by Marie Starr
With so many new Western restaurants opening up recently around Yangon, I was surprised and delighted to see the ‘Shan Kitchen’ signboard erected over a newly revamped restaurant outlet in the Yaw Min Gyi area.
Shan Kitchen is a step towards a more comfortable and clean dining experience than your average teashop without compromising on genuine Shan flavours.
The décor of the restaurant is loyal to traditional local designs- cute Shan drums, bamboo hats and wicker baskets hang on the walls. It’s a cosy size with seating for ten downstairs and four tables of Japanese-style seating upstairs. Soft lighting and good air conditioning make all the difference. Modern pop music plays a little out of context on the radio but isn’t loud enough to disturb conversation.
We ordered an array of dishes that would test the kitchen’s parameters in flavours.
One can tell a lot about a Shan restaurant by the quality of fried tofu they serve. Nothing says ‘Shan food’ to me more clearly than that plate of golden triangles of crispy fried tofu. It was served piping hot and nicely crisp on the outside and with a zesty tamarind dipping sauce. We devoured it before the waiters had a chance to bring anything else to the table.
Though Shan noodles are a dish typically eaten for breakfast, they are seriously satisfying any time of the day. We ordered them dry (as opposed to noodle soup) and were impressed with the freshness of the ingredients used. There were generous chunks of pork and not too much oil. The authentic and zesty pickle accompaniment brought another dimension of flavours to the noodles, just as it should.
My company for this meal was a pork-expert friend and on his advice we ordered ‘crispy golden pork belly salad.’ It turned out to be the highlight of the meal. Served warm with a slightly sweet dressing, the pork rind is enticingly crisp and the ratio of meat to fat was spot on. This richness was perfectly balanced with fresh lime juice, tomato and mint.
Next up was whole fish with lime. The meat was light and tender and flaked off the bone. The thin soup it was served in was like a party in my mouth- hot and sour with a fantastically peppery punch to nip the sides of the tongue and not overly fishy.
Though no alcohol was on the menu, the orange and lime juices we ordered were refreshing and not overly sweet.
All-in-all Shan Kitchen is an excellent representation of Shan cuisine and dishes are made with quality, authenticity and heart.