The Famous Padonmar Restaurant (meaning lotus flower) is owned by U Sonny Aung Khin. He has been in the restaurant business more than 25 years and has run this place for over seven. So that’s telling. The authenticity and quality of the traditional cooking has proved his staying power in the burgeoning restaurant scene which has exploded in Rangoon in recent years. There are no fancy presentations or trendy modern interpretations just beautifully cooked delicious food you would find in any Burmese home.
The restaurant setting itself is also inside an old traditional house providing a further authentic ambience to the eating experience.
A young but very accomplished chef Mimi shows us how to cook traditional Burmese fish curry (slightly different to the one cooked at Governor’s Residence), beef curry, winged bean salad and a classic mixed vegetable sour soup called ‘chin-hin’.
Fish curry (nga hin)
The fish curry recipe used the same ingredients as at Governor’ Residence. The fish used here was striped snakehead, a large chunky river fish. It is sweet tasting and similar in texture and taste to hake. It may have been the fish and slightly more chilli, as it had a richer tasting sauce.
Beef curry (a’ metha hin) Recipe
The beef curry was a simple slow cooked piece of flank. Ginger and garlic, and a couple of dried caraway leaves (similar to bay leaves) are first fried off until fragrant, then a big spoonful of pre-sauteed onions are added, followed by two big spoons of chilli powder (which can be adjusted to taste), the meat which has been marinated in salt, turmeric and some chicken powder (for extra seasoning). This is browned off then some water is added to just immerse the meat. Cook for 1 – 1.5hours until the meat is tender. About 15 minutes towards the end add potatoes. Taste and check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. dah be ! (that’s it)
Mix vegetable sour soup (Chin hin)
The chin hin soup gets its sourness from the added tamarind paste. But it’s only a little sour and not lip pursing. There’s a sweet balance from a little of the fish curry sauce added to the stock base and the tamarind itself which is a little sweet. There’s a selection of vegetables added towards the end. This soup compliments the rich fish and beef curries very well.
Winged bean salad
The beans are also known as asparagus pea because I guess, it is similar in taste to asparagus. They are like a fat round mange tout with a frilly skirt up and down its length and best picked at a couple of inches long. The winged beans were first lightly blanched therefore had a soft but still yielding bite. The taste was fresh, salty and citrusy, everything you would expect in a Burmese salad and again, complimented the rest of the dishes very well.
And here I am sat down with U Sunny, whilst he spoke passionately about Burmese food and what he believes makes his restaurant stand out from the others.
Filming how to cook these dishes first hand from experienced local cooks has been inspiring. So much learnt and tips to take away with me back home.
The filming itself has been challenging but fun. Not least because I had set myself an additional challenge. To learn the name of the ingredients in Burmese and to try and ‘polish’ up as much as I can on the language of my native tongue. I was only 5 years old when we left Burma and although my parents spoke Burmese in the home to each other I don’t recall it being spoken to me directly much, so lets say I’m being rather ambitious using the term ‘polish up’ ! haha..
Despite my struggles we had so much fun filming. In particular, there were several takes for me to pronounce the name of the restaurant correctly. Now that was another challenge in itself, over which we laughed and laughed. I had it in my head it was pronounced a certain way for months not because of any authority on it just because I thought it was such. When something gets set in your mind it’s so hard to remove. Even the simplest thing as a correct pronunciation. More complex or deep rooted views and opinions can be even harder to remove…..
Take a quick look at this short clip. Will this clip make the final cut?!
Full cooking demo clip will appear soon on YouTube…