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August 2, 2018

FARM TO TABLE IN YANGON

I have always known Yangon to have fresh produce that are naturally-grown because you can taste the sweetness of their tomatoes used for garnishes, the cilantro and onions for Mohinga soup and many of their vegetarian dishes.

But my friend Ma Khine insists on taking me to a European deli called Sharky’s which has been open since 1996 and we plan a visit for brunch. And what a surprise to see a deli/cafe and market in downtown Yangon.

For starters we ordered Americano and cappuccino made from their piston-type espresso machine (only a serious cafe would use such a machine) and the coffee was served with a cup/bowl of micro greens. I guess Sharky wants to make sure we got our vegetables even with just an order of coffee. There are small spray misters it olive oil and balsamic vinegar if you wanted more dressing.

The menu is quite extensive with some Breakfast specials and many choices of meats, salads, and even pasta choices. The chicken is aged and farm-raised. The beef is also aged for 90-150 days for better flavor.

In the ground floor of the two-storey structure is a deli selling sea salt from Ngapali, Burma; freshly baked breads, homemade gelato or ice cream; spices and micro greens grown in their farm in Bagan; and lots of jams and preserved fruits made from local Burmese fruits.

The second floor is reached through a long flight of stairs. There are easy chairs and a homey feel to the surroundings. The staff are well-trained and the coffee is good, too. The barista- and store-in-charge walked us through the choices and reiterated that everything on the menu comes from their own farm.

This is a welcome discovery just when Yangon is starting to grow its Western fast food choices and the lanky slim youth eating local food may soon start gaining weight. The locals eat simply like spicy noodles, a fish soup called mohinga, and plenty of fresh vegetables. This is the Yangon that I enjoy. Just mix your noodles of homemade fish balls and fresh onions, chili, and sometimes an oily dressing for rice or egg noodles. All are good.

But at Sharky’s Ma Khine had Foie gras salad on a bowl of micro greens while I had a casserole of eggs with sun dried tomatoes. Our friend Ah Zhuan has a chicken biryani with the right amount of fried onions and free-range aged chicken. There also was heritage pork spare ribs for everyone to share.

What a welcome addition to Myanmar’s food choice to find a real “farm to table”, artisan and organic restaurant like Sharky’s. We did not meet Sharky that day but totally enjoyed the experience.

Next stop would be their restaurant and farm in Bagan on our next trip to Myanmar.

I know Myanmar could promote the Slow Food movement because there are people like Sharky who cares about preserving tradition and using only the best produce from his farm.

It’s farm to table and everything artisanal and organic since 1996. I’m secretly hoping these old haunts remain open for a long  time even with the advent of quick service restaurants.

That’s Yangon for you, with its many choices for food and everything is still fresh and natural. I even had a home cooked dinner with malunggay (moringa) and lots of fresh vegetables.

 

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