Monday, September 25, 2017

Capital cuisine in Nay Pyi Taw

Uncle Chan's Shop in Nay Pyi Taw. (Ko Taik/ The Myanmar Times)Uncle Chan's Shop in Nay Pyi Taw. (Ko Taik/ The Myanmar Times)

It might have a water fountain garden, safari park and the largest concentration of hotel rooms to residents in the world (by my reckoning) but it’s fair to say that nobody goes to Nay Pyi Taw to enjoy its culinary delights.

My first visit I ate fried rice for four consecutive meals. Each was more mediocre than the last.

So I was happy last month when some friends in the capital agreed to take me out for dinner. Naturally, we headed straight for Pyinmana, a leafy town of narrow streets and modest homes — basically, the opposite of Nay Pyi Taw.

Uncle Chan, as the name suggests, isn’t exactly good old fashioned Myanmar home cooking. We tried the barbecued fish, which was — for my tender taste buds at least — almost too spicy to eat, and the chicken kebab, which was somewhat more tolerable but no more memorable.

The highlight was probably the fried watercress. However, everything was reasonably priced, in the K2000 to K5000 range.

The beer was refreshingly cold and the service competent enough, although the waiters were quite unhelpful when asked to recommend something and then forgot to bring our drinks.

But whereas in Nay Pyi Taw proper you struggle to find either food or atmosphere, Uncle Chan can tick at least one of those boxes. It is barbecue-beer hall in style but you can sit outside beside Yaza Htarni road, savouring the warm upper Myanmar night and gazing up at Uppatasanti Pagoda, which towers over Pyinmana as Shwedagon does Yangon (funny that).

Uncle Chan is not without its faults. However, everything is relative and, in the capital at least, you can certainly do worse.