Tell us about yourself Ankit.
Ankit: I am a third generation hotelier. My father and grandfather have been running hotels and restaurants since the 1960s and I was born and brought up inside a hotel, literally. We are marwaris but we have Burmese roots. My mother was brought up in Myanmar and in the 1960s a lot of Burmese were fleeing Burma when the military took over, and a lot of Indians came to various parts of India. That’s when my mum and dad met in India and got married. So in a sense, Burma Burma is the amalgamation of their marriage as well. I’ve grown up eating my mum’s home-cooked Burmese food.
You’d be surprised but a lot of Indians don’t even know what Burma is, and that it’s a country. Burma Burma is our shout out to this beautiful neighbour. Go there. Experience their hospitality. They’re one of the nicest people you’ll come by. And they’ve got so much to offer; the culture, the best beaches, everything in one country. It’s also three times the size of Thailand!
How did you come on board Ansab? Talk to us about developing the menu.
Ansab: Ankit and I were together in college; classmates in Hotel Management. While preparing for one of our exams, we were studying together at his place and I got to taste some Burmese cuisine cooked by his mom. That was my introduction to Burmese cuisine and since then it’s been something we’ve been thinking about. Burmese flavours are unique yet accessible. We then went into our respective fields in the industry to gain exposure, and once we were confident about having learnt enough we decided to take the next step.
Ankit: I generally prefer to work with like-minded people because then it’s not just work, it’s fun. That’s when I decided to travel to Burma, and asked Ansab to join me. Burma isn’t known to be an exotic destination because people just don’t know enough about the place but Ansab was keen. We travelled there with no agenda and nothing in mind. This was a good three years before Burma Burma even opened, so we didn’t go with the intention of opening a restaurant, we just went to explore and treated the experience as a blank slate. Burma had just opened up to the rest of the world in 2011. They have lovely lacquerware and a lovely story behind it… the people, the culture, the lungis they wear, the way they talk, all of it. They have this thing called a Thanaka, which is a natural cream made from the bark of the Thanaka tree, that’s cooling and protects one from the sun. Their home-cooked food is super delicious, and in a way quite familiar to the Indian palette.
Ansab: Since it’s located close to India, and so much of the Indian community has settled there (Biharis and Marwaris through to South Indians), there are a lot of influences from Indian food: turmeric, chillies, onion, garlic… flavours that resemble Indian food. For example, we have a samosa soup and salad in Burma Burma. It’s not something we’ve created out of thin air for the Indian palette. You’ll find samosas on the streets of Yangon, and we’ve sort of given it our spin and made it our own. We’ve tried to keep the food as authentic as possible. Everything on our menu is something we’ve sampled in Burma or is inspired by a local dish. We visited villages, cooked, and ate at people’s homes to sample everyday home cooked food.
Ankit: 100% authentic. The menu has just evolved over the years from street food to home style cooking you’ll find in local villages. Burmese are very simple people, and they have a lot of home style cooking with simple ingredients. While we’ve stayed true to recipes and the style of marination, we’ve peppered our menu and dishes with a few ingredients that we feel complement existing dishes. But in general, the food is exactly what you’ll find in Burma.