Taste Test: I Ate Every Dish on the Menu at Rangoon Burmese Kitchen
Three weeks. Seven visits. One mission: Try all 74 dishes on the menu. Here’s your cheat sheet.
Photos: Sarah Burchard
A food blogger, Realtor, restaurant manager, botanist, artist and state official walk into a Burmese restaurant.
This is not a joke. On any given night in September you could have found me at a table for six at Rangoon Burmese Kitchen, comprised of characters like these, eating and ranking dishes. Since I am allergic to shellfish and 74 dishes is a ridiculous quantity to ingest on my own, I recruited some of the most serious eaters I know.
Burmese cuisine is influenced by Chinese, Indian and Thai food, as well as the flavors of the country’s own ethnic tribes. Rangoon Burmese Kitchen’s stir-fries are a zesty balance of spicy, salty and sweet. Its mildly spiced curries, served with or without coconut milk and often featuring generous portions of succulent braised meat, are comfortingly spooned over a bowl of rice. Its vibrant salads—pinwheels of bright colors, fresh vegetables and crunchy textures—are playfully tossed to order by your server and, to me, define this cuisine.
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Below is my ranking, with No. 1 as our favorite and No. 74 as our least favorite. May this comprehensive guide inspire you to explore new dishes with confidence on your next visit.
1. Rangoon Tea Leaf Salad ($14)
This is my favorite dish and symbolizes Rangoon Burmese Kitchen for me. The laphet (fermented tea leaf), fresh vegetables and various crunchy bits harmonize perfectly. It complements every other offering on the menu.
2. Coconut Curry Lamb ($20)
A Thai-style curry featuring a rich, tangy and creamy sauce and tender chunks of lamb. One of the most satisfying curries on the menu, it roused us from our hunched-over-full state and lured us back for seconds as our 15th dish one night. I like to order this with the Burmese Indian Rice to capture all that delicious gravy.
3. Burmese Samusa ($12 for four)
Myanmar’s take on the Indian samosa, a savory, fried stuffed pastry. The soft vegetarian filling of spiced potato, onion, green bean and mint bursts with flavor and packs just the right amount of heat. The spicy, sweet chili sauce balances the rich, crispy parcels.
4. Palatha ($5)
Order this must-try alongside anything and everything. Flaky layers of butter and dough make up this pan-fried unleavened flatbread. It tastes like a cross between a buttered tortilla and a croissant. I would be happy ordering just a cold lager and a side of this for an afternoon snack.
5. Brussels Sprouts with Dried Fish ($12)
We could not stop eating these. My favorite part—skinny, salty, dried fish chips called ar b-ye chyuk—is ferried by the owner back from Myanmar because he cannot find them anywhere in the U.S. The Brussels sprouts are cooked perfectly to maintain their crunch, and their spicy/sweet/salty sauce and minced-peanut coating is addictive.
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6. Egg & Okra Curry ($14)
Okra haters, dig in. You will not find a trace of slime thanks to the flavorful curry sauce. The creamy yet firm hard-cooked eggs achieve a welcome contrast to the rich spices and soft vegetables. This always has been one of my go-to orders.
7. Biryani with Lamb ($22)
This is your showstopper dish. The one all your guests will be “oooh-ing” and “ahhh-ing” over. You can order the biryani with chicken, beef or lamb. Get the lamb. The server will ask whether you want the buttery, flaky palatha left on the side or mixed into the dish. I like mine on the side so it retains its crispiness. The server then will remove the palatha lid to reveal a cauldron of fluffy red, orange and yellow rice scented with whole cloves and cinnamon sticks with succulent chunks of fall-apart-tender lamb.
8. Garlic Noodles with Organic Tofu ($15)
Instead of drizzling the sweet chili sauce that comes on the side over the noodles, I like to eat the chewy, garlicky, need-no-help noodles as they are and dip the tofu in the sauce instead. This would be a satisfying dish if you came in by yourself and ordered only one thing.
9. Chicken Curry ($16)
So rich and satisfying, it almost tastes like beef stew. Swimming in a poetic blend of spices, the chicken thighs are chopstick-tender and the big potato chunks are warm and comforting.
10. Pork Belly with Mustard Greens ($16)
Not your average pork belly dish. The thick, bite-sized slices of caramelized, sweet, fatty pork bounce back when you chew but they don’t feel chewy. The pickled scallions and mustard greens add brightness and balance the fat. All you need is some jasmine rice and a dash of chili flakes and this dish is a home run.
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11. Chili Lamb ($19)
If you dig spice, then you will love this dish. A bright-red pool of chili oil and chili flakes bathe thick slices of jalapeño, crunchy onions and tender lamb. The fresh cilantro and chopped scallions on top balance the heat, while the fried garlic and shallots add crunch and umami.
