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Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Noodle Trifecta At The Burmese Water Festival, And Yes, That's a Thingyan

Khauk Swe Thoke at the Burmese Water Festival
I headed out to Union City today for the first time in my 50+ years in San Francisco, attracted by the expectation of good home-style Burmese food at the San Francisco Bay Area Thingyan Festival, a. k. a.  the Burmese Water Festival, a. k. a. the Myanmar New Year Festival. It took place at Kennedy Park, which fortunately is adjacent to the Union City BART station.

A Thoke Sone
It took seemingly forever to get to Union City on BART, and by the time I got there, cased a long string of food booths, bought the tickets that were legal tender for food, and returned to the food booths, some items were already selling out and I felt fortunate to grab a cold noodle salad (called a thoke sone, according to the man who took my tickets and a fork and napkins).  It was a (literally) hand-mixed salad of broad rice noodles, rice vermicelli noodles, green papaya shreds, cabbage, and a host of condiments that I probably cannot pronounce.  One gets the choice of mixing it oneself with ones own bare hands (and eating it with the same bare hands, in traditional fashion) or having the expert hands of the preparer mix it. Since I had already been handed a fork, I chose the latter. After I devoured it,  I returned and another cold noodle salad caught my eye (see the photo at the top). This one (if I understood the server correctly) is called khauk swe thoke and is made with egg noodles and dried shrimp.   By default it's served not spicy, but they had some crushed dried chilis at hand to remedy that.

Mohinga
After my second helping of noodles went down as easily as the first, I returned to the tents and finally found some protein in an attractive form: a  Shan tofu salad, strips of yellow tofu made from chickpea flour colored with turmeric, topped with a savory sauce and plenty of crushed peanuts and cilantro. It was soothing mix of the sharp and the bland, the crunchy an the smooth. Belly full, I proceeded to walk off my lunch by exploring the rest of the event, and was shocked to discover another bank of food stalls I had overlooked on the opposite side of the park, with more substantial meat and seafood fare, still serving long lines of hungry people. A mohinga stand anchored the far end of this pod of food stalls, and I decided it would be a sin to leave without sampling the signature Burmese catfish and rice noodle chowder, full belly or not  It was as good as any restaurant mohinga I have had, and just as I was waiting to order, their production line paused while they were pretended with an award certificate.

As unprepared as I was, I managed to pick three noodle winners. Next year I'll come early, forewarned, and with a plan of attack in place.

Where slurped: San Francisco Bay Area Thingyan Festive, Union City.

1 comment:

  1. For more Union City Burmese fun check out 'Donut Delight Oriental Pastries'... On the weekends they serve homemade tasting Burmese food.
    Their Mohinga is the best I've had, and the only one to include fried squash standard. The portions on the other dishes are ridiculously huge for the $5 they charge.
    http://www.yelp.com/biz/donut-delight-oriental-pastries-union-city#query:oriental%20delight

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