Days after its opening, we went to Nga Pichat—where they cook with nga pi (fish paste) galore.
The English has Black Pudding, the French has Escargot, the Scottish has Haggis, and we have Nga Pi. Nga Pi or Burmese fish paste can be pretty much found in your local market. Its meaning is “Crushed Fish” and that is what they do with the fish or prawn. The paste is preserved in a form of a patte and fermented for a few months; like every other great cooking ingredient, the more it ages, the better it tastes. The fish paste is either diluted and then boiled to get a runnier texture or it can be cooked with meat or in a soup—just like the food we’re going to taste today!
The location was a real gem, just a quick dash from the Mawtin bus gate; or if you’re traveling by car, the shop can be seen just before you enter 8th street off of Strand Road. You could tell the place was new, as suggested by the pre-occupied waiting area in the front. However, we were lucky since we got a place for two at the heart of the restaurant.
Their menu, even thought it was really hard to read, was really cool idea. It came in the form of a scroll—I get the feeling they’re going a little overboard. Nevertheless, with our eyes squinted, we ordered our dishes: the Century Egg Salad, the Chicken with Nga Pichat, and the Carp Mote Ti—of course, with a fresh heap of chilli fish paste.
Having been to a lot of Burmese eateries over the years, I must say that the best thing about most places is they provide the rice buffet. What’s worse than having all those curries to eat but not enough rice? If when you order some more; you end up chipping away from your dinner budget. Props to Nga Pichat for this kind gesture.
First to come were our side dishes (which are free)—some pickled vegetables and a potato curry which was amazing, plus a tray with crunchy veggies and some fish paste dipping sauce calls Nga Pi Yay. Service is expected to be fast at most places in Yangon, however with plates dropping and elbows flying at this restaurant, it was a really opportunity to get a neck workout.
Our main dishes, the Chicken with Nga Pichat (4,500 Kyats) and the Century Egg Salad (1500 Kyats), made their debut on the table—and later in our stomachs. Although, they were served in miniature sizes contrasting with the price, the dishes were average without us having to complain about anything.
For a second time, I would like to stress more about the potato curry and we recommend you order seconds.The fish paste dip, according to my Burmese counterpart, was, “The best Nga Pi I’ve ever tasted.” The Carp Mote Ti (2,500 Kyats), which must have silently crept onto our table was savory, light, refreshing and with cilantro. The broth had actual sautéed fish chunks in it and they tasted like—I never thought I’d have to say this but—chicken. It was different from the usual Mote Ti, which are most of the time heavy in MSG and fish sauce.
It isn’t our proudest achievement, but we actually had more than 6 servings of rice combined and our curries were depleting. So, we did what any other food reviewer might do, which was to order another dish—the Beef with Nga Pichat (5,500 Kyats). However, it wasn’t as good as we expected it to be. With the richness of the beef and heavy taste of the fish paste, it was too overpowering.
Overall, Nga Pichat is a place that deserves to be visited often. May it be for lunch or a big family feast, it does its price range justice. There are three levels of spiciness, all of which are guaranteed to taste good. So pop in sometimes, and let your Nga Pi saga continues..
Address: No. 572, Corner of Lann Thit Street and Strand Road, Lanmadaw Township, Yangon
Tel: 09 965 069934
Hours: Mon – Fri 10:30am – 8:30pm, Sat – Sun 10:30am – 9:00pm