Civic’s lunchtime crowd and many long-term Canberrans have joyfully heralded the recent return of the Burmese Curry Place.
Mehn Saik, who grew up around the family business, says his family are thrilled to embrace this fresh start in their new digs right next to Mooseheads. Support has poured in from locals and customers alike.
“We have been very fortunate to call such exceptional people our friends and customers,” Mehn says.
“Back in mid-April 2017, when our last closing day turned to night, we were overwhelmed, crying a lot. It felt like we all lost a part of us that day, saying goodbye to our BCP family, AKA our customers. They had seen my younger brothers and myself literally grow up in front of the counter each day. Lyi, my youngest brother, worked as a cashier from the age of 8 when we first opened. He is now 18!”
The hard-working Chan family has fitted a lot of life into the 18 years they have been in Canberra.
“We are a family of six: mum, dad and four boys,” Mehn says. “We came to Australia in 2001 from the refugee camp where my youngest brother Lyi was born. He was only 3 months old when we came over.
In 2003, our Kambah home burnt down in the severe bush fires that year. We relocated to Belconnen and my mother and father started doing odd jobs from cleaning to washing dishes at restaurants. At the end of 2004, we received full citizenship status. We connected with a local horticulture society and grew organic veggies to feed the family.
“Dad, being a natural green thumb and go-getter, sold excess veggies at the local Jamison Sunday markets [Trash and Treasure].
“Fast-forward five years to 2009 (with many jobs and much vegetable growing for my parents in between), when the six of us stood in the building that would become the first Burmese Curry Place. After realising that most Canberrans couldn’t handle the amount of chillies that we traditionally cooked with, and after some trial and error with certain curries, we created our famous nine-curry board and the flat-rate meal.
“Pick two curries, served with rice for $8. Now, the rest of the story continues in our new location at 111 London Circuit in Civic.”
The new location is simple, no-frills. But their devoted customers do not come for fancy décor. They come for Burmese curries that taste simultaneously familiar yet exotic. You can smell the rich fragrance of Burmese cooking before you step inside.
What are the flavours of Burma?
“We always say that Burmese curry is an infusion of our neighbouring countries of India and Thailand,” Mehn Saik explains succinctly. “I think that’s why most people can enjoy something without being thrown too far off familiar flavours, just far enough to know it’s Burmese. Things that set us apart from other cuisines is the combination of sour and tangy flavours we mix from lemongrass, limes and tamarind.
“We use grilled onion and tomato bases with various Thai influences, from sweet soy, peppercorn and oyster sauce. We source high-quality meats from Mike’s Meats Belconnen and Youngs Chicken for our curries.”
Following Mehn Saik’s recommendation, we order a 2 & 4 combo (Egg Curry with the Fish Cake Curry) and a 6 & 8 combo (Beef and Potato Curry with the Chicken and Bean Curry) from the nine-curry board.
The curries hit the palate gently; mellow, flavour-infused with a lingering bite. Rich, buttery sauces, some with a delicate lemongrass zest; each dish filling and delicious. The fish cake curry is a cracker dish. The fish cakes absorb the curry’s juices, bursting with rich aromatic deliciousness as you bite into them.
“The nine curries are the same ones we had before and some other things never change,” Mehn Saik says. “Customers may remember Mum going full ‘soup nazi‘ on customers who didn’t adhere to our meal deal terms or tried to change their order mid-order preparation.”
I, for one, will certainly be adhering to whatever the terms are, so I can enjoy delicious Burmese Curry Place dinners from here on out.
Pop in to welcome the Chan family back and grab a taste of Burma to go.
Burmese Curry Place is located at 111 London Cct in Civic (next to Mooseheads).
It is open Monday to Friday from 11:30 am – 7:00 pm.