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Monday, October 16, 2006

Bagan Burmese Restaurant, Strathfield

What type of food do Burmese eat?

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 interior

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:

crab meat spring rolls
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
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.

goat curry
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.

pork curry
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).

whole barramundi
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.

fried rice
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.

Burmese noodles
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.


View Larger Map
Bagan on Urbanspoon

Bagan Burmese Restaurant
Shop 4, 41 The Boulevarde
Strathfield, Sydney

Tel: +61 (02) 8746 0666

Opening hours:
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)

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14 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Anonymous on 10/16/2006 11:31:00 pm


  • At 10/17/2006 3:06 am, Blogger Yvo Sin said…

    Mm, looks delicious. While waiting for this page to load, I sent the link to my friends and asked if they knew of any Burmese places, which they responded with "Yes, and we've been before" - oops! Hehe.

  • At 10/17/2006 7:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Looks like quite the feast that you had! I've never heard of faludas, but the description sounds slightly similar to the three-colour/four-colour drinks I get from my favourite Vietnamese restaurant! Must see if I can track one down as it sounds pretty darn good!

  • At 10/17/2006 7:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Kulfi, jelly, sago, roseware, noodle cake - I can't imagine it, but that is exactly the sort of pudding I would have have to try.

  • At 10/17/2006 8:15 am, Blogger Reb said…

    That goat curry looks fab. What a great food adventure.

  • At 10/17/2006 9:34 am, Blogger Veruca Salt said…

    Thanks for helping me get over my goat phobia. Still not loving it but the curry was not too bad

  • At 10/18/2006 1:47 am, Blogger Tubby said…

    I've been meaning to eat here for awhile now but never got the chance. Although now that I know it's super cheap, I'm sure to go somehow!

  • At 10/18/2006 7:05 pm, Blogger Mim said…

    Looks like a good feed for a good price! Are there many vegetarian options?

  • At 10/19/2006 12:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey there, I'm guessing it was a typo in the menu and it was actually a type of pennywort in the salad as I've not heard of pennyworth before and Google didn't help me either. :)

    Looks interesting (& cheap). In the same region, I'm still to try Laotian - Pink Peppercorn beckons I say!

  • At 10/19/2006 4:40 am, Blogger Robyn said…

    Oh my god LOOKS SO GOOD.




  • At 10/19/2006 10:18 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm old (not that old!) so I remember the wonderful Burmese Restaurant in Hurstville from 1985 called the Nay Pe Daw in a laneway off Forest Road. Huge servings, very cheap and extemely exotic in those days. The owners had fled the military regime and would sit with us and tell tales of their ordeals and their move to a new life. This made the dining experience even more special and not something I've experienced since. Sadly, they have moved on and I am pleased to see there is another Burmeseplace to try out.

  • At 10/30/2007 1:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I really liked this place...small dishes meant that there was more to try of and everything was so cheap. The only thing was that their curries was a little heavy on the oil but apart from that, it was great. I came here right after seeing your post as i had been eyeing it for a while but felt unsure. Thanks!

  • At 11/01/2007 10:10 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jen S - I'm glad you enjoyed your meal. Cheap good food always tastes better doesn't it?

  • At 1/15/2009 11:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great photos Helen. We went to Bagan last night which was a must for me as I am Burmese and new to Sydney. I have been to several other Burmese restaurants in Asia, UK and US, and I must stay I was rather impressed with the food here. It is authentic indeed and the service from Victor and his staff were impeccable. Looks like we ordered similarly to you thought we also had laphet thote (pickled tea leaf salad) and hilsa fish (cooked until you can eat the bones too).

  • At 1/16/2009 12:56 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Cho - Wow that's quite an endorsement. Pleased to see we ordered the same dishes altho' I'm disappointed we didn't try the pickled leaf salad or the hilsa.


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