Well, it’s only a journey if you consider getting to Edgware Road an epic adventure; I call it a journey into yet another new cuisine to me: Burmese. A couple of weeks ago, MiMi of Meemalee’s Kitchen (who herself is Burmese) organised a large group dinner at Mandalay up on Edgware Road and so introduced us to the delights of Burmese food. (You’re probably aware that Burma isn’t doing so well politically and I learned that its name is even a contested issue; its official name is the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.)
The restaurant has been there for absolutely ages; I visited once when I was still a student living in that area a good decade ago and had one of their cheap lunch specials (curry and rice and their excellent banana fritters, if I recall correctly). The restaurant hasn’t changed one iota in that time – it’s the same little crowded restaurant and even the prices on the lunch specials have remained constant!
MiMi took charge of ordering and not long after we returned the menus, a flood of food came out. Starters were made up of salads and fritters. Of the salads, the most unique was a rice and noodle salad which had quite a good bite of chili. I quite enjoyed the cabbage and chicken salad too while the green papaya salad was very similar to northern Thai versions.
Mandalay’s fritters were outstanding. My favourite was the shrimp and beansprout fritters – who knew that beansprouts could be battered and fried and they’d end up so delicious?! The calabash (bottle gourd) fritters weren’t too bad either.
The main courses were mostly curry-like stews that went well with rice (the curry I had with my lunch special ages ago was one of these, I think). However, with so many curries on the table, they started to meld together on our plates and it became difficult to distinguish the flavours in each dish. I’d like to return to taste these more carefully.
For vegetables, we had some lovely stir fried okra and a unique pickled bamboo shoots dish (not photographed). The latter could have been improved though through the use of fresh bamboo shoots rather than canned.
I loved the side order of balachaung – a condiment of dried shrimp and shrimp paste, garlic, shallots, and chillies. It’s dry and slightly crispy and goes marvelously with rice.
The noodles were pretty good too. Mokhingar is the national dish of Burma/Myanmar and is a fish soup with rice noodles (at least I think that’s what the first photo below shows! I can’t find any other photo that matches to the name and in any case, there was definitely fish in the soup). The coconut and chicken noodles reminded me of khao soi in Chiang Mai though with less of a spicy punch; still, it was a very comforting and soothing noodle dish.
For dessert, MiMi went ahead and ordered a few of everything! They were a mixed bag with my top three in order being the banana fritters, the tapioca and then the blue jelly. I was surprised to see that faluda (the pink drink with jelly and noodles and cream in the last photo) is also popular in Myanmar.
I’d love to return to get a better taste of a few dishes – I wasn’t sure whether to blog this dinner at first but I did learn so much during it and really wanted to collect my thoughts on it. And if you’re going too, book ahead – there were no spare tables when we went on a Tuesday night! The next day, MiMi did fill me in on a few points: (1) pork is popular in Myanmar but I suspect the restaurant is halal as this is left off the menu, and (2) peanuts should also be in some of the dishes (my gut feeling is in the salads) but these too are left out. Still, this is one of the few places in London where Burmese food can be had and good on them for doing so well – the food is still delicious! For all this food (there were multiples of every dish on the table) and drink, the total came to about £20 per head – not a bad price at all as there was more food there than we could finish. Thanks again, MiMi, for organising this!
444 Edgware Road
London W2 1EG