12. Mashed Potato Salad ($8)
Do not gloss over this dish on the menu. Everyone at our table looked up at each other with surprise and joy when they took their first bite. It is spicy, creamy, salty and shockingly good. I am hooked.
13. Tea Leaf Salad ($14)
Compared to the Rangoon Tea Leaf Salad this version uses romaine instead of cabbage and does not contain fish sauce. It is a delicious salad, but the Rangoon version is better.
14. Pennywort Salad ($10)
You can feel healthy crunching down on these slightly bitter, grassy, fresh greens. The sweet sesame dressing, minced peanuts, and fried garlic and shallots will bait you back for seconds and thirds.
15. Pineapple Fried Rice with Vegetables ($16)
This wins my vote for best fried rice dish on the menu. The fluffy yellow rice, bright-green crunchy vegetables (not overcooked as they sometimes can be in other dishes), tart pineapple and sweet pineapple-soy sauce throw a party in your mouth.
16. Mo Hin Ga ($15)
The national dish of Myanmar. The Burmese eat this dish morning, noon or night. The chowdery, yellow split-pea soup laden with chewy, thick rice noodles is actually not soupy at all. It is filling and comforting. Add a squeeze of lemon and pinch of chili flakes that accompany it.
17. Nan Gyi Thoke ($16)
Considered Burmese “spaghetti” because of its comfort food appeal. Nan gyi refers to the thick rice noodles, and thoke means salad. The chewy noodles arrive in a mildly spicy curry sauce that is brightened with lime and tossed with hard-cooked egg, chickpea flour (says “bean flour” on the menu) and chicken. Its complex flavors make it one of the more interesting dishes on the menu.
18. Ginger Salad ($13)
After hearing the hype about this dish, I felt disappointed. It features a stunning presentation and memorable assortment of colors and textures like the Rangoon Tea Leaf Salad, but the ginger is so strong that it makes the dish one-dimensional. That being said, if you crave ginger, then you will love this dish.
19. Rakhine Fisherman’s Stew ($24)
A Burmese cioppino! The stewed squid, shrimp, mussels and bamboo shoots floating in a vibrant tomato broth spiked with cilantro command an audience.
20. Myeik Pan-Fried Noodles ($15)
A staple to add into your rotation. It tastes like a cross between the Chinese-inspired pad siu and chow fun. My favorite part is the crunchy mung bean sprouts and the tiny steamed beans called pe’pyote that the owner brings back from Burma. The soy and oyster sauce base is mostly sweet and salty, so ask for a side of chili flakes to add an extra dimension.
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21. Burmese Fish Curry ($20)
A dynamite spicy stew. We were offered the options of mahimahi, sea bass or salmon. I chose the mahimahi (to support local, of course) but realized that a fish with a softer texture would have made this dish even better. The mahimahi was a little overcooked, so it got chewy. Order a side of coconut rice.
22. Shan Tofu ($12)
You easily can split the three large portions of bright yellow, split-pea tofu among a table of six. The tart, vinegary dressing drizzled on top threatens to overpower, and the chunks of chicken garnishing the plate seem out of place. But the crunchy cabbage, toasted sesame seeds, and fried garlic and shallots contrast the tofu’s custardy-smooth texture.
23. Papaya Salad ($12)
Forget what you know about Thai or Vietnamese papaya salads. This version is sweet and sour rather than spicy thanks to a heavy dose of tamarind dressing. Papaya is only one of several other ingredients tossed together in this refreshing, crunchy, tart salad. Order it alongside any other dish for a cooling contrast.
24. Pumpkin Pork Stew ($17)
Thickened with pumpkin purée, this stew of soft, fatty pork shoulder is rich and satisfying. My only gripe is that it could use more chunks of kabocha squash.
25. Burmese Indian Rice ($10)
If you want to order a side of rice, then choose this or the coconut rice, though this one feels more like a main dish than a side. I favor this one for its medley of cucumber, nuts and raisins. This is the same rice that comes with the biryani, so do not order both on the same visit.
26. Coconut Rice ($5)
This wins my second vote as your staple side. It enhances the flavor of any curry or stir-fry. My favorite part is the crunchy, fried, shredded coconut, shallots and garlic sprinkled on top.
27. Kachin Whole Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaf ($24)
Kachin-style curry is known for its fresh herbs. The fish (moi on our visit) was steamed to the point of being mushy, but I enjoyed the herbs and fiddlehead ferns.
28. Burmese Curry with Beef ($19)
This is a meat and potatoes dish, like a Burmese pot roast. The beef sometimes can be unevenly cooked in this dish. For example, the piece I served myself was moist and tender, but my dining companion’s was dry and tough. Still, the cinnamon-heavy spices are warm and comforting.
29. Chili Chicken ($15)
This dish will add some zing to the table. Loaded with dried chilies, jalapeños and chili oil, it will bring you to the edge of spiciness without making you cry so that you can enjoy it without looking frantically for relief.
