Come have a taste !
In the Eating Out section of this month, we introduce you to the brand new Malay restaurant RASA LASA. What made us rush to RASA LASA to savour its dishes, is the fact that although it opened just a few weeks, it has already attracted a large clientele. The catchy name of the restaurant itself deserves a comment. The unusual combination of the Malaya word rasa (taste) or ayatha in Myanmar, with the rhyming Myanmar phrase lasa (come eat), and the use of alliteration makes it an attractive and easy to remember name. RASA LASA is the brainchild of an enterprising young Malaysian who is eager to fill the gap for Malay cuisine in the slowly expanding Yangon food scene being capitalized by restaurants offering exciting dishes from neighbouring and more distant countries.
You can easily locate this glass-fronted hip-looking restaurant which is situated on Thein Byu Road near the corner of Myanmar Gonyee Road, a busy intersection not far from downtown Yangon. You will be struck by the warm Southeast Asian ambiance as soon as you see the chicken and duck roasted and steamed in traditional style hanging from hooks on the right hand side of the front of the restaurant. The informal atmosphere, which will make any unassuming person comfortable is continued within the one and a half storey restaurant with the use of unpretentious but light and chic furniture, and the counter with exposed bricks on the right hand side of the room where coffee and tea are made in the traditional Malay way by the sommelier right in front of you, and from where the brews and chicken rice are served. For those who are curious to know how their food is being prepared in the kitchen by the magic art of the chef, they can see the interior of the kitchen through the glass partition. As your eyes rove around the restaurant, you will get a glimpse of the paintings of the many spices, and sauces without which no Malay dish is complete hanging on the walls of the first floor. Gracing the wall is also a portrait of a popular sommelier from Malaysia.
Curry Laksa was our first choice from the menu offering a wide selection of snacks and breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes from Penang and the Nonya community. The members of this community are descendents from intermarriage between native Malays and Chinese immigrants and their dishes are an exciting fusion of Chinese and Malay ingredients and culinary skills. The menu also offers a variety of tea, coffee and fruit juices. Like our ubiquitous Monhinga, Curry Laksa is an all-day food and is eaten at breakfast, lunch and dinner time in Malaysia. It is slightly similar to the Myanmar Ohn Noe Khauk Swe (coconut noodle) but with different ingredients, garnishes and distinctive aroma and taste. Laksa consists of yellow noodles or rice vermicelli with shredded chicken, prawn or fish, served in spicy soup based on coconut milk together with vegetable garnish of cucumber, mint leaves and lime. I must say that the Laksa I had at RASA LASA tasted the most authentic compared to the ones I had at other restaurants I have been to in Yangon. The distinctively Malay taste is probably achieved with the use of the right amount and the right variety from among the many variations of Sambal Chillie which is a sauce made from a variety of ingredients such as – chilli peppers, shrimp paste, fish sauce, scallion, garlic, ginger shallot, sugar, lime juice and rice vinegar.
Another dish we tasted containing Sambal Chillie is Nasi Lemak Istimewa. The rice cooked in coconut milk and padan leaves with just a slight fragrance and taste of coconut, the fried chicken marinated overnight, the sweetish Sambal Chillie, and the addition of fried anchovies, Malay vegetable salad, boiled egg, fried peanuts and pieces of cucumber create a delightful combination of tastes and aromas that will transport you straight away to the shores of Malaysia Truly Asia. No wonder it is called the national dish of Malaysia! Be sure to order it if you go to RASA LASA.
Another dish we tried is Roast Duck Wanton Noodles. The wheat noodles used for this dish are made in Malaysia. The noodles mixed with heated oil containing soy sauce, the Sambal with a generous amount of garlic, the succulent roast duck and the fresh Chinese cabbage all gave it zest and a deliciously tangy smell. It can be regarded as another mouth-watering dish at the restaurant and can be called the signature dish of RASA LASA.
To make a perfect end to our meal, we decided to have dessert. From the moment I entered the restaurant, I had intended to try the tea, drawn by the way the sommelier was making the beverage. From among the many choices, I chose a cup of Boh Tea which was imported from Malaysia and I had made right choice. Both the way it was made and the aroma were much in accordance with Myanmar taste. There was no dearth of desserts and much as I wanted to try the many on offer, I had to limit myself to only one, as I was truly satiated. I ended up choosing a fried roll that was not overly crispy. Its filling was a mixture of scraped coconut, salt, sugar and banana, and I must say, it went extremely well with the Malay palm sauce that was provided along with it. Just as the Curry Laksa served as a good prelude to the meal, so also the tea and dessert served as a satisfying conclusion to it.
This new restaurant serving authentic dishes from Malaysia is certainly a welcomed addition to the Yangon food scene, both for the expatriates who miss Malay food, and for those food-loving Myanmars who are eager to try exotic food from other lands, it is a good introduction to Malay food. I see Yangonites falling in love with its simple charm, delicious food and good service, and speaking for myself, I intend to go back to RASA LASA to try the other dishes that I have not had the chance to taste.
No.462, Theinphyu Rd (Corner of Theinphyu Rd and Myanma Goneyee Rd), Mingalar Taung Nyunt Township, Yangon. Ph : 09 428042828