De­vel­op­ing a new Chin: Mr Sabuti

NYO ME

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend | Leisure -

AS a Yan­gon born Chin Myan­mar, 25-year-old Zippy is ex­cited to get the chance to eat some tra­di­tional food from home – a corn soup named ‘Sabuti’ - but can only do so when his fam­ily makes a trip to Chin State to see friends and rel­a­tives. There are some small Chin food stores in Yan­gon but Zippy says it just doesn’t hit the mark like the homemade stuff that he re­mem­bers from his child­hood.

Per­haps the magic is the corn it­self – a sta­ple crop grown in the Chin moun­tain air that gives the dish its au­then­tic­ity and lus­ter, some­thing that just can’t be repli­cated us­ing in­fe­rior Yan­gon Re­gion corn. In­deed, the ‘good stuff’ is only avail­able when it’s gifted by friends and fam­ily.

In answer to this predica­ment, Zippy, with two part­ners, has opened his own Chin food store, named Mr Sabuti, so that he might be able to share the magic of his home­land food with peo­ple here in Yan­gon, who sel­dom get to try it.

Pen­e­trate the Mar­ket Yan­go­nites have be­come ac­cus­tomed to, and em­braced, a good amount of Shan cui­sine over the years, ev­i­denced by com­mon noo­dle houses and the pop­u­lar­ity of sticky kao swe. Kachin food, cen­tred in San­chaung, has found favour as well as spicy Rakhine fish dishes. Could Chin be the next wave of ‘eth­nic’ food to en­ter the Ba­mar heart­land? Zippy hopes so.

“Like how Shan noo­dles and Rakhine Mote Ti can be ac­cessed in al­most ev­ery street now, I would like Chin food to be here,” ex­claimed Zippy. It’s his goal to run a big suc­cess­ful restau­rant that serves up hot, fresh tra­di­tional food with soup be­ing the main fo­cus.

Sabuti is Chin for meat and corn soup. It is a sta­ple of the re­gion ow­ing to its moun­tains and dif­fi­culty of trans­porta­tion, also for its weather and to­pog­ra­phy which makes corn the most popular crop, as op­posed to rice in the Ba­mar delta. The soup is gen­er­ally served with beef but can be paired with pork or chicken as one de­sires. The clas­sic ver­sion is made with beef, how­ever. Zippy is re­spon­sive to the needs of cus­tomers in Yan­gon and says he is work­ing on a vege­tar­ian ver­sion. The fo­cus, it is said, is on achiev­ing a de­lec­ta­ble mix of spicy and sour notes which can be com­bined how­ever you like it.

The open­ing of the new shop has re­quired the three part­ners, who do not have previous ex­pe­ri­ence in the food in­dus­try, to go on ex­plo­ration mis­sions to learn as much as they can about the cui­sine they are so in­tent on do­ing jus­tice to. They’ve trav­eled to Chin to eat as much tra­di­tional food they can get their hands on. They also com­pared those ex­pe­ri­ences to what Chin food could be found in Yan­gon.

Main dif­fi­cul­ties The cost of rent­ing a space was the three part­ner’s big­gest con­cern since they didn’t know how well the cui­sine would be re­ceived. They set­tled on a small lo­ca­tion near Sule Pagoda that might at­tract the Chin Chris­tians who fre­quent churches down­town, specif­i­cally the Im­manuel Bap­tist just off Ma­ha­ban­doola Park, which might pro­vide Mr Sabuti with a base­line of busi­ness be­fore they try and make their cui­sine a fash­ion. Right now, though, it’s a small kitchen and ta­bles and chairs that spill out­side onto the street.

It’s still early days but the pres­ence of a ded­i­cated Chin soup restau­rant is mak­ing a splash with peo­ple who are fa­mil­iar with the cui­sine and cul­ture. One young customer The Myan­mar Times spoke to said they hailed from Sa­gaing Re­gion, not too far from Chin and loved that they could now get fresh sabuti down­town. “I miss the days of my youth when I got to have it,” The happy pa­tron re­ported. “I used to eat it for its health ben­e­fits, so much nour­ish­ment and no fat.”

At this point, 22-year-old Lal Ch­han Hima, an­other of the part­ners, reck­ons they’re serv­ing, on a good day, up to 140 bowls of soup on the week­end and 70 on week days. “I re­ally aim to share Chin food with as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble.” He said.

Mr Sabuti Time and Price Tues­day to Fri­day – from 11am to 6pm Satur­day -8am to 6pm Sun­day - 3pm to 6pm Mon­day closed. Lo­ca­tion: No. 197, Ma­har Ban­doola Park Road, Kyauk­tada town­ship, Yan­gon.

Photo: Sup­plied

Wel­come to real Chin cui­sine in Yan­gon.

Photo: Sup­plied

Zippy gets it right.

Pho­tos: Sup­plied

Eat­ing au­then­tic Chin food.

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