Burmese cuisine has long flown under the radar in Hong Kong, but with the opening up of the tourism market in Myanmar, more Hong Kongers are now becoming acquainted with the unique flavours of this part of Southeast Asia.
From now until the end of July (July 2019 update: due to its success, the pop-up has been extended till the end of October), you don’t even have to travel to Yangon to get a taste of Burmese cuisine as The Pansodan has opened its doors in Hong Kong. This stylish brasserie was created in Yangon by Ivan Pun’s Pun + Projects, temporarily setting up shop in Sai Ying Pun at the old Fish School location under a collaboration with JIA Group. It’s open for dinner daily (except Monday) and brunch at the weekend.
Sharing borders with China, India, Bangladesh and Thailand, Myanmar’s culture and cuisine have absorbed many of the characteristics of its neighbours. Turmeric, tamarind, lemongrass and ginger are all key accents in Burmese cuisine. Having never had Burmese food before, we were prepared to be enlightened on our recent trip to The Pansodan.
As all good times start with a cool glass of something, we commenced our evening with an icy-cold bottle of Chang beer and The Pansodan ($80) cocktail. The latter was a delicious mix of Absolut Vodka, lemongrass, lime, basil and pineapple, although it was on the sweeter side.
Interestingly, tea leaves are eaten in Myanmar, with laphet (or fermented tea leaves) being a popular salad ingredient. The laphet thoke ($95) was a delicate salad filled with a rainbow of vegetables the likes of carrot, fried shallot, mint, bell pepper, red cabbage, winged beans, tomato and fried fava beans, all dressed in a tangy citrus sauce. The tea leaves reminded us of preserved olive leaves, albeit milder and with more crunch.
The lotus root with grilled prawns ($105) arrived tossed in a pungent chilli lime dressing that wasn’t on the shy side with the fish sauce. We liked the flavours, especially when elevated with the mint leaves, although the overall flavour was on the salty side. We also wished that the prawns had had more of a charred taste.
The rakhine fish curry ($180) was made of poached sea bream simmered with coriander, chilli and lemongrass. This light, delicate dish reminded us of Chinese steamed fish rather than curry and was refreshingly delicious.
On the heftier side, the crab biryani ($250) was loaded with plump sultanas, cashews and plenty of crabmeat. We made the mistake of eating around the crab shell, which stared at us with its giant protruding eyeballs. We later lifted the shell to discover a treasure trove of crabmeat and crab butter – if only we had tossed those goodies with the rice!
Dessert was a simple coconut panna cotta with mango granita ($60). It was creamy, velvety and really hit the spot after a relatively light meal.
This was our first experience with Burmese food, and it’s hard to compare it to any other genre within the Southeast Asian food atlas. The closest flavour profile, in our opinion, would be Cambodian food, with each dish having an earthy flavour. The Pansodan definitely offers an interesting food experience, and we would recommend the curious eater to venture here before the end of the pop-up. And if this pop-up is deemed a hit, The Pansodan just might find a permanent home here in Hong Kong.
100 Third Street, Sai Ying Pun, 2361 2966, firstname.lastname@example.org
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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