I was nestled beside my better half overlooking Inya Lake and mulling over the conversation I had just had with Sanjeev. Mr. Gupta and his sumptuous wife, Abhi, were celebrating the successful grand opening of their eighth installment of Indian Tadka, a brainchild they shared with Sanjeev’s cousin, Arpit Pareek. I had come early, and Sanjeev and I had spent the afternoon discussing matters of the palate, hearth, and home before the other guests arrived. The tikkas and koftas I was enjoying sat well with my thoughts, and I felt shielded from the busy world and traffic of Kabar Aye Road below me.
The serenity I was in had been planned for months. The trio had been scouring Southeast Asia, searching for premium spices, procuring statement pieces, and assembling a crew to man the kitchen. The soft lighting and lavish décor were uncovered from the corners of little markets in India, including grand sconces from a little shop in Jaipur that now grace the front of the entrance, summoning shoppers at Myanmar Plaza into something a bit more regal than the modern, fast-paced world outside.
Sanjeev’s goal is to reintroduce Indian food to Myanmar.
“Myanmar has known about Indian food since a long time back. People from the Southwest of India migrated to this place or were brought in as farmers. They brought in food, they brought in tradition, they brought in everything. What happened was that when the Myanmar people began to know about Indian food, it was common food,” he explained.
Traces of these farmers’ influence is found in every neighborhood market in Yangon. The anatomy of a Burmese breakfast teashop is not complete without offerings of plain naan, puri, and samosas. Dosa stalls line every market street, but they are lovingly called ‘toshae’ and served with sugar. The remnants are there, but the style has been adapted to suit availability and tastes of the Burmese appetite. What I longed for since moving from my culinary stomping grounds of Chicago, and what Sanjeev, Abhi, and Pareek offer, was a more spiced, rich, and luxurious cuisine- what Sanjeev called the ‘royal cuisine’ of India.
This was the food Abhi knew and loved, rich in creams, butters, nuts, and dried fruits. Even the familiar South Indian items served at Indian Tadka, such as dosa, are different than those made at the morning markets in Yangon. Sanjeev says the key to making crispy dosa is the percentage of rice to dal. “The locals use a lot of mung beans and the rice content is less. The texture is a little softer.
” In his kitchen, the dosa chef increases the rice content of his batter and adds fenugreek seeds and leaves, which Mr. Gupta says are very important for the coloring, texture, and aroma.
Not only have they brought in a designated dosa chef hailing from South India, but the Guptas and Arpit employ six other specialty chefs to man the kitchen and manage the prep cooks.
“We want to do justice to the North, South, East, and West,” Mr. Gupta said. Each chef represents a different region of India so that diners can experience the micro-cuisines and specialties from the land of spices.
The preparation is painstaking, and diners can see it unfold in front of their eyes. “The concept of an open kitchen is to let them see, let them know, and let them value it,” Sanjeev enthused. From plush seats, diners can prattle away as they watch the chefs skewer kebabs melded with yogurt and exotic spices, roll out generous portions of pear-shaped naan, and finish the buttery breads off in the tandoor.
Every detail is considered. “The Spanish saffron we use is organic, sourced from Dubai. It comes attached with the roots [style]. We pluck it out ourselves so the ends don’t dry. It keeps the aromas and oils and the color is beautiful,” Mr. Gupta explained.
That saffron colors not only the food but also the lassi, where it is fused with cardamom and premium yogurt. Seasonal flavors of lassi are available, such as mango, while staples such as rose and blueberry can be enjoyed year-round. Another yogurt-based refreshment, falooda, is a pretty and rarer treat that will be offered for those with a taste for sweet things. In the front is a bar and showcase of rich confections where a chocolate fondue will be set up on the weekends.
Address: Myanmar Plaza
Photo: 09 974 305000