Friday, August 6, 2010

Burmese Eating Experience

I promised myself that once I began learning how to be a chef, I would have to open my culinary horizons and try things I may not have been willing to try before. I have always been a somewhat picky eater. And yet, growing up in Los Angeles, I am familiar with many different cultures and their foods.

Living in San Francisco, it is not surprising that many people are familiar with Chinese, Thai, Indian and Italian foods. There are many cultures here. Despite that fact, there are a few obscure types of food, particularly Asian, that I haven't personally become familiar with.

One of my very best friends, "Fred," is from Burma (now known as Myanmar - just don't tell the Burmese they are now called Myanmarese). I had the great honor of being treated by him to a fascinating array of Burmese treats. I speak highly of it now, but I have to admit that the experience itself did not appeal to my American side.

The first time I ate out with Fred, it was after 1am on Saturday night. Instead of the typical 24-hour Mel's Diner visit, we ended up at an Asian hot spot where it appeared that most of my village's Chinese population had gathered for a culinary feast. Although, not on the menu during the day, at this time they had all sorts of fascinating items such as chicken's feet and tripe.

To Fred's surprise, I ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. "Really,?!" he exclaimed. "A sandwich with just bread and cheese?!!"

I assured him that this was a common American treat, but he didn't believe that anyone could enjoy such a thing. While I had been mildly shocked at the idea that someone would eat duck hearts like they were candy, I had never really thought what a grilled cheese sandwich could seem like to someone who wasn't American.

Anyway, the Burmese restaurant we went to was absolutely darling and my mother adored the decor. Fred ordered for us and the dishes that came were unlike anything I had ever seen. I really wish I had thought to take pictures first, but we were well into eating before I thought of it. I have to admit, there weren't many leftovers.

We started with a cute salad that looked like shredded cabbage and walnuts. I bit into one of the walnuts and found out it was actually a dried bean. That's something I haven't experienced before. Overall, the salad was kind of nice. Fred said it was a common dish that his mother would make when he was back home.

The dishes that followed included a fish curry that was delicious and spicy, and something with various body parts of a pig that I didn't touch but my mother seemed to really like.

My favorite part was the desserts, again like nothing I had ever experienced. There was this fried Burmese sweet thing with coconut and sesame. Yum. And a weird jelly pudding that was to die for. Again, I wish I had thought to take photos before they were devoured. Now I know.

So...if you are interested in a new culinary experience and you live in the bay area, there's a great little restaurant at Mission and John Daly Blvd., in Daly City. Otherwise, try googling it. I'd be curious to find out what parts of the US have Burmese restaurants. Let me know what you try...

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