Myanmar Corner is more than just a restaurant: it’s a love story.
When Ko moved from Myanmar to Canberra to study business, he had no intention of becoming a chef.
“I couldn’t cook when I came to Australia. I had to call my mum and ask her how to do it!” he told Region.
“But I started cooking for all my Burmese student friends every time we hung out, and they loved it.”
Ko eventually turned his newfound passion for cooking into a formal career. And when his family bought the Red Hill Tea House Chinese restaurant, he worked in the kitchen.
It was in Canberra that Ko met his wife, Aye. They’d grown up in different cities in Myanmar, and like Ko, Aye had moved to Canberra to study. But it wasn’t long before accountant Aye was also drawn into the world of restaurants.
“I was like, accounting is boring! I want to do a restaurant too!” Aye said.
“So we had two restaurants, but when we got married, it was too much. We never saw each other.”
They sold up both shops and set out to open a new restaurant together that would celebrate their Burmese heritage. They chose a location in Casey to be closer to their home and quickly fell in love with the vibrant neighbourhood. Ko runs the kitchen, Aye serves customers, and most of their staff are family.
The sleek, high-ceilinged interior pops with colourful photos of Burmese scenes. There are a few nice retro touches like the sweet, milky Burmese tea served in enamelled tin cups. It’s a space that feels casual enough for a midweek meal but still classy enough for a special occasion.
The menu at Myanmar Corner aims to show off a range of dishes drawn from the multi-ethnic melting pot that is Burmese cuisine. Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) has shared borders with India, Bangladesh, China and Thailand. It has been influenced in different ways by all these neighbouring cuisines to create something entirely new.
“We’re adapting because we’re on the border of everywhere. So we pick up all these different flavours, but it’s not too strong, it’s very balanced” Ko explained.
A uniquely Burmese dish Aye recommends to first-time visitors is laphat thoke, or pickled tea leaf salad.
“The pickled tea leaf process takes months. In Myanmar, they would pick the young shoots, put it in a big pot and pickle it for months,” Aye explains.
“After we get the pickled tea leaf, we marinade it. Everyone will have a different marinade style, but we keep it quite simple here.”
The tea leaves are mixed with super crispy fried peas and lentils with crunchy peanuts, fresh shredded cabbage and diced tomato. It’s a fresh and vibrant dish you can order as a starter or have with fried chicken.
Canberrans might be most familiar with Burmese curries thanks to the cult-like popularity of the Burmese Curry House in the city. And while curries feature on the menu here, Ko and Aye have branched out into regional specialities, noodle dishes and street food – all served with a sophisticated flair. Ko explained that he wanted to bring a few fine dining touches to the menu to really show off how unique the cuisine is.
And the food is divine. If you like Malaysian laksa or Thai tom yum, you will love mohinga: an aromatic fish and lemongrass noodle soup that Aye describes as “our national dish”. The sweet and sour tang of tamarind is a common flavour in Burmese food, as a dipping sauce for tempura vegetables or a sauce for a tasty tofu curry. And it’s worth leaving room for dessert! The sweet tea pannacotta is delicious, and those with a sweet tooth will love the rose-flavoured jelly drink falooda.
The menu at Myanmar Corner is a love letter to the food of Aye and Ko’s shared heritage.
“With all these dishes, people say: ‘is it authentic?’ But I don’t know how to cook any other way! This is the most authentic you get. This is home cooking.”
Myanmar Corner is at 38/68 Dalkin Crescent, Casey. It’s open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch from 11:30 am to 2:00 pm, and for dinner from 5 pm to 9 pm. Follow them on Instagram or Facebook to see their seasonal specials.