Aunty Nyo’s athoke

The Aunty knows how to toss a salad, but not how to han­dle the flow of cus­tomers.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend - BY MYO SATT Trans­la­tion by Kyaw Soe Htet and Lwin Bo Aung

ACEBOOK in Myan­mar is charged with nasty po­lit­i­cal con­tent th­ese days. Thank­fully, Mark Zucker­berg’s al­go­rithms have worked out that news is not re­ally the stuff I am into. In­stead, they splash food rec­om­men­da­tions my way.

Un­for­tu­nately, those al­go­rithms have not quite fac­tored in my bud­get yet, as I keep be­ing no­ti­fied about events in fancy restau­rants all around town. The Strand this, The Chatrium that. And my wal­let glares from the back. So when I re­ceived info about a street-side shop, I pounced on it.

“Aunty Nyo’s athoke” (lit­er­ally “Sal­ads by aunty Nyo” in Burmese) is my lat­est e-trove. All the athokelovers in my net­work seemed to unanimously agree that it was a great place. I had to give it a try.

Even though Face­book just found out about it, Aunty’s Nyo has been toss­ing Yangon’s sal­ads for nearly 20 years. How to find her? Well, fol­low the long queue of im­pa­tient and overly anx­ious cus­tomers on the cross­ing of Anawratha and Mae­gin streets in Yankin township.

The aunty of­fers Myan­mar and Rakhine sal­ads -- dishes of cold noo­dles, ver­mi­celli or tofu tossed with oil, fish sauce, ta­marind and roasted chick­peas.

Aunty Nyo’s es­tab­lish­ment is rel­a­tively small. She stands at the en­trance to lure cus­tomers in. Be­hind a glass vit­rine you can see her work her magic.

My friend and I ar­rived there around 3:00pm and her shop was lit­er­ally packed.

We didn’t get a seat im­me­di­ately, and stood near the glass ta­ble where the aunty pre­pares the sal­ads, hop­ing to place our or­der. As Aunty Nyo was busy pre­par­ing the dishes, a younger aide be­hind her wrote down the or­ders.

When our turn came, the pair was so busy that day that they just handed over a piece of pa­per so we could write down the or­der our­selves. We opted for noo­dle salad, rice salad with bean frit­ters, red bean cake, tofu salad, and stuffed feath­erback fish cakes.

It started to get pretty hot in the small es­tab­lish­ment. I was gasp­ing for a soda and I was told by a har­ried waiter that I could just help my­self.

Twenty min­utes had passed when our noo­dle and tofu sal­ads fi­nally ar­rived. It was worth the wait: the dishes were beau­ti­ful to look at.

Aunty Nyo’s spe­cial touch is to add mashed fried-gar­lic on top of the sal­ads and a zest of cit­rus. The fried gar­lic lifts the whole dish and gives it some crunch­i­ness. The thinly shopped cit­rus leaves balance it out with a fresh taste sim­i­lar to le­mon grass. The two sal­ads re­ally did the trick for me.

The fish soups only ar­rived when our sal­ads were halffin­ished. Rice shops tend to ne­glect the soup and con­sider it a mere com­ple­men­tary ad­di­tion. But not Aunty Nyo’s.

Her Rakhine carp soup was ex­tremely flavour­ful, not too salty, not too spicy, not too bland, just per­fect.

With the soups came the rice salad. Not all rice shops do it, but Aunty Nyo’s adds mashed potato to the rice salad to give it a bit of a gluey tex­ture. That’s the way I like it.

Last but not least: the fried feath­erback stuffed with veg­eta­bles and ac­com­pa­nied by sliced cab­bage, bean sprouts and cit­rus leaves. It was the cli­max. The fish was so good and so fresh that it could have stood on its own. I was left sweaty, my eyes had just be­gun to re­turn from the back of my head; I was more than just sat­is­fied, I was drained. If I was a smoker, a puff of cig­a­rette would com­plete this whole ap­petite.

All salad will cost you around K500. You can add some ex­tras like blood curd, soy beans, tofu, or fried beans for K100. A Rakhine rice noo­dle fish soup called mon­tee costs K200. A plate of white rice costs K300.

Aunty Nyo’s es­tab­lish­ment de­serves its rep­u­ta­tion. It is hy­gienic; and the aunty has many tricks. But, don’t go there for a quicky.

As I went back home I won­dered though: what kind of web­sites did I re­cently browse on Face­book to push me in the arms of Aunty Nyo? Aunty Nyo’s shop is on Anawratha street, Yankin Township. It is open ev­ery day from 12:30 un­til 5:30pm, some­times 4:30pm when the Aunty is sold out.

Pho­tos: Myo Satt

Aunty Nyo pre­par­ing her fa­mous athoke.

OMG, yes... that noo­dle salad.

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