Hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken seem to have been around forever. But all these North American classics are but newborns compared to a cuisine that’s 1,000 years old. So why in all my considerable years of exploratory grazing have I never tasted Burmese food?
Kyusu Burmese Cuisine, in San Jose, California, of all places, offers a chance to rectify this. Unfortunately, I’m lunching alone and thus regretfully have to pass over some enticing curries, stews and noodle dishes.
Instead, I zero in on a Burmese classic—an exotic-sounding tea leaf salad ($9). It features a combination of ingredients I’ve never seen before: pickled tea leaves, fried beans and garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, dried shrimp and marinated cabbage. My server arrives with all this on a plate and proceeds to carefully toss it tableside with a spoon and tongs.
Time to dig in. The taste is as unusual as the combination. It’s both wet and crunchy, slightly astringent and bearing an unusual, umami-like flavour; maybe it’s the pickled tea leaves.
Overall, it’s well worth the adventure. Now, I just have to find more Burmese eateries and friends to explore the menu with.
Kyusu Burmese Cuisine
1312 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, California
Wednesday to Monday lunch 11:30 am-2 pm, dinner 5 pm-9 pm. Closed Tuesday