Myat & Potatoes: How a former restaurateur helps her Burmese friends share their cooking with fellow Malaysians | Eat Drink
KUALA LUMPUR, March 15 – Perhaps the best-known Burmese dish is
resplendent mohingaan umami-rich dish of rice noodles and fish broth, topped with a plethora of toppings ranging from fish silk and hard-boiled eggs to fresh lime and cilantro.
A little crunch of chickpea crackers and the heat of dried chili flakes, and you have a breakfast you crave every morning!
We don’t need to fly to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) to enjoy mohinga, Nevertheless. Here in KL, lovers of mohinga and other Burmese delicacies can be ordered from Myat & Potatoes, an online food delivery company specializing in such dishes.
Myat & Potatoes is run by former restaurateur Fay Cheng who started it to help Burmese friends who had lost their jobs during the pandemic. She explains: “When they wanted to cook at home to earn money, I offered to help them with their social networks and I wanted to introduce Burmese cuisine to my Malaysian compatriots.”
Myat & Potatoes, in its current incarnation, is more of a social project, according to Cheng. She says, “Whatever product we get from sales goes directly to them and it doesn’t come close to what they were earning before. So it’s more for their daily food and accommodation expenses.
Curious about the name Myat & Potatoes? Cheng shares that the name was coined from the Burmese chef’s twins’ middle name: “It comes from their middle name Myat, plus it rhymes with ‘Meat and Potatoes’ and that’s why we decided to add it. ‘so called.’
There are no potatoes in mohinga, of course, which Cheng compares to a fish chowder noodle dish. It’s not inaccurate, but it only begins to divulge the depth of flavor the dish possesses.
She says: “For me, it was the purity of the ingredients and the subtlety that attracted me. Comforting and soothing, it really is a perfect bowl of goodness made from fish, lemongrass, ginger, onions, and more.
Some adaptations may be necessary when introducing a new type of food or flavor to an audience that may not have been exposed to it before. But making changes to treasured dishes can be tricky.
Cheng said, “The classic mohinga is made with catfish which is actually very good but tends to taste fishy – a no-no for most Malaysians. So we use barramundi and we add our signature fish floss which is sautéed fish meat with lemongrass.
Such agility comes with experience; Cheng used to run Oriental Cravings at One Utama and is no newbie to the F&B (food and drink) world. She recalls: “My colleagues – the Burmese staff – cooked side dishes to eat with the staff meals. My first exhibition was the mohinga.”
After conducting her own recipe research, Cheng began hosting dinner parties serving Burmese dishes to her friends. It was his way of showing his loved ones what “From Burma with love” tasted like.
She says: “They are real food connoisseurs – and they all loved it! This is how my love for Burmese cuisine began. They use such simple, pure and fresh ingredients and make such delicious meals.
These are not all fresh ingredients. Fermented foods such as miso, kimchi and sauerkraut are increasingly recognized as nutritious, especially for our gut microbiome. Some of my favorites include natto and cincalok — although, like most fermented foods, you either love it or hate it.
Burmese cuisine has its own entrant into this booming field of healthy eating: lahpet thoke or fermented green tea salad. Lahpet means “green tea” while thoke is Burmese for “salad”. Rather than fresh tea leaves, fermented leaves are used, imparting a multitude of flavors – savory, salty, sour and a slight bitterness – to this unassuming salad.
Cheng strongly believes in lahpet thoke and its atypical appeal, although she admits it’s “such a strange dish. Just when you think you don’t like it, it creeps up on you. I think it’s definitely due to the fermented tea leaves and their astringent taste.
She adds, “I loved it from day one and the thing about Burmese cuisine is the play with texture. You have all the salty, sweet and sour, but what stands out is the addition of crunchy nuts and fried legumes that add an extra dimension you won’t find in a regular salad.
Another Burmese salad is hustle and bustle or chickpea “tofu” made from a thick paste of chickpea flour (also known as gram flour or besan) and water which is allowed to harden into cheese-like “wheels” before being cut into strips. Its iconic golden hue would whet even the most jaded appetites.
Myat & Potatoes’ version involves scattering sliced homemade chickpea tofu over crunchy cabbage, juicy tomatoes, tangy kaffir lime leaves, dried shrimp, crispy shallots and garlic. Almost gelatinous texture but also creamy, soy and gluten free hustle and bustle is usually seasoned with tamarind sauce.
I noticed that the ohn no khao swe – a luxurious dish of chicken noodles in a creamy coconut milk based broth – reminds me of northern Thailand khao self. It was something I often enjoyed in Chiang Mai, so I wondered if there was a Burmese influence, or vice versa.
“The Burmese version is significantly milder with less fish sauce and chilies,” Cheng shares. “So the taste is cleaner in my opinion. Even with the mohingatraditionally they will always serve it with fish sauce and chili flakes if you want a more robust kick.
There is some truth in that: ohn no khao swe is definitely lighter on the stomach; for those who are accustomed to the fuller flavors of a Thai khao self, this could be a more guilt-free meal. Instead of the crispy fried egg noodles used as a topping for khao se, Myat & potatoes ohn no khao swe gets some crunch from broken shards of chickpea crackers.
These are in themselves a popular snack in Myanmar. Known as pe kyaw, these Burmese chickpea crackers are very addictive even if they are a bit greasy. A good tampon with a dishcloth would solve that easily, perhaps paving the way for a new treat for the TV binge.
Finding such connections, introducing familiar ways to savor dishes their customers may not be used to, is Myat & Potatoes’ forte. Many of us would like to try something new, but there is always an initial hesitation.
Cheng agrees, noting that the biggest challenge for a delivery-based online food business is still marketing. She says, “How do we reach more people and pique their interest? It’s a brand new kitchen and we don’t have the budget to do a lot of promotion.
So far, the process of getting more people to experience Myat & Potatoes, and by extension, authentic Burmese cuisine, has been an ongoing lesson for Cheng.
She is, however, grateful for how far she has come, adding: “We have some very regular customers. So we also try to include more new dishes to interest them. »
Keeping things interesting and customers interested seems like the way to go for Myat & Potatoes and other food companies trying to break into a crowded field. Many of us would like to try something new – and Cheng hopes that something new for more and more of us is his beloved Burmese food.
Myat & Potatoes
To order, WhatsApp 012-2200837.