There's a myriad of curries and rice noodles. Spices are abundant and seafood products like fish sauce and fermented fish are reoccurring. It is, after all, a coastal country. Burma also has quite a salad selection; they often use tea leaves as a primary ingredient. The leaves, loved nationally for their pungent and bittersweet taste, are picked in the spring, steamed and then fermented. They're served cold, usually with tomatoes, lentils and peanuts. The dish, known as lahpet in Burmese, has become so integral into the culture that it's a must for special occasions.
While lahpet isn't as common in Los Angeles, it is frequently found in Burmese restaurants. We've rounded up four great ones in the area:
Yoma, which is named after a mountain range in Burma, is owned by Joan Lam and serves up northern Burmese food. Lam has been there for seven years, whipping up Burmese specialties and remarkably flaky samosas. Go straight for her Shan noodles. Shan, one of the states in Burma bordering China, is renowned throughout the country for their al dente rice noodles. At Yoma Myanmar, they come decorated with a heap of braised chicken, chilies, crushed peanuts, and cilantro. You can get them with or without soup. We recommend the former. 713 E Garvey Ave, Monterey Park, CA 91755.
Daw Yee Myanmar
Daw Yee is the area's most popular Burmese joint and there's no question why. The cafe is polished and pleasantly furnished -- a rarity in this particular part of town. The mains are conveniently divided into three sections -- noodles, salads and curries. Noodles come with catfish, chicken, or pork. Salads incorporate chickpeas, fish paste, and pennyworth. Curries are often slow-cooked. Go for the goat and chicken thigh curries; the meat falls straight off the bones.They also whip up a fantastic tea leaf salad -- a rainbow assortment of fermented tea leaves, chopped tomatoes, fried lentils, garlic, sesame, and shredded cabbage. It's an ideal appetizer and a worthy addition to any Instagram feed. 111 N Rural Dr., Monterey Park, CA 91755.
This Culver City establishment is a great place to stop in for a quick bite to eat. It's really a market with a small built-in kitchen consistent with the atmosphere -- plastic utensils and paper plates are the serveware of choice. The samosas, stuffed with spicy mashed potatoes, are solid. Try them with lamb. The crowd favorite, however, seems to be the Jasmine Market noodle salad, embellished with cilantro, onions, cabbage, lemons, and fish sauce. 4135 1/2 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230.
Fuji West is a Japanese-Burmese fusion joint in San Gabriel with something of an identity crisis. The establishment used to be Tokyo Lobby, a once-popular boat sushi spot. In an attempt to keep the regulars, the new management kept the Japanese component but has slowly been introducing Burmese dishes. Japanese food aside, we recommend the coconut noodles with chicken and for an appetizer -- the Burmese tofu salad. The tofu is dressed up with onion, kaffir, lime leaves, ground dried chilies, bean powder, and oil. 927 E Las Tunas Dr., Ste J & K, San Gabriel, CA 91776.