30. Chicken with Mint ($16)
If you love mint, then this dish is for you. The ground chicken creates more of a ragu consistency, so you will need some coconut rice as a base.
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31. Eggplant Curry ($15)
The creamy eggplant with fragrant, spiced, chunky tomato sauce is divine. Order a side of garlic noodles or coconut rice.
32. Kebat with Beef ($19)
The tender pieces of stir-fried beef, heavily coated in paprika and masala, generate an interesting taste. A couple of my companions said they thought it tasted almost Mediterranean to them.
33. Pork Curry ($16)
Deep flavor and packed with fragrant, sweet spices but unevenly cooked. Some pieces of pork were moist and tender, others were dry and tough. Same for the potatoes—some pieces were soft, some were still crunchy.
34. Basil Beef ($18)
A simple, full-flavored Chinese-style stir-fry with oyster sauce that’s a safe dish for picky eaters.
35. Basil & Eggplant ($14)
If you are a vegetarian or an eggplant lover, then this is a must. The caramelized eggplant and soft tofu in a salty, sweet, spiced sauce with whole fresh basil leaves is well-balanced.
36. Salt & Pepper Calamari ($14)
The calamari was a little overcooked and rubbery yet also crispy, well-seasoned and not at all greasy. Enjoy this light appetizer before the heavier dishes arrive.
37. Mandalay Pork Curry ($18)
This is one of those Burmese dishes that incorporates generous oil. If you are into oil, then go for this succulent, spiced pork dish fortified with Burmese bean paste (similar to miso) with a side of Burmese Indian rice.
38. Kung Pao Gyi Chicken ($15)
The menu description of this dish is a little misleading. The “sweet curry sauce” that coats the chicken is neither sweet nor curryish. Still, it is a solid, semispicy Chinese-style stir-fry, and the Brussels sprouts were an exciting surprise.
39. Mango Salad ($14)
A refreshing palate cleanser. I just wish the mangos had been ripe.
40. Rangoon Fried Rice (with tofu and vegetables) ($16)
Better than your average Chinese takeout fried rice. Rich, hearty and satisfying, it could be a meal in itself.
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41. Vegetarian Samusa Soup ($15)
A bizarre concept, but it works. The base of the soup comprises a mild, creamy purée of yellow split pea with a hint of tamarind and masala. Chopped samusas stuff the bowl, oozing their potato filling into the broth. The fresh, shredded cabbage, red onion and mint garnish lightens the dish, preventing it from being too heavy.
42. Basil Chicken ($16)
Another safe bet for nonadventurous types. Just a tasty, sweet, Chinese-style stir-fry.
43. Rainbow Salad ($15)
This salad comes compartmentalized like the Rangoon Tea Leaf Salad, but it is not nearly as exciting. Still, the tamarind dressing is tart and bright, and the variety of ingredients lends multiple flavors and textures to offer a refreshing complement to the rich meat dishes.
44. Oh Noh Kauswe ($16)
This is another soup on the menu that feels more like a noodle dish than a soup. Elevate the dish from ordinary to extraordinary by incorporating the accompanying lemon and chili flakes. The fried wonton strips on top add a delightful crunch.
45. Chicken Kebat ($16)
Originally served as skewered grilled street food in Burma, you will now typically find this dish in stir-fry form. This version is spicy with whole dried chilies and thick slices of jalapeños.
46. Soft-Shell Crab Salad ($14)
We enjoyed the crispiness and sweetness of the crab against the light, fresh salad and tangy garlic-chili sauce. Heads up: There is only enough crab in this salad for three to four people.
47. Crispy Tofu with Salad Filling ($12)
The tofu is not that crispy, but that did not bother me since each of the three huge pieces is split and stuffed with a vibrant, fresh salad of sprouts, cabbage and cilantro dripping in tangy dressing. The fish sauce makes this dish.
48. Burmese Sour Leaf with Prawn ($18)
A flavorful dish with sufficient heat. The flavor of the sour leaf (from the hibiscus plant) gets a little lost underneath the sauce, and the shrimp heads could be crispier. But overall it will satisfy shrimp lovers.
49. Samusa Salad ($13)
The juxtaposition of hot and cold elements makes this dish interesting. Deep-fried samusas are tossed with crunchy, chilled romaine and julienned veggies with big leaves of refreshing mint. It is tasty, but I prefer the Rangoon Tea Leaf Salad and a side order of samusas.
50. Rangoon Pan-Fried Noodle ($14)
Similar to a typical chicken chow mein. Tasty but not that exciting.
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51. Shrimp & Eggplant ($18)
The overall consensus at the table was “meh,” but one of my companions returned for seconds and thirds, raving about the brightness of the tomatoes and perfect cooking of the shrimp.
