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Kiln’s Burmese wild ginger and beef short rib curry
Jordan Lee/for Kiln

The Best Places to Find Burmese Food in London

Where to find the finest coconut chicken noodles, pickled tea leaf salads, and Burmese-style pork belly curries

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Kiln’s Burmese wild ginger and beef short rib curry
| Jordan Lee/for Kiln

For nearly a quarter of a century, the sole Burmese restaurant in Europe, let alone London, was Mandalay, a family-run spot on Edgware Road. The only other time that Burmese food fans could get their fix was at fundraising fairs held by the Burmese community for various auspicious occasions such as Thingyan (Burmese New Year) or at each other’s houses – a regular refrain from the diaspora is how they had to teach themselves to cook their favourite dishes or otherwise go hungry. Reasons why no one else decided to set up shop vary, but the main one may be that the biggest wave of immigrants to the U.K. in the seventies and eighties came from the medical profession.

But, times have changed and in recent years, there’s been a welcome blossoming of pop-ups, supper clubs, and more permanent fixtures, all showcasing Burmese cuisine, which takes influences from its neighbours Thailand, India and China, and combines them with ingredients and flavours of its own to make something unique and delicious.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Mandalay Golden Myanmar Restaurant

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302 Kilburn High Rd
London NW6 2DB, UK

Burma was once known as the rice bowl of Asia, and a day-to-day meal resembles the Indonesian rijsttafel, where rice is served with a vast array of dishes. The best way to experience this kind of spread is to be invited to the home of a local, but dining at Mandalay on Edgware Road always felt like the next best thing, especially thanks to the warmth of the Ally family who run the place. Last June, due to spiralling rents, this stalwart of traditional Burmese cuisine moved to Kilburn High Road and rebranded itself as Mandalay Golden Myanmar, but the charm remains, reflected in the endearing décor as well as the service. Ask owner (and Burmese musician) Dwight Ally’s advice on which of the many dishes complement each other, but the lamb meatball curry is particularly delicious, as are all fritters. Don’t miss the balachaung, an addictive dry sambal. (Note though that there is no pork, which is a big part of Burmese cuisine.)

Chicken in tamarind 
lam_chowder/Instagram

2. Cafe Mandalay

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91 Murray Grove, Hoxton
London N1 7QJ, UK
020 3645 4924

Flying under the radar is this small, casual café near Old Street. The chef-owner Kyaw Thu Ya’s main trade is in sandwiches and cakes, but the name of the café, a small A-board outside listing Burmese dishes, and the posters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma’s state counsellor) give away other loyalties.

For the past five years, Kyaw Thu Ya has been quietly serving a selection of home-style specials, such as ohn no khao swè (coconut chicken noodles) one week and khayunthee kyet (aubergine curry) with rice the next. His biryani comprising pilau rice with kyethhar masala (Burmese masala chicken) is a permanent fixture, however, as the last time he tried to take it off the menu, there was “nearly a riot”. Order 24 hours in advance for his lahpet thohk (pickled tea leaf salad) which comes highly recommended. Diners can even pick up a jade bracelet, a woven Kachin purse or some Burmese tomato candy at the till.

rangoonsisters/Instagram

3. Lahpet

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58 Bethnal Green Rd
London E1 6JW, UK

Founders Dan Anton and Zaw Mahesh serve thoroughly modern takes on Burmese cuisine in their new restaurant on Bethnal Green Road. Head chef Mahesh, born in Kalaw in Burma, and raised in nearby Mogok, will take a traditional Burmese dessert like mont lone yay paw (similar to the Malaysian onde-onde) and stuff it with balachaung to transform it into a savoury snack. It’s intelligent and thoughtful innovation which displays the same kind of ingenuity which gave the world now-classic Burmese dishes such as samosa salad of which chef and food writer Madhur Jaffrey is a fan.

Classics are well-executed at Lahpet — its mohinga, Burma’s national dish of fish broth and rice vermicelli heaped with crispy split-pea fritters, roast chilli and coriander, is a treat, as is the signature dish of lahpet thohk (pickled tea leaf salad) which turns umami-packed tea leaves into a unique textural salad. The pone yay gyi salad is another must-order, made using a home-fermented black bean paste that could be deemed Burmese miso.

