Myanmar: the Southeast Asian neighbor we know so little about.
Actually, I’ve had Burmese cuisine before. The first time I had it, was at a friend and his live-in Burmese partner’s house. Living in a cosmopolitan society such as Singapore, with so many cultures and cuisines at every corner, it’s easy to feel intimidated and threatened, especially with all the xenophobic attitudes that’s going around now. It therefore is so easy to lose that sense of wonder and exploration, discovering completely new tastes, sights and sounds. Having the opportunity to sample Burmese cuisine, a home-cooked one at that, was such a privilege and an honour, and an absolute eye, or rather palate opener.
I enjoyed that personal Burmese hospitality so much, I followed it up with a dinner with my friend, Darren, eager to share my discovery with him. We dined in at Inle Myanmar at Peninsula Plaza with myself, camera-ready, intending to document the experience for you here. However, I decided against it. There was such a complete disconnect of flavor, so far-flung and so off, that I didn’t want my negative experience to go on record. The food wasn’t bad per se, but let’s be honest here. Burmese cuisine borrows influences from Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine, but Inle’s dishes were so dumbed down, the food was decidedly just “Indian”, “Chinese” or “Thai”, depending on the dish.
Soon after, I got caught in a series of job interviews, got accepted at one and wadyaknow, it’s July already.
My visit today was completely unplanned. My TAFTC course mate and friend, Wei Lin was participating in “Fashion In A City” at The Co along High Street – a small, independent event that celebrates the local designer scene (focusing mostly on womenswear, it’d seem) – as the designer for womenswear brand GMDCAT, and invited me along. As a friend, I couldn’t refuse and you know me, I’m always down for supporting local fashion designers. Besides my A&F, Superdry, Hollister, Uniqlo and Topman-filled wardrobe, I also own several pieces by local designers. Mind you, it’s admirable to fly the “local” flag, but as with everything, if you want to support, don’t do it blindly: support the good ones only.
I was in the area, and I was walking in the direction of City Hall station, intending to have an extravagant lunch at Nam Nam (I’m addicted to their duck curry noodles) when I walked past the Funan Digitalife Mall and Peninsula Plaza area and had a flash back. And that made me crave something Burmese.
Formerly called Loi Nine, Golden Tray is one of the stalls at the coffee shop beside Funan Digitalife Mall. You can’t miss it, really. It’s the only stall in the coffee shop which have bilingual English and Burmese text. Famished, and not wanting to complicate things, I decided to get the simplified “Prawn with Curry”.
Burmese food is influenced by Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine to various degrees. So, as you eat, because your mind is unable to register the tastes as decidedly “Indian”, “Chinese” or “Thai”, instead of absorbing this new flavor as “Burmese”, the brain tries to shoehorn it as one of those cuisines that Burmese is inspired from. The result is, your mind doesn’t think it tastes good at all. My curry had the consistency of a typical Indian curry, but tasted remarkably Chinese with undertones of Thai spices. Does that make sense? Overall, it was okay, but I think this is certainly an acquired taste.