52. Pumpkin Shrimp Stew ($21)
Mild and sweet. A side of palatha bread would complement this dish well.
53. Mandalay Meeshay ($15)
This dish bears an uncanny resemblance to Italian spaghetti Bolognese (with pickled mustard greens, cilantro, peanuts and rice noodles).
54. Lemongrass Prawns ($14)
This dish was a letdown. The shrimp were overcooked and lacked pizzazz.
55. Shan Noodle with Tofu ($15)
Shan is the state in Myanmar where this dish originates. The rice noodles were cooked perfectly al dente, but overall this dish is a little on the sweet side. Add chili flakes to balance it out.
56. Mushroom & Vegetable ($15)
This dish is not much to look at, but the umami-rich combination of button and shimeji mushrooms, kale and a variety of other vegetables is perplexingly good. It is brothy, so order a side of rice.
57. Platha & Curry Dip ($12)
Order the side of palatha (another word for Platha) instead of this. It is the same thing sans the curry dip, which felt unnecessary.
58. Pumpkin Chicken Stew ($17)
More exciting than the pumpkin vegetable stew but not as rich as the pumpkin pork stew. The chicken thighs are cooked perfectly, but, like the pork version, it could use more chunks of kabocha squash. It tastes similar to a Japanese curry.
59. Rangoon Deep-Fried Fish Curry ($20)
The tomato curry sauce is fantastic. But the coating of the fried fish gets soggy in the sauce, so I prefer the Burmese fish curry.
60. Pumpkin Vegetable Stew ($16)
This dish leans bland. It is not as flavorful as the chicken or pork versions. If you are a vegetarian, then I recommend ordering this with a side of coconut rice and chili flakes to spice it up.
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61. Vegetarian Noodle Salad ($14)
Love the idea and presentation of this dish, but the flavors are not exciting. The sweet chili sauce spiked with tamarind and fish sauce that come alongside is where all the flavor lies. Drench and mix thoroughly before diving in.
62. Coconut Vegetable Curry ($16)
This dish can be boring but perks up with the addition of chili flakes. I counted at least eight different kinds of vegetables in it. Definitely order rice—either the coconut rice or Burmese Indian rice—to boost the flavor.
63. Golden Fried Shan Tofu ($8)
These are beautifully fried—crispy on the outside, soft in the middle (like fried mashed potato) and not at all greasy. The side of spicy, sweet chili sauce (same as the samusa sauce) is necessary. The fried curry leaves sprinkled on top are a bonus.
64. Garlic Fried Rice ($16)
There is nothing shy about this dish. Garlic is front and center, but so are black pepper and the sweetness and saltiness of lup cheong. I would have liked the rice more without the sausage, which felt overpowering.
65. Vegetable Curry ($16)
The vegetables were so overcooked that they were mushy and brown. The sauce is brothy and well-spiced but needs salt and heat. Overall, not an exciting dish compared with the other far-superior vegetarian options on the menu.
66. Baya Kyaw ($10)
These fried pea fritters are coated in a thick breading, which gives them a solid crunch. But, without the sauce, they are dry with little flavor. Luckily, the spicy sauce that comes on the side resolves both issues. Overall, this was not a table favorite, though.
67. Pineapple Chicken ($17)
Of all of the sweet pineapple- or mango-based dishes on the menu, I think this one is the best. Think Chinese American sweet-and-sour chicken with turmeric instead of tomato.
68. Shrimp & Vegetable Cup ($12)
The name of this dish is misleading. They aren’t cups, but a nest of small shrimp and thinly sliced veggies tossed in rice flour and fried. The shrimp also come head- and shell-on, making them tricky to eat.
69. Jasmine Rice ($3)
A fine cup of fluffy rice, but why settle for ordinary when you could order the coconut rice for only $2 more?
70. Mango Chicken ($18)
Only order if you like sweet. The combination of underripe mango and sweet sauce also wears on the palate. Chili flakes and rice help.
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71. String Beans with Calamari ($20)
We all wanted to love this dish, but we did not. The green beans and calamari were both overcooked, and the flavors were muddled.
72. Pineapple Shrimp ($19)
The shrimp were cooked perfectly in this dish, but the soupy broth was so syrupy sweet that most of it got left on the table.
73. Mango Shrimp ($20)
My tablemates found this a cloyingly sweet sauce combined with underripe, astringent mango.
74. Brown Rice ($3)
Don’t bother. With so many other rice dishes on the menu, ordering this is a waste.
Note: Keep an open mind when navigating this menu and read each category thoroughly so that you do not miss anything, such as the noodle dishes that fall under “Soups” and the biryani with lamb—one of the best dishes on the menu—that falls under “Side Orders.”
Rangoon Burmese Kitchen, 1131 Nu‘uanu Ave., open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner Monday through Saturday, (808) 367-0645, rangoon-burmese-kitchen.business.site