Taiwan

Little Myanmar: Where Food Meets Fascinating History

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Huaxin Street, also known as “Little Myanmar”, gathers all kinds of Burmese Chinese restaurant owners, and each restaurant has a fascinating background story.

JAMES BARON’S STORY AND PHOTOS

On most afternoons, Henry Wong and friends sit outside Little Myanmar’s Amei Burmese Snacks, 41 Huaxin Street, drinking tea from yellow cups. On cooler days, the saucer is placed on top like a sombrero to keep the contents warm.

“Most Taiwanese are not used to this,” Wong said, pointing to his glass. “It’s too sweet.” Burmese milk tea is distinct from other milk teas, using condensed or evaporated milk, often with a pinch of salt. papa deer (milk tea, milk tea) is sold in typical Taiwanese drink shops. “It’s more of an Indian style,” Wong said.

Located near Huaxin Street, Zhonghe District, New Taipei City, Little Myanmar is a community of more than 40,000 people, most of whom are overseas Chinese (Overseas Chinese, Huaqiao) and their descendants. The region has been disputed since Kuomintang (KMT) stragglers in China’s civil war carved out a fief on Burma’s eastern border with China in the early 1950s, further destabilizing a country riven by ethnic conflict.

In 1953, Prime Minister U Nu of newly independent Burma brought the issue to the United Nations. Washington, who had been funding the KMT irregulars semi-secretly, persuaded Chiang Kai-shek to remove them and facilitated the airlift of about 7,000 KMT irregulars. Between late 1953 and September 1954, soldiers and their families traveled to Taipei.

Today, few representatives of that generation can be found. Instead, you meet other people who have reached different stages in their lives and are in very different situations.The Nationalist government encourages them to welcome their naturalization effortlessly Huaqiao Immigration Free China. Today, the path to Taiwanese citizenship is less smooth for ethnic Chinese Burmese.but same as Thai and Tibetan HuaqiaoTaiwan’s immigration law still has special provisions for “stateless” persons.

Wong was 34 when he came to Taipei in 1982. He didn’t speak Mandarin when he first arrived, but still managed to muddle through his 15-year career as a taxi driver, talking to people on the job. “I can’t speak and I can’t read road signs,” he said. “In the beginning, all I could say was ‘show me the way,’ ‘go straight,’ and ‘turn right or left.’ I still couldn’t discuss something as complicated as politics. ”

Now retired, Huang is president of the China-Myanmar Bilateral Economic and Cultural Association, one of several community-based organizations promoting ties to the old country. Although Wong and his friends are all ethnic Chinese, they converse almost exclusively in Burmese, and proficiency in Mandarin and English varies across the group.

In contrast, the eponymous proprietress of Ah Mui Noodle Restaurant is a veritable multilingualist. Ah Mui (Ah Mui in Mandarin) was born in Yangon (then Yangon), Myanmar, to immigrant parents from Guangdong who lived in Macau for 25 years before coming to Taiwan in 1994. In addition to Burmese, Cantonese and Mandarin, she is fluent in Taiwanese and fluent in Hakka.

Like most storefront signs, Ah Mui’s is bilingual: in Chinese it simply reads “Noodle House” and in Burmese it reads “Burmese and Cantonese Cuisine”. Primarily falling into the latter camp, Ah Mui’s fare will be recognized by the Taiwanese.

Behind one of the pillars supporting the restaurant’s awning, an elderly gentleman sits on the other side of Huang’s group, drinking a bowl of Cantonese congee. Taiwanese people are familiar with the bits and pieces of piercing stewed rice: youtiao (fried sticks, deep-fried bread sticks), century eggs (preserved eggs, π and), shredded pork. Still, Wong’s party insists that the flavors and ingredients are distinctly Burmese.

“It’s hard to explain,” Wong said. “Just a whole different flavor.”

Students from Myanmar had lunch at Mother’s Love, which they said was their favorite place to eat Burmese food.

taste of home

At Mama Zhuang’s Burmese Restaurant (No. 61, Huaxin Street) across the road, Xu Huihui is also obsessed with the large pot of offal she just stewed.Pork trimmings and giblets (intestines, giblets, jaws and trotters) floating on luwei (Lo mei) would not look like an incongruous stock in Taiwanese restaurants.

“Oh, no, no,” objected Hsu, who took over the restaurant two years ago. “Taiwanese can’t crack the taste.”

Things are markedly different at the Bulgari restaurant a few doors away.On the table ahead, samosas and fenugreek Akaya (Fried dough sticks) – NT$50 for three – served on a wicker plate.They sit next to a greasy fish curry balachong, a crispy fried shrimp and chilli condiment that goes well with almost any Burmese meal, including white rice. Bulgari’s boss, Mrs. Chen, affectionately known as Mommy, has a forehead on her forehead. “I’m part Indian,” she said deadpan.

“She was joking,” her daughter retorted, rolling her eyes. “An Indian Brahmin blessed her in Burma, and she’s been wearing it ever since.”

Most Burmese would forget the concept of cultural appropriation, and the use of Indian religious symbols by the Chinese reveals a degree of ease of identity for contemporary Burmese. This is also evident in gastronomy.

while dishes such as breathe Quintessentially Burmese, the combination of rice noodles, salty and sour fish soup and fried dough sticks conveys the country’s history as a gateway to Southeast Asia at the crossroads of two powerful civilizations.Most of the noodle restaurants on Huaxin serve breathewith slightly different flavors and ingredients.

