It’s Southeast Asian Lunar New Year season in Queens kids. It seems like it was just Songkran, or Thai New Year. Yesterday it was Myanmar’s turn, so my buddy Jonathan and I attended the Thingyan festival in the cafeteria of a public school in Woodside. We stocked up on $1 food tickets; most items were between $4 and $7. Even in the most diverse borough in the universe Burmese food is a rarity, so you can be sure that we ate our fill. The festival was sponsored by Dhamman Ranti Vihara, a local Burmese Buddhist temple.
Kyat thar palatar was a great way to kick off a day of eating. Think of the bowl of torn roti and chicken curry as Burmese chicken and dumplings. The bits of bread soaked up the curry quite nicely, while a slaw of cucumber, cabbage, mint, and green chili lent some brightness to the bowl.
Most all of the signs at the stalls were in Burmese script. So when we came to one making noodles I asked what it was. “Everything salad,” came the response. Aah-thoke-sone, as the lady called it in Burmese must be the equivalent of what’s known among Thai folks as “Thief’s salad” or among backwoodsmen, “whatchagot stew.” Topped with homemade dried shrimp powder, fried garlic, fish cake, cucumbers, onions and a sauce made with tamarind and Sriracha as well as a goodly amount of lime juice it was one of the most complex—and spiciest—bowls of noodles I’ve had in quite some time.
Crazy Crab was the sole stand at the fair with an English sign. It also had one of the more unusual offerings, a mellow salad of “yellow tofu,” topped with sweet soy sauce, sesame, fried shallots and roasted peanuts. The mellow custardy blobs were a nice respite from the heat of the previous dishes. I chose to use the accompanying sidecar of hot sauce as a dip. The tofu was unlike any I’ve ever tasted. That’s because it’s made with yellow split peas rather than soybeans. And about that English name, Crazy Crab is a soon-to-open Yunnanese, Burmese, and seafood joint. This style of restaurant—think an Asian version of Joe’s Crab Shack—is all the rage in Brooklyn’s Chinatown according to my pal Dave Cook of Eating in Translation.
“We get the tea from Burma,” the lady behind the lahpet,or tea lead salad counter said. Tea leaf salad, made from fermented green tea leaves, and in this case cabbage,tomato, fried broad beans, and fried garlic is a national delicacy. Crunchy, spicy, and mildly stimulating thanks to the tea leaves.What’s not to like?
For dessert there were mote lone yay paw, a traditional Thingyan treat. The sweet glutinous rice balls were being prepared assembly line style. The matriarch of the crew was in charge of cracking the bits of palm sugar iu two pieces small enough to fit into the marble-shaped dumplings. It was a sweet ending to a pretty sweet day of eating.