Mu Ai Kachin food restaurant is hidden away on a small side street just off Hledan Road opposite the Hledan Center. The restaurant is simple, immaculately clean, pleasantly cool and surprisingly small. Each of the six tables is decorated with a bamboo vase of freshly cut flowers—it’s a nice touch, and one that alludes to the attention to detail and efforts this little restaurant puts into its offering.
The menu is extensive with plenty to go at to justify several visits and is seriously cheap. At a loss where to start I ask the waiter to choose for me. He chose well. In fact I believe had I closed my eyes and stabbed blindly at the pages of the menu I would have been just as pleased with my selection.
The food is amazing; every dish is a wonderful combination of flavors, using fresh ingredients they are all excellent examples of this fabulous ethnic cuisine.
But what really stands out above and beyond the flavor of the food is the presentation. Each dish is beautifully served using a range of traditional bamboo and banana leaf receptacles. This restaurant clearly prides itself on the way that the dishes are put together.
The quince and chicken served in a thick bamboo bowl soup sets the scene, and is the perfect balance of sour and spicy. The steam that escapes from the banana leaf lid is pungently mouth watering, and the combination of garlic, green chili, ginger, lemongrass, and mustard flowers, all combine to create a refreshingly filling palate tickler.
The next dishes arrive swiftly. Prawns cooked in garlic and chili served with two eggplant varieties is tasty and satisfying. Spicy chicken served with typical Kachin vegetable rice (shat jam) and marbled tea eggs is a great combination of flavors and textures.
The highlight of the meal though is left until last—pounded mutton served in a bamboo trough. Having been only cured with lime, chilly, Vietnamese coriander, and garlic, the meat melts in the mouth. The dish is simple and rewarding with a powerful and invigorating spice.
Traditional Kachin food is a combination of spicy and sour flavors that are cooked with minimal oil. The chef at Mu Ai is clearly talented and proud of his work. His presentation is classy with an attractive use of natural and traditional methods; his food is flavorful and fresh. I leave feeling pleasantly full and refreshed, not bloated or greasy, and determined to return to explore the menu further.