A big part of going to Philadelphia was being able to try things they don't
have here. New York is totally a food mecca, but they aren't known for their
Burmese food (I know there's Cafe Mingala in the East Village, but I've
never heard a good word about it). I wanted to see what sort of items would
come out of a Thai-Indian cross breeding.
The curries, fritters and use of potatoes and flat bread seemed Indian,
while the basil, peanut sauce and lemongrass were clearly Thai. I'd say that
most of the dishes leaned towards the Indian camp, though.
We ordered an appetizer of bar-b-q beef with thousand layer bread, which
was kabobs of grilled beef, onions and peppers served over a buttery flat
bread (almost like a hammered out Pillsbury biscuit). We also had Rangoon
night market noodles, which were very plain, though not surprising since
this has been described as food for workers. The noodles were egg and had a
light sprinkling of scallions and pork and an oil dressing. It came with a
spicy, vinegary cabbage carrot condiment, but I wasn't sure if this was
supposed to be added or eaten separately like a slaw. Additionally, we tried
the pork with mango pickle curry, which was a curry of the thin soupy
variety that goes well with lots of rice.
James ordered Burmese tea since it was freezing outside, and I didn't
realize until after left that it was on the dessert menu. That made sense
since it was sweet and rich from condensed milk. What I didn't get was why
the tea was a creamy orange-pink color. I assumed it was from whatever
spices were in it, but who's to say.
I'd heard that Burmese food tended to be bland. Maybe bland wasn't the
exact word, but I'd agree that the flavors are not strong. Nothing was
heavily spiced or kicky. Many of the dishes appeared fairly straightforward
and simple, but this wasn't disappointing. There just weren't any extremes
such as hot, sweet or tangy, which I'm usually drawn to. It's the kind of
thing where you need to sample more than just a few items before coming to
any conclusions. I certainly can't say that my first meal of 2001 was a
Burmese, Cambodian, Laotian-it's all southeast Asian food that I'm not
experienced enough with to be nit picky. I don't think the NYC renditions
are all that remarkable, so I wish I had more time to explore the menu at
Rangoon. I'm intrigued by the salads, particularly the tea leaf one. I think
I prefer Thai, but I'd probably choose Burmese over Indian. It's hard to
resist a their thousand layer bread with potato curry dip, which is really
the same thing as Malaysian roti canai. And they serve inexpensive wine,
which is a plus if you have your vegetarian visiting-from-England sister and
her boyfriend in tow. Those Brits like to drink (and eat lots of tofu).
Rangoon* 112 North Ninth St., Philadelphia, PA