At Jing Hpaw Myay Restaurant (meaning Kachin Restaurant), I have more regional food discoveries. This time hailing from the north east of Burma bordering China, from Kachin State. It seems as I near the end of my trip, new suggestions are hurtling my way and I hear of other places to try but there’s no time left to fit anything else in. Our agenda is full, dawn until dusk. I find myself planning in my mind when I’m going to return. Making a mental list of all the dishes and restaurants I missed out on. Already I know the next trip is not going to be long enough! I make another mental note, next time there really needs to be fewer filmings with me eating. With two restaurants each day, each hosting the obligatory feast afterwards, and hospitality which saw no end, my ability to eat enthusiastically (sometimes again and again) to camera, began to wain! …… quite frankly I’m not an actor! And it shows on camera!
Kachin State in Burma occupies the hilly north of the country and the people that live in and around this area are derived from several differing ethnic groups. However, the uniting similarities you will find between the groups is in the dialects and the food of the region.
Two sisters run the restaurant. In the kitchen hands-on and in directing the other cooks what to do. But it’s clear which one runs the show! I referred to her as Aunty which is the customary way to address elders in our culture. However, if the truth be told I don’t suspect she was too much older than me! She tells me that the recipes were learnt from her mother in her teens when she first started cooking.
The kitchen is tiny just big enough to fit 4 or 5 stood side by side, just two traditional wood burning stoves, the type found in most homes. It’s extremely hot in there, more so than outside! Ko Aung, our guide and translator attempts to squeeze in to the space already occupied by two cooks, Aunty, cameraman and me! As each dish is cooked Aunty talks me through the steps very enthusiastically and very fast, in mostly Burmese. But when I look confused (not too often, I might add!) she inserts English words and translations. I find that my understanding of Burmese has picked up quite well and with Aunty’s sufficient enough English I figured we’ll manage, and bravely tell Ko Aung I won’t need him. (Whilst writing this piece up afterwards, I reflect why this may be the case? I think it’s probably do with the fact it’s all food and food related vocabulary! I must have spent more time in the kitchen than I realised growing up).
- The Kachin dishes prepared for us are light, fragrant with fresh herbs and with a fiery dose of chilli punch. I’m told the Kachin like their food hot as it gets cold in the hills. Several dishes are grilled, lightly fried or poached and pounded in a pestle and mortar with other fresh ingredients and fresh herbs to complete the final dish.
Everything was superb and a stand out one for me was the grilled pounded aubergine. Mainly because it reminded me of growing up. It was a family favourite and still is today. (I don’t cook it enough now and make a mental note to self I should do).
It’s so simple and full of flavour. The aubergine is first cooked over a hot flame grill until blackened and then peeled and chopped up when cool enough to handle. Next mix with thinly sliced rinsed shallots, chopped coriander, oil, salt. da beh ! The difference here at the restaurant is the addition of crispy fried soy beans, sprinkled over the top for crunch. I’m not used to this but quite enjoy it.
The lovely thing about the many dishes we ate is that they are served at room temperature. Nothing is piping hot except the soup. In this heat it makes for an enjoyable meal. Although the volume of fiery chillies did give a different kind of heat, a sweat over the eyebrows!
Like many small communities there’s always a local alcoholic drink brewing and here it’s another style of rice wine. The one we sampled tasted sweet like a light plum wine. All went very well with the food.
And here we are again….another team meal!
Have you tried Kachin food before? If you fancy something different that’s lighter and not a curry. Do try this place out if you are in Rangoon. Let me know if you go! 🙂