Where ingredient is king

Where ingredient is king

Contemporary Burmese

There is a major difference between the term contemporary and fusion when it comes to food. While the former deals with reinventing a cuisine completely and starting from scratch, the latter involves taking two-three cuisines and fusing them together. This reinterpretation of Burmese food, using local Indian ingredients was what the Big Bs at Fire, The Park, offered.

Unlike Chinese, Thai and Japanese, Burmese cuisine is yet to catch the fancy of food lovers. One of the possible reasons of this low-key presence could be military dictatorship that isolated Myanmar (then Burma) for almost five decades. But looking at cooking techniques, Burmese food has borrowed many elements from the Asian cuisine as the presence of coconut milk, lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal affirms the claim.

But the overpowering presence of these ingredients doesn’t always go well with Indian palate, hence the biggest challenge for chef Bawmra Jap and The Park’s executive chef Abhishek Basu was to look for local replacements and supplement flavours with it. Replacements were found in pumpkins and raw mangoes and a ‘clean palate’ menu was up for takes.

The salads and starters options threw interesting names like pickled tealeaf salad (lah pet toke), crispy pork, pomelo and pomegranate salad, but Metrolife settled for spicy raw mango salad with crab meat. Thin-long slices of raw mango and soft crab meat complemented each other brilliantly, so did generous sprinkling of peanuts, sesame seeds and coriander in it. Without overpowering any flavour, each ingredient balanced the taste buds, allowing the mind and mouth to savour the salad.

 Bawmra’s spicy tuna larb with basil, coriander and kaffir lime leaf was next on the list. Square chunks of tuna were placed perfectly atop black rice, creating a contradictory symphony of sorts. While there was no mention of lemongrass in the menu, it was impossible not to savour its tangy taste. The fish was well-cooked, but the black rice required chewing exercise and the flavours of basil and coriander too were missing.

For the main course, Basu had recommended lamb curry with sweet tamarind and black lentil, but we chose steamed snapper with lemon grass and galangal instead. It was served with sticky coconut rice. If appearances can be deceptive then this dish was a perfect example of this idiom.

The fish came with a pale, watery curry and we, for a second, did question our choice. But in the first mouthful it was clear what it means to have “ingredients play a pivotal role in a dish”. The fish was incredibly soft and juicy and the light curry was infused with subtle flavours of galangal and lemongrass. And when eaten with coconut rice which was mixed with burnt onions and garlic, the combination elevated this dish to gastronomical heights.

But the surreal experience was still waiting in the kitchen and it came in a platter with three beautiful desserts. As the small portions of chilli chocolate mousse with white chocolate, crème brulee with lemongrass and ginger and coconut panna cotta with passion fruit coulis arrived, they looked like miniature paintings that should be preserved and are forbidden from eating.

The best part of the dessert was it wasn’t heavy on sugar. Even the chocolate mousse was made of dark cocoa and hence didn’t overpower the irregular interference of chilli that was keeping sugar rush in check. But the coconut panna cotta stood out for its finesse and freshness. It was a light meal for the stomach and hearty enough for the heart to remember.

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