Aunty Nyo’s athoke
The Aunty knows how to toss a salad, but not how to handle the flow of customers.
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.
Aunty Nyo preparing her famous athoke.
OMG, yes... that noodle salad.