4. The Shan State

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100-102 Shaftesbury Ave
London W1D 5EF, UK

The Shan State opened to little fanfare at the end of 2016 in the heart of London’s Chinatown — the Shan people being one of the largest of the 138 ethnic groups that live in Burma, and with arguably the biggest influence on Burmese cuisine. The Shan State’s menu is however, bizarrely bloated, reeling wildly all over Asia to the extent that it’s almost impossible to locate the Burmese dishes, but genuine gems can still be found. Shan-style tofu is made from chickpeas or split peas rather than soya beans, and Shan’s comes as perfect fritters, crisp outside and fluffy inside, served with a tangy tamarind dip, or warm and melted over a bowl of spicy noodles.

(NB: The Shan State is currently, temporarily closed for refurbishment. It is expected to reopen soon.)

Pickled leaf tea salad
chinatownlondon/Instagram

5. Kiln

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58 Brewer St, Soho
London W1F 9TL, UK

From the same people behind Thai barbecue restaurant Smoking Goat, in 2016 Kiln opened in Soho to even greater acclaim. The recently anointed “best restaurant in the U.K.” describes itself as serving regional Thai food “with influences from Yunnan and Burma” — Yunnan being the Chinese province which borders Burma. It’s worth grabbing a table near the eponymous kiln, before ordering the deservedly popular, fragrant Burmese wild ginger and short rib curry, which has a nice kick to it but then melts in the mouth.

chicken with soy; claypot pork and crab glass noodles; beef neck curry 
yauwill/Instagram

6. Lao Café

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60 Chandos Pl
London WC2N 4HG, UK

Perhaps a wild card. Lao Café does not in fact serve Burmese food at all, but those in the know flock to this bright café in Charing Cross. Regularly packed with Burmese diners, its hotpot dishes, especially tom zaap gadook moo (spicy sour pork ribs soup) are a close relative to the Burmese soups known as chin yay hin, which might be regarded as Burmese penicillin, and just as loved and revered by the Burmese as Jewish people do with chicken noodle soup. Lao Café’s spicy salads known as soops are also more redolent of Burmese a-thohk than the more well-known Thai yams or larbs. Order a hotpot, a salad, some grilled meat and some rice and it’s a more than decent approximation of a Burmese spread.

7. Vera's Kitchen London (Cafe & Thai restaurant)

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16 Leeland Road, West Ealing, London, Ealing
London W13 9HH, UK

At nine months’ old, this small cafe in West Ealing is the newest kid on the block, run by Shan husband and wife Sai and Nang Mophoung who hail from Keng Tung in Burma. Head chef Sai’s family own the well-established Sein Pan Ni Ni chain of Thai restaurants in Burma, so the emphasis is on Thai food but there’s a handful of Burmese dishes such as excellent Shan noodles and a generous Burmese King prawn curry.

(Opening hours are unusual, closing at 4pm most days, but they can also cater for parties and provide Burmese/Thai buffets on request.)

Burmese coconut noodle
veraskitchenlondon/Instagram

1. Mandalay Golden Myanmar Restaurant

302 Kilburn High Rd, London NW6 2DB, UK
Chicken in tamarind 
lam_chowder/Instagram

Burma was once known as the rice bowl of Asia, and a day-to-day meal resembles the Indonesian rijsttafel, where rice is served with a vast array of dishes. The best way to experience this kind of spread is to be invited to the home of a local, but dining at Mandalay on Edgware Road always felt like the next best thing, especially thanks to the warmth of the Ally family who run the place. Last June, due to spiralling rents, this stalwart of traditional Burmese cuisine moved to Kilburn High Road and rebranded itself as Mandalay Golden Myanmar, but the charm remains, reflected in the endearing décor as well as the service. Ask owner (and Burmese musician) Dwight Ally’s advice on which of the many dishes complement each other, but the lamb meatball curry is particularly delicious, as are all fritters. Don’t miss the balachaung, an addictive dry sambal. (Note though that there is no pork, which is a big part of Burmese cuisine.)

302 Kilburn High Rd
London NW6 2DB, UK

2. Cafe Mandalay

91 Murray Grove, Hoxton, London N1 7QJ, UK
rangoonsisters/Instagram

Flying under the radar is this small, casual café near Old Street. The chef-owner Kyaw Thu Ya’s main trade is in sandwiches and cakes, but the name of the café, a small A-board outside listing Burmese dishes, and the posters of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma’s state counsellor) give away other loyalties.

For the past five years, Kyaw Thu Ya has been quietly serving a selection of home-style specials, such as ohn no khao swè (coconut chicken noodles) one week and khayunthee kyet (aubergine curry) with rice the next. His biryani comprising pilau rice with kyethhar masala (Burmese masala chicken) is a permanent fixture, however, as the last time he tried to take it off the menu, there was “nearly a riot”. Order 24 hours in advance for his lahpet thohk (pickled tea leaf salad) which comes highly recommended. Diners can even pick up a jade bracelet, a woven Kachin purse or some Burmese tomato candy at the till.

