Burma Burma Founder On How Burmese & Indian Foods Are Similar

When Ankit Gupta’s Burmese specialty restaurant and tearoom, Burma Burma opened its doors in 2014, its menu put forth an assemblage of treasured family recipes (Gupta’s mum spent the first 25 years of her life in Burma). Almost a decade later, the restaurant chain echoes the same spirit with its authentic selection. “Our cuisine is an ode to the people of Burma and is based on heirloom recipes from my mother’s family as well dishes from the culinary team’s frequent research trips across Burma over the years,” Gupta shares.

Burma Burma is currently hosting its annual Thingyan special menu inspired by its team’s experience of eating with the local communities in Yangon, a city in Lower Burma, located at the convergence of the Yangon and Bago rivers, is a melting pot of different regional and tribal communities, with deep influences from its colonial and migrant cuisine. So, what is it about Burmese cuisine that has captured the hearts of desi foodies? Gupta shared his thoughts with us in a chat. Excerpts:

How do you feel about the pan-India success of Burma Burma? Would you say it’s unexpected?

Success is relative and dependent on so many factors. But I would say it is immensely encouraging and gratifying to see guests from across India embrace and enjoy the flavours and dishes we offer at Burma Burma. Our cuisine is an ode to the people of Burma and is based on heirloom recipes from my mother’s family as well dishes from the culinary team's frequent research trips across Burma over the years. 

We now have 12 Burma Burma restaurants and delivery kitchens across six cities in India including Delhi NCR, Mumbai (where we just opened our second restaurant in Goregaon), Bangalore, Kolkata and Hyderabad. Our food offers a unique amalgamation of Burma’s migrant food cultures, street food and age-old homestyle cooking melded with indigenous ingredients all presented in a contemporary format. 

Our customers are not limited to any age group or specific community but people from all ages and diverse backgrounds who come to dine with us as they genuinely enjoy the Burmese cuisine and beverages we offer and that is very encouraging for us. The unique yet delicious food served at Burma Burma is inspired by the streets and homes of Burma, enhanced with big, bold flavours that appeal to Indian palates and preferences. 

The idea behind Burma Burma was to replicate the cuisine I experienced at home growing up and the incredible and untapped potential of Burmese cuisine and culture and to take that to as many places in India as possible. We are both delighted and content with the way our original idea has panned out over the nine-plus years since we first launched in Fort, Mumbai.

What do you feel is working for the brand in terms of an experience? Is it the focus on ingredients, the authenticity, the new flavours or is it something else?

I think what works for Burma Burma is us staying true to our roots plus how relatable and comforting the flavours of Burmese food are because if these were flavours that our palate was not accustomed to, it would have been an uphill task. What worked is the relatable flavours and textures of Burmese cuisine. Burmese food comes with a plethora of flavours and textures, has the much-desired crunch element and comprises comforting food bowl meal options. 

Overall, for Burma Burma what really worked was being true to the concept and giving people a very holistic dining experience wherein we focus on all the 3 pillars of a strong restaurant business simultaneously, namely food, service and ambience. Also, the accessibility in terms of our restaurant locations in different cities has been key to its popularity as well.

Can you tell us about your last trip to Burma? Any new takeaways about the food scene?

During our last trip to Burma, the culinary team led by Head Chef Ansab and I came across several dishes borne out of home-style and village-style cooking. We explored some of the lesser-known regions and cities of Burma. Our Crunchy Spring Roll Salad pairs twin tomatoes and fresh bean sprouts, with golden fried spring rolls, all tossed in a tamarind dressing and chilli oil and the Triple Mushroom Palata - flaky paratha filled with an umami-rich stuffing of shiitake, oyster and black fungus mushrooms, served with a sesame chilli dip are examples of dishes that we discovered and then developed to put on the Burma Burma menu. 

Every time the team visits the country we try and explore a new region or a village and are delighted and surprised by how truly diverse Burmese food is. There is always so much more to explore there - whether it be new ingredients styles of cooking or just unique combinations of ingredients.

Are you planning anything new for the brand?

We have just launched the Thingyan Festival Menu to coincide with the Burmese New Year, at our restaurants across India from April 11- May 19, 2024. This too was inspired by the team’s travel to Burma and their experience of dining together with local communities at a Thingyan celebration in Yangon. Our chefs have tried to capture the very essence of Burmese cuisine, selecting dishes that showcase its incredible culinary diversity. A great example is the ‘Village Set’ - a shared meal for two, comprising a perfect assortment of small plates served on a large, flat cane basket, that are also available as ala carte dishes on the festive menu. This Village Set menu covers different elements of a typical Burmese meal, starting with a salad and ending with a sweet.

This summer Burma Burma will also be launching a new range of bubble teas. An Asian delicacy, bubble tea has gained tremendous popularity in many South Asian countries, Burma included. People across India like the taste and Burma Burma’s Bubble Teas are most loved. We will offer a wide selection of Bubble teas in different flavours with sweet, chewy tapioca pearls made with freshly brewed teas.