Street Eats: Find­ing Yangon's best Shan noo­dles in a tent

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - LIL­LIAN KALISH l.kalish@mm­times.com Doe Shan Lay, 90th and Myanma Gon Yi in Min­galar Taung Nyunt town­ship. Make sure to get there early if you want to try their tofu, as they of­ten run out by the evening.

EV­ERY night, the streets of Myanma Gon Yi Road swell with the usual litany of red-tented stalls and ven­dors sell­ing fried snacks and fresh pro­duce. Wad­ing through the night-time crowd in Min­galar Taung Nyunt town­ship can some­times be dizzy­ing. Small chil­dren chase each other through the maze of stalls; bein mont pan­cakes and pork satay skew­ers awaken the senses; dogs idle wan­tonly about the side­walks.

Yet on the cor­ner of Myan­mar Gon Yi and 90th Street, a home-style Shan joint cuts through the evening chaos and quells any rum­bling stom­ach. Adorned with a neck­lace of potato crisps, the blue- and green-tented noo­dle stall, known col­lo­qui­ally as Doe Shan Lay Noo­dle Shop, serves up what may be the best Shan noo­dles and tofu in Yangon.

It may be easy to walk right past Doe Shan Lay, which looks al­most iden­ti­cal to the other cookie-cut­ter stalls lin­ing the block.

Wife and hus­band own­ers Khin Htwe and Tun Sein first opened the shop in 2007, af­ter a cousin from Man­dalay came to Yangon look­ing to earn her own money and break free from her par­ents. She in­vited Khin Htwe and Tun Sein, who had moved to Yangon from Shan State, to join and help her.

Khin Htwe has been cook­ing the same Shan del­i­ca­cies since she was a child.

“I learned how to cook from my grand­mother and from my younger cousin. She has a good tech­nique,” says Khin Htwe, smil­ing and strain­ing noo­dles.

Al­most 10 years af­ter open­ing, Doe Shan Lay packs ta­bles each night, hav­ing gar­nered a loyal and rav­en­ous fol­low­ing.

Their menu con­sists of a few key dishes, of­fer­ing a sim­ple, af­ford­able, and truly un­matched taste of the fam­ily’s home­town, Namh­san, in Shan State.

“My fam­ily came to Yangon in 2000,” says Bo Nyein, the 24-year old son of Khin Htwe and Tun Sein. He joined his par­ents in 2001 and cur­rently works for Ea­sia Travel Com­pany. “The noo­dle shop was sup­posed to be tem­po­rary. They came here for us, so we could get a bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion.”

But busi­ness soon flour­ished, and there was no rea­son to close shop. Though Tun Sein’s fam­ily is re­lated to the folks over at the famed 999 Shan noo­dles, Doe Shan Lay’s noo­dles are quite dif­fer­ent; they are not the stan­dard greasy fare found pop­u­lat­ing Yangon’s streets. The noo­dles are no­tably less oily, cooked al dente and mixed with a light tomato sauce. The taste of fresh gar­lic, ground peanut, and spring onion jump out on the palate.

Doe Shan Lay makes four types of noo­dles and three types of tofu. Guests can choose from sticky Shan noo­dle, nor­mal Shan noo­dle, mee­shay or flat noo­dle all for K1200, or K1000 if veg­e­tar­ian. Nor­mal Shan – a break­fast sta­ple in Shan State – re­mains the most pop­u­lar dish on the menu.

Equally pop­u­lar and far more labour-in­ten­sive is their soft and gelati­nous yel­low tofu. Made from a com­bi­na­tion of ground chick­pea flour, wa­ter and salt, the tofu takes a full day, three­step process to pre­pare. Once the liq­uid mix­ture has formed into a solid, the tofu is fried into a crunchy tofu kyaw, or cut into long strips for a spicy, sesame-seed-and-co­rian­der-in­fused tofu salad, both for K500. A warm and creamy tofu

ngwe which is poured over rice noo­dles and gar­nished with spring onion is K1200.

Khin Htwe cooks her tofu that same way she did in Shan State with a lit­tle help from her three work­ers. She wakes at 7:30am each morn­ing and heads straight to Thein Phyu Mar­ket. There, she picks out the day’s veg­eta­bles and meats and has a bucket of chick­peas ground into a flour to make the tofu. Her three work­ers, three girls from Aye­yarwady Re­gion, who are more like daugh­ters or sis­ters to her than em­ploy­ees, help her fil­ter the tofu mix­ture and stir it over a flame with a bam­boo stick.

Mak­ing sure to re­spect the cus­toms of her Mus­lim neigh­bours, Khin Htwe al­ways buys meat from a ha­lal ven­dor.

“We want every­one to have the chance to try Shan noo­dles,” says her son, Bo Nyein.

Though life in Yangon is far dif­fer­ent from sleepy vil­lage life in Shan State, Doe Shan Lay is more than just a noo­dle shop. Their shop is a re­minder of home, of speak­ing Palaung and bits of Chi­nese, of go­ing to the mar­ket­place be­fore day has bro­ken, of a cer­tain kind­ness and hos­pi­tal­ity which is rare to come by in fast-paced city liv­ing.

Pho­tos: Nick Baker

Reg­u­lar Shan noo­dles come gar­nished with green onion, bok choy, crushed peanuts and a dol­lop of chilli sauce.

Bo Nyein, Tun Sein, and Khin Htwe pose in front of Doe Shan Lay stall. Var­i­ous condi­ments are added to give the noo­dles a unique flavour.

Khin Htwe and Tun Sein work to­gether to feed hun­gry cus­tomers.

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