Finding Burmese food in America

Burmese food is the best. I may not know how to make any of the dishes (except for the exceptionally easiest dish to make, pickled tea leaves or la phet), but I sure know how to enjoy it. Unfortunately, my mother isn’t the most excellent cook, unlike my grandmother, who passed away.

Luckily the Burmese community in the Los Angeles area is about 80,000 strong (not including inconspicuous Burmese Chinese, Indians, etc.), so there is some variety and a handful of talented chefs. Many Burmese cooks who sell their dishes do so from their houses, which is against the law in the U.S., but nevertheless is pervasive, especially because the L.A. area suffers from high rental prices for businesses and the like. I know of only two Burmese restaurants in the Los Angeles area and a few that are Burmese in name, but Chinese in menu.

One of them is called Daw May Yu, who originates from Mergui (or Beik) in the southern tip of Burma. She cooks excellent noodle salad (khauk hswe thoke), which I ate today. Noodle salad is literally a salad of noodles, consisting of large noodles mixed with cut cucumber, fried fish paste, a wealth of seasoning and oil, curry, cilantro and chopped lettuce and onions. She also cooks several regional dishes from the Mergui region, which tend to be heavy on seafood. One is the ‘cut-with-scissors’ noodles (kat kyi hnyet) which is very reminiscent of the Thai pad thai, except that it includes pork and is light and delicate on flavor. Although her business has been shut down by the Health Department several times (because it is illegal to operate an unlicensed food establishment), Daw May Yu is popular among monastery donors who want to serve hundreds on Buddhist holidays as well as among ordinary customers.

Next is the ubiquitous biryani, called dan pauk in Burmese. Although introduced by South Asians, biryani is to the Burmese what cheeseburgers are to Americans. In Rangoon and Mandalay, restaurant chains like Nilar and Kyet Sha Zun that sell ‘fast-food’ biryani. In the U.S., however, few Burmese expatriates cook excellent Burmese biryani. Among those is an Burmese Indian named U Maung Maung, who only sells catering amounts (like 60+ servings). U Maung Maung’s biryani is a blend of basmati rice, fresh and sliced onions and cucumbers, a medley of curries, and curried chicken in a delectable dish.


27 thoughts on “Finding Burmese food in America

  1. Omar says:

    Ahh.. I had biryani from KSS at my engagement ceremony in Yangon last October. It was pretty good and close to how my mother makes it.

  2. Min Phin Gya says:

    Mayalo racist rat,
    Your writings:
    “Luckily the Burmese community in the Los Angeles area is about 80,000 strong (not including inconspicuous Burmese Chinese, Indians, etc.),” reflecting the sick Bamar military theme.Arthuba ne Win died long ago.Still you have like Hitler’s lee in your mouth.
    Look yourself in the mirror, lan bay kwe we sar,
    How you want to be called bamar kwe ah sit?
    The more you sit on kappali’s BIG lee, your racism will be vanished and GOOD for you.

    • Alfred Thein says:

      He is angry that sometime in the past his mother opened her legs and there is no time travelling coat hangers in the world at the moment.

      • Mirror_Man says:

        No, no, that is why YOU are angry. And you need to come up with some fresh rejoinders, not sure where you stole that gem from but the only thing original about you is your penchant for misplaced rage.

    • Zin says:

      I enjoyed reading your ‘Burmese’ written in English. I couldn’t agree with you more about how racist the ‘Burmese’ are. Frankly I am getting more and more disgusted with the ‘dominant’ race, myself being one from the ‘minorities’ cuz I see more evidence (overseas)of their feeling superior to us, but whatever… we still originated from one country, so…

    • death says:

      fcuk yeah,
      If you consider burmese chinese and burmese indian, it would make more than 800,000. If you love you people so much, why don’t you go back to your own country and make it better.

    • Min A Fei Lada says:

      Min Phin Gya is totally RIGHT. They are NOT only Lan Bay Kwe We Sar, but “Street Mice” in Thailand and Malaysia and Singapore and Japan, etc. If you go any Rapid city-train stations in those countries, u will see them.

  3. bc says:

    burmese food is oily, greasy, salty – can add these can’t take out.
    where in southern california can we find burmese food & gift?

  4. zin moe oo says:

    my dad made some dan pauk for his friends and they really like it. So every time they have a party, they order dan pauk from my dad and he makes some money.

    and Myin Phin Gya is mad because it said not including mixed burmese ex. burmese chinese and burmese indian ect…

  5. Santhosh Rajangam says:

    I am a huge fan of khauk hswe thoke and mohinga.. I used to have it in Chennai, where I am originally from.. There are loads of places that sell burmese food in chennai.. It is unfortunate that I can’t find burmese food in Minneapolis.. Can anyone suggest good recipe to try on own??

    • Ram Prasath says:

      I am also a huge fan of atho (burmese noodles salad).There are many road side ever crowded shop in second line beach which is opposite to burma bazzar or behind indian bank head office.

  6. John says:

    The Burmese population in Fort Wayne, Indiana where I live is many thousands, and we have a variety of Burmese and Thai restaurants and shops.

  7. Rudolph Vardon says:

    I live in the N.W. of Chicago.
    Looking to find a store where I can buy Burmese food stuff online.

  8. Jenny Greer says:

    Living in LA. My mother is from Rangoon, but I grew up in North Carolina. The only Burmese food I have ever had is my Grandmother’s which was excellent. But not sure how americanized her recipes became over the years out of necessity or innovation… moving to the South in the 1950’s. Though her house became a restaurant of sorts because the family was so big and neighbors came to eat all of the time… Was hoping now that I am on the west coast to find more Burmese food.
    Are there any restaurants that are easier to find at all?

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