91 Murray Grove, Hoxton
London N1 7QJ, UK

3. Lahpet

58 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6JW, UK

Founders Dan Anton and Zaw Mahesh serve thoroughly modern takes on Burmese cuisine in their new restaurant on Bethnal Green Road. Head chef Mahesh, born in Kalaw in Burma, and raised in nearby Mogok, will take a traditional Burmese dessert like mont lone yay paw (similar to the Malaysian onde-onde) and stuff it with balachaung to transform it into a savoury snack. It’s intelligent and thoughtful innovation which displays the same kind of ingenuity which gave the world now-classic Burmese dishes such as samosa salad of which chef and food writer Madhur Jaffrey is a fan.

Classics are well-executed at Lahpet — its mohinga, Burma’s national dish of fish broth and rice vermicelli heaped with crispy split-pea fritters, roast chilli and coriander, is a treat, as is the signature dish of lahpet thohk (pickled tea leaf salad) which turns umami-packed tea leaves into a unique textural salad. The pone yay gyi salad is another must-order, made using a home-fermented black bean paste that could be deemed Burmese miso.

58 Bethnal Green Rd
London E1 6JW, UK

4. The Shan State

100-102 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 5EF, UK
Pickled leaf tea salad
chinatownlondon/Instagram

The Shan State opened to little fanfare at the end of 2016 in the heart of London’s Chinatown — the Shan people being one of the largest of the 138 ethnic groups that live in Burma, and with arguably the biggest influence on Burmese cuisine. The Shan State’s menu is however, bizarrely bloated, reeling wildly all over Asia to the extent that it’s almost impossible to locate the Burmese dishes, but genuine gems can still be found. Shan-style tofu is made from chickpeas or split peas rather than soya beans, and Shan’s comes as perfect fritters, crisp outside and fluffy inside, served with a tangy tamarind dip, or warm and melted over a bowl of spicy noodles.

(NB: The Shan State is currently, temporarily closed for refurbishment. It is expected to reopen soon.)

100-102 Shaftesbury Ave
London W1D 5EF, UK

5. Kiln

58 Brewer St, Soho, London W1F 9TL, UK
chicken with soy; claypot pork and crab glass noodles; beef neck curry 
yauwill/Instagram

From the same people behind Thai barbecue restaurant Smoking Goat, in 2016 Kiln opened in Soho to even greater acclaim. The recently anointed “best restaurant in the U.K.” describes itself as serving regional Thai food “with influences from Yunnan and Burma” — Yunnan being the Chinese province which borders Burma. It’s worth grabbing a table near the eponymous kiln, before ordering the deservedly popular, fragrant Burmese wild ginger and short rib curry, which has a nice kick to it but then melts in the mouth.

58 Brewer St, Soho
London W1F 9TL, UK

6. Lao Café

60 Chandos Pl, London WC2N 4HG, UK

Perhaps a wild card. Lao Café does not in fact serve Burmese food at all, but those in the know flock to this bright café in Charing Cross. Regularly packed with Burmese diners, its hotpot dishes, especially tom zaap gadook moo (spicy sour pork ribs soup) are a close relative to the Burmese soups known as chin yay hin, which might be regarded as Burmese penicillin, and just as loved and revered by the Burmese as Jewish people do with chicken noodle soup. Lao Café’s spicy salads known as soops are also more redolent of Burmese a-thohk than the more well-known Thai yams or larbs. Order a hotpot, a salad, some grilled meat and some rice and it’s a more than decent approximation of a Burmese spread.

60 Chandos Pl
London WC2N 4HG, UK

7. Vera's Kitchen London (Cafe & Thai restaurant)

16 Leeland Road, West Ealing, London, Ealing, London W13 9HH, UK
Burmese coconut noodle
veraskitchenlondon/Instagram

At nine months’ old, this small cafe in West Ealing is the newest kid on the block, run by Shan husband and wife Sai and Nang Mophoung who hail from Keng Tung in Burma. Head chef Sai’s family own the well-established Sein Pan Ni Ni chain of Thai restaurants in Burma, so the emphasis is on Thai food but there’s a handful of Burmese dishes such as excellent Shan noodles and a generous Burmese King prawn curry.

(Opening hours are unusual, closing at 4pm most days, but they can also cater for parties and provide Burmese/Thai buffets on request.)

16 Leeland Road, West Ealing, London, Ealing
London W13 9HH, UK

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