I have a surprising number of Burmese friends and also know a couple of Burmese phrases like mingalabar (hello) and ne kaun la? (how are you?). What I’ve never had before is Burmese cuisine. While the prospect of a Burmese restaurant in Singapore is rare in itself, a halal one is nearly unheard of— that is, until I found Little Myanmar located at 382 Clementi Avenue 2.
Being a Mandalay native, owner Kyaw Kyaw Lin came to Singapore 16 years ago to pursue engineering. Little Myanmar was born in 2019 to provide halal-certified Myanmar food to homesick Burmese customers. When I arrived, there was a constant stream of customers from all walks of life who spoke in sharp and distinct Burmese to the wife of the owner, Winny Khin Maung.
What I tried at Little Myanmar
The menu made me feel foreign in my own country, as I could barely recognise more than 4 dishes. To the best of my ability, I decided to order Shan Noodle (S$6) and Myanmar Coconut Laksa (S$6), with the former being the dry version.
Other mains include Steamy Chicken Noodle (S$6) and Creamy Soft Tofu Noodle (S$6). There was a surprising amount of salad options, such as Giant Lemon Salad (S$6), Pennywort Leave Salad (S$6) and Feather Back Fish Cake Salad (S$7).
I noticed a nasi padang style array of dishes which was popular with the Burmese there, but I wasn’t prepared to get that adventurous. Unfortunately, the Sticky Coco Rice with Fried Banana (S$3) dessert which I was looking forward to wasn’t available.
Appearances-wise, the Myanmar Coconut Laksa doesn’t stray far from the familiar laksa that we Singaporeans know and love. However, it definitely has a much more yellow tone to it and not very much of the oil separation that is usually seen in Chinese variations. Another lacking aspect was the tau pok and boiled egg.
Instead, it was topped with crushed chickpea crackers and chopped coriander. Accompanying it was a small plate of crushed chilli flakes, onions and a wedge of lime.
Any notion of it being similar to laksa was thrown out of the window with my first sip of the soup. It had a really rich, creamy and coconutty taste. There weren’t any savoury notes or slight heat that you’d relate to our laksa here. It was also much thicker, almost comparable to mee rebus gravy.
I really liked the cracker toppings as it provided a nice crunch despite being immersed in the gravy. The chopped coriander also gave it much needed bits of freshness.
Unfortunately, the yellow noodles didn’t do well in the gravy as it was already bloated when I got to it. Gone was the chewiness that would have completed the dish. Instead, what I got was mushy carbs that reminded me of overly soggy yellow noodles.
The one-note nature of the gravy made being sick of the taste a huge possibility, which is why I recommend carefully mixing the chilli flakes into the gravy. This improved the dish massively as the heat added extra layers to the flavour. Just be mindful of the amount you add.
Following that was the slightly intimidating-looking Shan Noodles, a soy sauce and tomato-based chicken noodle dish. It had pieces of chicken and was topped with generous amounts of coriander and roasted sesame seeds. Unlike the Myanmar Coconut Laksa, this dish uses rice-based noodles.
Pulling and mixing the noodles around needed an extra grip from my chopsticks, as they were really thick! However, my excitement faded after my first bite. It tasted similar to spicy tapioca, and reminded me of a popular childhood snack that I have never liked. The flavour profiles were of sweet, spicy and savoury notes. The former two weren’t exactly my favourite when combined.
Tolerating a couple more bites, I tasted soy sauce and also bites of chicken pieces. I actually liked the texture of the dish; the noodles had a much firmer bite and the sesame seeds gave it a satisfying crunch. It’s just unfortunate that my limited palate couldn’t handle the taste. Maybe I would have liked it more had I ordered the soup variant.
I was compelled to try their Chicken Dum Briyani (S$7.50), as it was one of the few items on the menu that I recognised, and I ordered mine to go. The briyani came with chicken that was marinated in yoghurt and spices, and was accompanied by shredded veggies.
The Chicken Dum Briyani had a more subtle approach as compared to the usual fennel seeds and spicy heavy offerings that we are used to. The distinct briyani flavours were still there, just that it had taken a step back in favour of some slight sweetness. I suspect the sweetness came from either the yoghurt marinade from the chicken or the tiny raisins used.
I was really taken aback by how tender and moist the chicken was, despite being ordered to go. Overall, I really enjoyed the delicateness of the taste and would have never expected excellent briyani from a Myanmar stall.
I have this rule for myself whenever I try foreign food: the less it tastes like something I am familiar with, the more authentic it is. That definitely was the case for Shan Noodles and Myanmar Coconut Laksa. The constant visits from Burmese customers should also give you a good indication of its authenticity.
I may have not liked all the food, but I definitely enjoyed the experience of trying out Burmese food for the first time.
And if you’re a picky eater like me, the briyani will present you with the comfort of familiarity and then some!
Expected damage: S$6 – S$7.50 per pax
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