How the Burmese food scene has changed.
I used to have a Burmese staff in my first job, and he and I used to be very close. Often after work we will go out together, and one of our favourite Burmese food haunt is the Inle Myanmar Restaurant, located at the basement of Peninsula Plaza, in City Hall Singapore.
Back then, Inle is probably the only place in Singapore for you to get Burmese food. But as I returned to Peninsula during my recent trip back to Singapore, I was shocked. Not only that Inle has expanded tremendously, easily covering two shop lots, but the large shops next to it has been developed into Burmese food heaven, with multiple stalls selling Burmese food and Myanmar (the way you call people of Myanmar, and not Burmese) are gathered.
It was like a little Myanmar in Singapore. About time, I’ll say. They were certainly plenty of them in Singapore before, I am sure they are even more now, and every community needs “a place to call home”.
Inle Myanmar Restaurant was, by far, the more upmarket (read: less crowded) Burmese food options amongst the many that have sprung up over the years. The deco was simple and distinctively Myanmar, said to be drawing inspiration from Inle Lake, where fishing community is still alive today with Intha “sons of the lake” continue to fish for a living, rowing their boats with one leg.
That is a sight I would want to see!
Back to the food. I certainly have various favorite. The menu was extensive with many options of set menu for two paxs and more… so much so that we were spoiled for choice and unable to order. After much flipping the pages over and over, we settled for a dinner set meal for two which consists of some of favourite Inle dish.
Pickled tea leaves salad.
Top of my list is the Pickled Tea Leaves Salad, also known as Laphet Thoke. The fermented and pickled leaves were deliciously mixed with all my favourite things – crispy chickpea, roasted peanuts fried garlic (be careful of the breath!), toasted sesame and dried shrimps, as well as fresh vegetables such as garlic, tomato and cabbage. The contrasting texture was intoxicating, one of the reasons why I love this dish so much. Added onto to this mix were refreshing lime and vegetable oil. It was decadent start to a meal.
Sea bass with soya bean, ginger & onion.
For main dishes we selected the seabass with soya bean, ginger & onion, as well as pork curry. While the pork curry was nothing to shout about, the sea bass was great. I would have preferred it to be still crunchy when served, but the succulent amd juicy meat more than made up for the lack of crispy bites. The soya sauce was done just right and went great with a portion of rice. It was somewhat a Chinese dish I reckon, but accompanied by the more pungent flavour of the curry, it worked. My carbless resolution went out of the window as we tucked in to fully appreciate these main dishes.
The dinner was rounded off with the excellent Myanmar sweet cake, called the Hsanwin Makin. These cakes were made from semolina, mixed with raisins, peanutes, walnuts and a dash of poppy seeds. I like nuts with my dessert, and this rendition aced it. The cake was served slightly warm; it’s sweet and chunky, across between a pudding and carrot cake. I was told this was usually very sweet, which was kinda true to my amateur palette, so I stopped after two bites; two bites I fully relished.
Deliciously refreshing side condinments
Note: Many of my friends, upon discovering that I had Burmese food for dinner, asked for an explanation on how it differ from, say, Thai food, or Vietnamese food. To me the Myanmar loves nuts with their food, and they certainly have a generous hand when it comes to using oil for their dishes, though you’ll notice most of their food are not deep fried. The influx of Chinese and Indian immigrants into Myanmar in the past has blended sweet, sour and mildly spicy flavour into Myanmar cuisine, so you will be excused to mistaken Burmese food with Thai, or Vietnam. Probably less spicy than Thai, heavier than Vietnamese.
While Burmese food may never be as popular as the Thai and Vietnamese, I certainly hope this will be a thing of the past. The cuisine of Myanmar has much to offer; I wonder where I can find one in Hong Kong.
Verdict? For an introduction to great Burmese food, Inle will not disappoint with its many great, varied fare.
Peninsula Plaza Outlet
111 North Bridge Road
#B1-07 (A/B) Peninsula Plaza
(65) 6333 5438