The chef recommended I try the No. 12 at the newly opened Burmese bites, shown here unmixed.
Myo Lin Thway and his family who run Burmese Bites at the Queens Night Market, a specialist in palata—airy stuffed roti like bread made by Myo himself—and other goodies like ohno kaukswe, a wonderful coconut chicken noodle soup, have long been one of my favorite stands. I almost always get their noodles or palata on every visit to the market. There’s only one problem; I wish there were more options as well as the ability to get their Burmese cuisine year round. Well, thanks to the crew’s new location, which opened about a week ago in the Queens Center Mall Food Court, a venue better known for Panda Express than Burmese delicacies, both of these problems have been solved.
“What do you have that’s not at the Night Market?” I asked, looking at the roster of more than a dozen dishes. “You should get the Number 12, the shan kaukswe,” he said. “I know you’ll like these noodles because you appreciate Burmese food.”
In addition to the noodles I ordered tea leaf salad, or laphet thoke, a riotous blend of textures and flavors that along with the fish soup mohinga is considered by many to be the national dish of Burma. Just as Myo handed me my food who should I spy taking photos but none other than my dear friend Dave Cook of Eating in Translation. (We have been running into each other in my various Queens stamping grounds for years now and Dave joked that we need to develop a bat signal so we can know when an impromptu eatup is about to occur.)
Each dish came in a cardboard takeout box, the components waiting to be mixed. The shan kaukswe container simply labeled “Shan” held rice noodles topped with ground chicken and peanuts surrounded by pea shoots, scallions, pickled mustard greens, cilantro, and a little cup of dried chili. I started to mix the lot with fork and spoon, but quickly realized that closing and vigorously shaking the box—albeit carefully—would be more effective. This newly created Shan shake didn’t work so well for the tea leaf salad, which I tossed with utensils.
I’m glad I took Myo’s recommendation. The combination of the noodles along with the salty pickled vegetables, chili, garlic, and other components was utterly transporting. Dave ordered the shrimp curry and mango salad and subbed in tea life rice for white rice. All in all it was a great first meal at Myo’s new digs.
For a long time I’ve groused that the mall’s food court, known as the World’s Fare Café, was hardly deserving of the moniker since it didn’t reflect the delicious diversity of Queens. Now thanks to Burmese Bites along with its newly opened neighbor C Bao, a purveyor of Chinese pork and duck buns, it’s on its way to becoming a food court worthy of the World’s Borough.
Burmese Bites, Queens Center Mall, 90-15 Queens Blvd., Elmhurst