Burmese curries are usually milder, oilier and saltier than Indian curries. For top-notch food options, head to the buffet at Mother’s Love (Mother’s Grace, 60 Huaxin Street).

On a drizzly winter day, a group of children born in Myanmar Huaqiao Students gather in the cafeteria for lunch. They took a bus from Jiangjing Vocational High School in the nearby Xindian district, where they studied hospitality. Below the open collars of their black and orange trench coats (the college’s winter uniform), cravats and white shirts can be seen.

“We are being trained to be bar and restaurant staff,” said student Yang Jiamei. “We came here for lunch despite the bad weather. It’s the best place.”

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Henry Wong and his friends are regulars at Ah Mui Noodle House.

Student Yang agrees. “Our parents cooked these things for us when we were growing up,” says Kwang Heon-jin. “During our studies in Taiwan, we didn’t have many chances to go back to Myanmar, so it feels like home here.”

The group also brought Yu Pinghan, a Chinese-Indonesian classmate, to taste Burmese food for the first time. He was impressed. “It’s very similar to Indonesian food,” he said as they feasted. “really tasty.”

Mother’s Love’s vegetarian options are limited; even dishes that are touted as meatless, such as the spicy mango crumble and kimchi bamboo shoots, often include flossed shrimp or fish sauce. Likewise, the restaurant’s exclusive eggplant curry and bitter gourd curry feature liver and pork respectively.

Crispy fried pork jerky is an irresistible delicacy for many people.salty, spicy, greasy, these balachongType tidbits are examples of Burmese street food. Jerky can serve as an accompaniment, but it can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone bar snack. For many years, Nobel (Nobel, 48-1 Huaxin Street) served a delicious venison version of the snack at the diner opposite Mother’s Love, but now import issues limit the choice of these two shops to only pork, which is rarely available beef.

A solid choice for a light lunch is La Pette Wholesale,run breathe It is close to the title of Myanmar’s national dish. Along with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and an assortment of fried beans, this savory salad is also known for its bubble tea. Vegans and vegetarians can specify that they don’t want fish sauce, or add the ubiquitous dried shrimp floss as a garnish. Despite her gruff exterior, owner Hu Huiling is helpful and happy to describe the items on her extensive menu.

If you want to try homemade Rapetingredients including bubble tea, fish oil, and pre-fried beans are available at nearby grocery stores such as Golden Eagle Commercial Bank (Golden Eagle Commercial Bank, 34 Huaxin Street).

various tastes

With more than 135 officially recognized ethnic groups, Myanmar is an incredibly diverse country. It’s almost 20 times the size of Taiwan, and with a population of nearly 55 million, it’s not small. A staple food in one region may be unknown elsewhere.

The Burmese — the origin of the names “Burma” and “Myanmar” — make up more than two-thirds of the population.However, almost all businesses in Little Myanmar are run by Huaqiaothey make up less than 3 percent of Myanmar’s population and are not officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group.

Although Little Myanmar originated in Jingdong, 95 kilometers from China’s Yunnan Province, most of its current community members trace their roots back to the big cities of Myanmar.considerable intermarriage Huaqiao The interbreeding with native Burmese has reached the point where many families cannot be sure of the exact amalgamation.

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Huaxin Street also has a grocery store where customers can buy ingredients to prepare their own meals.

Food at Little Myanmar reflects the preferences of these two mixed groups. Notable exceptions are a Shan or Thai restaurant halfway up Huaxin Road, and a Kachin restaurant at the west end of the street, near two now rather dilapidated advertising posts for “Nanhai Sightseeing Food Street”.

The Kachin (or Chinese Jingpo) restaurant is A-Ying’s authentic Jingpo cuisine (Ayingjing Scenery Cuisine, 16 Huaxin Street). It is also known by the more lively place name Mali Hka (Mali Hka), after a river in Kachin State.Restaurant manager Yang Fengyi studied abroad in Singapore before marrying her biracial husband Huaqiao-Inherited from the Kachin ethnic group, accompanied him to Taipei in the 1980s.

A collage of images hangs on one of the walls, including a photo of Yang in traditional dress against a backdrop of colorful agate pillars—animistic totems used in the Kachin festival of the same name. Smaller images include a Kachin State flag and a black-and-white photo of a young man in military uniform. “My great-uncle,” Yang said. “He was a pilot in the Myanmar Air Force.”

There are at least 5 dishes based on bamboo shoots, a Kachin staple food. They are served with meat, with tripe and snails being the more unusual options. A range of vegetarian options are available, including papaya and bracken salad, stir-fried asparagus and various tofu dishes. Those looking for an overview should try the mixed platter.

No overview of Little Myanmar would be complete without mentioning the drinks. In addition to the hot sweet tea, which is a favorite of older residents, a variety of exotic beverages are also available.Among the popular ones are that actionthis delicacy was originally a Persian dessert and later spread to Myanmar via India.

Burmese that action – Known in Mandarin as “Indian ice” (Indian ice) – Usually based on rose water, vermicelli and basil seeds. Most places also add jelly jelly, a dollop of ice cream and assorted sprinkles. The resulting kaleidoscopic paste is sure to be a hit with the kids, making Little Myanmar a great spot for a family lunch.

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