mandarin spritzer!
The array of classic speciality and fruity teas from across the world and the whole ceremony of tea drinking also comes alive. Yerba mate, served in a bottle gourd cup, tropical passion white teas etc. And the experience of tea caddies, munching on sunflower seeds and cookies, and tea timers giving you the right brew, it is a very immersive experience. Staff is knowledgeable and hospitable and the price point is competitive. A great place for a wholesome meal. We were Myanmared with a delightful taste trail, and will surely be back for more.
Meal for two: Rs 1500
Must haves: Raw mango salad, khowsuey, buns, laphet fried rice? Samosa soup, coco pina and their bubble teas and other brews.