Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Burma Street

To get to Burma Street (Huaxin Jie - 華新街), take the MRT to Nanshijiao (南勢角), leave by Exit 4 and turn right on Xingnan Road right out front (興南路). Walk for about 7 minutes, through a weird intersection with Nanshan Road (南山路). When you reach Huaxin Jie, it'll be obvious: turn left through the two entrance pillars made to look like the domes of Southeast Asian temples. There's a Cafe 85 on the corner.

Last Saturday dawned dreary and rainy (ah, Taipei) so after my thing in Zhonghe, we decided instead of going too far afield that we'd hunt down the famous, yet elusive "Burma Street" in Zhonghe. Apparently, there are many such streets where people of a certain ethnic extraction establish businesses and restaurants in Zhonghe, including a Korea Street that we now have to find.

We took our friend Aliya's directions and made our way there with growling stomachs - and me with a broken purse (the strap snapped). We were not disappointed: store after store and restaurant after restaurant serving up Burmese food to Burmese immigrants*, blasting Burmese music (mostly Western-style Burmese) and selling Burmese groceries.

Doing our usual reconnaisance, we found a popular place with a crowd of locals - by locals I mean Burmese people - sitting 'round a table drinking and shooting the breeze with no particular plans to leave: if they like it, it must be good, right?

And it was! We got two kinds of noodle ("Give us your most popular dish...what's the most...Burmese?") - one was like a Taiwanese thin noodle (麵線) and the other was like a dry stir-fried ramen (炒拉麵), but with different flavors. There was a sour vegetable in the thin noodle and the stir-fry had a coconutty peanut flavor accented with fried garlic and dried scallions and, I think, a hint of lemongrass. The owner, deeply amused at the two foreigners asking for "the most popular/most Burmese" thing on the menu, gave us a free dessert - a fluffy bread similar to a Singaporean prata or Taiwanese onion pancake, but sweet and dipped in sugar. We also got a cake that the group of locals was eating, which seemed to be pan-baked, topped with what looked like white poppy seeds and delicious, though not astounding.

The milk tea was more Indian than anything else, and there were free refills of regular (non-milk) tea. There was a menu in Chinese and Burmese (for those of you who can read Chinese but have no idea what to order in Burmese - and they seemed to be the same stuff) and the owner has been here for over 20 years and can speak quite good Chinese. Other restaurants seem similarly well-equipped for us non-Burmese-speakers.

Oh, and the whole meal came to less than 200 kuai for 2. Yay!

We also stopped at a grocery and picked up some cooking supplies that are far cheaper there than at Jason's (fenugreek seed, kaffir lime leaves etc) as well as some unfamiliar snacks ("Saltcheese" crackers, V-cut "Pinoy Adobo" potato chips, something reeking of garlic etc.)

All in all, a good day. I recommend checking it out.

*interesting how those of us from developed countries are "expats", but those from developing ones are "immigrants". As Brendan says, "that's because they'll more likely stay here and make their kids do well at school. We're more likely to go home someday." Fair enough.

1 comment:

Craig Ferguson (@cfimages) said...

I remember briefly checking out Burma St a few years ago, but it's been a while since I've been there. I'll have to make a return trip soon.

On expat vs immigrant, I think expat is when it's relatively short term (traditionally 2 years or less) and immigrant is long term or permanent. I'd class myself more as immigrant than expat as I've been here 7 years, am married to a Taiwanese citizen and have no plans to leave Taiwan.