Last year, Soe Maung Maung, a Burmese man who worked as a restaurant cook in Thailand before coming to Buffalo, finally got to open his own restaurant.
Sort of. He got to run one of the dining windows at West Side Bazaar (25 Grant St., 464-6389, www.westsidebazaar.com), where small ethnic food operations share essential facilities while serving a taste of home to other immigrants and Buffalonians. The bazaar presently offers Thai, Ethiopian, South Senegalese and Laotian food, plus favorites from several Burmese states, including Arakan and Shan.
Using his Thai training and his mother’s recipes, Maung started selling food on March 19, 2013, at a window named Kyel Sein Hein. His mother helps him part time, cooking and dealing with customers, and his father runs food to people and clears tables. Maung started with a small menu that included Burmese soups like mohinga, noodle soup with fish broth, and ohno koksware, chicken noodle soup with coconut milk.
This year he added Shan noodle ($5.99), a dish from Shan state, a Burmese region against the Chinese border. Shan dishes are popular across Burma, he said, where you’ll find people eating versions of Shan noodle any time of day.
Maung’s version of Shan noodle comes on a tray with three bowls and a saucer. The big bowl has rice noodles stir-fried with chicken in bean sauce, topped with chopped roasted peanut and bean sprouts. It’s similar to Thai pad thai.
Chicken and cabbage soup comes in another bowl. The third holds a mildly spicy Burmese pickle, consisting of cubed carrot, mustard greens, scallions and chile flakes.
The eater fixes up the noodles and chicken to their taste, adding pickle, and sometimes soup to the main bowl. (For fire-eaters, there’s a small saucer of fried dried chile that can be used to make the noodles quite incendiary.)
There’s lots of Buffalo eaters who enjoy a meal of chicken and pasta with soup and a vegetable. This one just happens to be from halfway around the world.
Maung said that eventually, if Kyel Sein Hein is successful enough, he’d like to start his own restaurant. “In the future, if I have a chance,” he said.