Burmese food tickles Chennai tastebuds

It is not just the South Indian fast food, native snacks and Indianised Chinese foods items that have captured the fascination of the quintessential Chennai foodie. These Burmese food carts in George Town have for sure added a twist to the palate.

Published: 02nd September 2013 07:37 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd September 2013 07:58 AM   |  A+A-


If you thought that South India food and Indianised Chinese dishes were the only affordable and tasty street food options in the city, you should probably pay a visit to the Second Line Beach Road in George Town.

Hordes of people throng the numerous food carts between 4 pm and 11 pm, just to tuck into the yummy noodle-based dishes that can make for a good evening snack.

Abdul Azeez (44), who has his cart right at the entrance of the street, is known for his Atho. It might look like a schezwan-coloured noodles but tastes quite different for a Burmese dish, suiting the Indian taste buds. The dish looks simple — one quick mix of boiled noodles with spices and vegetables like onion and cabbage — Atho is ready to serve.

Does it look a little dry? Take a large ladle of an ever-steaming plantain stem soup kept on the cart and pour it around the plate of noodles, the colour combination of the orange noodle with the greenish brown soup is not just inviting, but is also soggy with the heat and spice, almost leaving smoke out of your ears. The peijo or what looks like our very own otta vada, adds a little crunchy edge to the dish.

Azeez, who left Burma along with his family when he was just a year old and has been selling Burmese food for the past 32 years, also serves Moinju. Unlike Atho, which has spices, Moinju is simple white noodles submerged in a large bowl of steaming plantain stem soup along with peijo.

Mohammad Ibrahim (52), who has been in the business for the past 31 years, says that the soup is traditionally made with mackerel, red snapper and sardine, but the carts in the street have stopped serving non-vegetarian soup as many prefer the vegetarian one.

They also serve another variant in noodles, which they call ‘fry’, where the white noodle is fried with spices and vegetables like cabbage and onion along with egg batter.

But if you think noodle is too much for an evening snack, try ‘egg masala’. A spicy one-gulp dish with masala made of onions and pepper stuffed a little into a half-sliced boiled egg.

Whether it’s a large plate of Atho or a bowl of Moinju or a small plate of two pieces of egg masala, you get each of it for anywhere between `35 and `40.

The owners of these carts left Burma decades ago and since then have been making a living, dishing out these simple but most sought after dishes. While some have their relatives still living in Burma, some have left the country for good.

 Ibrahim keeps travelling to Yangoon to see his siblings, who work as labourers or rickshaw pullers. The cart owners have mostly learnt the art of making the traditional dishes of Burma from their parents. “We sell about 15 kilos of noodles every day. But we don’t make these at home,” says 30-year-old Hussein, as he manually mixes the noodles with the spices and veggies.

City Express also found some carts that sell non-vegetarian Burmese food in some places in the city like Vyasarpadi and Ekattuthangal. Anandavalli (50), who lives in Burma Colony, Ekattuthangal, serves the same sumptuous dishes that are served in carts in George Town, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, except that it is flavoured with fish or chicken. She dishes out khow suey, a noodle-based dish with sliced chicken, veggies and spices, moinju and atho served with fish-flavoured plantain stem soup and egg masala. 


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