I had no idea either. So I was most happy to accept Saffron's dinner invite to visit Bagan in Strathfield, apparently the only Burmese restaurant in Sydney.
Even better, it tied in perfectly with Sarah's latest Dine and Dish event: Like a Virgin (tasted for the very first time).
Bagan was once the capital of the Pagan Kingdom or the First Burmese Empire, with many of its buildings dating back to the 1000s-1200s. Once a centre for studies in religion, the area is now strewn with the spectacular remains of over 2000 Buddhist temples and pagodas.
The restaurant Bagan in Strathfield is far from ruin. In fact it's rather hip for the inner west, with polished floor boards, chocolate coloured wooden tables and walls painted in matching shades of cappucino and espresso brown. Two fancy metallic mesh light fittings (that remind me muchly of the one from Oscillate Wildly in Newtown) cast a dual lunar glow over the counter of Burmese-themed artefacts.
Bagan had a reputation for being a bit of a bargain, with entrees priced under $5 and mains under $10. We didn't really know what to expect so we ordered a little bit of everything:
Mini Crab-Meat Spring Rolls (7 pieces) $3.90
Crab meat rolled in rice paper,
deep-fried and served with tamarind sauce
We had heard that the mini crab-meat spring rolls were a must-have, so we order a double serve in our excitement (there are five of us tonight). There's not quite as much seafood as I'd expected, but then at $3.90 for seven pieces they're a veritable bargain regardless. The tamarind sauce is quite sweet, almost like sweet-and-sour sauce... without the sour.
Pennywort Salad $4.30
Finely sliced onions with pennyworth, fresh tomato,
fish sauce and coriander
The menus had been a confusing muddle of printed options as well as a double-sided A3 frayed pictorial affair. With my known penchant for always seeking out the "exotic" on a menu, I quickly zeroed in on the pennywort salad,my nominated pick for our communal order.
A kaleidoscope of colours and flavours were tumbled together on a square of white. Spanish onions, fresh tomato, coriander and pennyworth was tossed in a dressing that was salty, sweet, sour and spicy all at once, perfectly balanced on all areas of the palate. This was easily my favourite dish of the night.
Seit Ther Si Pyan $6.90
Goat curry cooked with curry herbs and spices
Goat curry was fall-off-the-bone tender and fairly mild in flavour. So too was the watt thanut pork pieces cooked with Burmese mango pickle. These were very tame in spices with an absence of heat and were quite similar in style to Sri Lankan curries, Saffron mused.
Watt thanut $6.90
Pork pieces cooked with Burmese mango pickle
We also sampled the whole barramundi, costed according to market price ($20 for small, $25 for medium and $30 for large on the day we visited).
Barramundi Mo Nyinn Chin $25.00
Whole barramundi fried with tangy pickle mo nyinn chin
The "tangy pickle mo nyinn chin" tasted very much like a sweet and sour sauce with peas, carrots and onion to my palate. The fish was deep-fried but not overly crispy; a bit of a disappointment given the price of this dish compared to everything else.
Burmese Fried Rice $6.90
Burmese-style fried rice with chicken or pork,
garlic, shallots, carrot and scrambled egg
For carbs there was Burmese fried rice as well as Burmese noodles (in addition to our plain steamed rice of course). The fried rice didn't seem particularly different; the pasta-like noodles were an intriguing sensation of sweet garlic oil combined with plain cabbage and chicken: like Chinese meets Italian in a strangely compelling union.
Kow Swear Kyaw (Burmese) $6.60
Stir-fried round egg noodle with cabbage and scallion
in a light garlic sauce of chicken or pork
Fried garlic prawns were an instant crowd-pleaser. Fried to a pleasing golden brown, these were so crunchy you could chomp down the heads and the tails with no problem at all. And the accompanying bits of fried garlic, onion and shallot shrapnel were perfect flavour explosions when eaten with mouthfuls of fluffy white rice.
Fried Garlic Prawns $7.50
Fresh prawns crisped with garlic and chilli
I wasn't leaving without trying their famed faloda for dessert, which arrived as candy pink drinks in ice cream soda glasses.
Faloda (Burma night market dessert) $3.00
Green jelly and sago in rose-flavoured drink
with vanilla ice cream
Faloda or faluda, is a thirst-quenching drink popular across India, Sri Lanka, Iran and Pakistan. The tantalising aroma of rosewater arrived seconds before our drinks were actually placed on our table, the colour a somewhat disconcerting girly pink.
Crushed ice, a scoop of kulfi ice cream, bits of green jelly, sago and chunks of chewy faluda noodle cake were bathed in the smell and flavour of rosewater, a taste that was rather overwhelming at first, but soon dissipated to an imperceptible nuance.
Cool, refreshing and unusual. A bit like Bagan itself.
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Bagan Burmese Restaurant
Shop 4, 41 The Boulevarde
Tel: +61 (02) 8746 0666
Tuesday to Sunday 12pm-10pm
Closed on Mondays
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Strathfield - Bagan (Feb10) (Burmese)
Strathfield - Crystal Seafood (Chinese)
Strathfield - Bar Biscotti (Cafe/Breakfast)
Strathfield North - Gorkha Palace (Nepalese)
Strathfield North - Outback Steakhouse (American)
Tagged with: DineAndDish7
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10/16/2006 11:31:00 p.m.