I’ve been meaning to write about Mandalay for quite some time. It has been serving Burmese food in Silver Spring, Maryland for decades. And I have been going there for decades. In fact, I’ve been going there before they were even in Silver Spring. I first ate at Mandalay in their original location in College Park). It is one of my favorite restaurants and has been for a long time.
But that makes it very difficult to write about. I’ve been going to Mandalay for so long, it’s hard to pinpoint why I like it so much. Certainly, the exotic food is a draw. It’s not often you can find Burmese cuisine. (Although, I recently found a place in Virginia that also has it.) However, I suspect the real reason my friends and I keep going back there is the consistently high quality food. From soups and appetizers to entrées and desserts, everything is very good, always.
Mandalay has a nice assortment of appetizers, each one of them fried. Over the years, we’ve tried them all: gram fritters, eggplant, squash, spring rolls, shrimp, and samosas. My favorite is the gram fritters, fried fritters from ground yellow split peas and spices. I get them practically every time I go. I recommend all of the appetizers, except possibly for the samosas (stuffed pastry filled with vegetables). I prefer the Indian variety.
One of our group always gets a soup. A friend’s daughter favorite meal is soup #1 (KyarZan Hingar), a soup with a hearty broth thick with noodles and containing an assortment of vegetables. When I get a soup, I go for soup #2 (Mohingar), a lemongrass based soup. I love lemongrass. I find it perfect for a cold winter day.
I also love their salads. Each one has the same base: shredded cabbage and thinly sliced vegetables. But the mix-ins are different. Options include papaya, gram fritters, green tea, and even squid. All are dressed with a Burmese vinegrate, made with fish sauce (which can be excluded upon request), crushed peanuts, and a hit of lime. My favorite one is the papaya. The salads are big enough for a light meal, so I sometimes get one with an appetizer and make that my lunch.
The main part of the menu is divided in sections. They are noodles, poultry, beef, pork, vegetarian, and the house specials.
My vegetatian friend’s go to dish is vegetable #6 (Nyat KaukSwe Gyaw), a mix of vegetables, noodles, and tofu. A different vegetarian friend, on one occasion, had Ohnno hin (I don’t recall the number), which is tofu and vegetables in a coconut curry sauce. He gave it a favorable review. It certainly looks delicious.
Another friend always gets the Sunday Special, Dan Pauk, a bone-in dark meat chicken onion curry. I’ve had it, but not recently so I can’t comment on it. I tend to order other things as I like to have more vegetables in my meal. But my friend swears by it.
Another in our group gets either the chicken and broccoli (chicken #2) or the beef and broccoli (beef #7) for his family. Both are stir fries with a Burmese brown sauce. They are good meals for kids.
As for me, I like to mix things up. Recently, I have had house special #2, Wet Thar a Yoe Hnut. This is a pork chop simmered in an onion based curry sauce. There is a choice of different curries: pickled mango, masala spice sauce, or tamarind sauce. I went with the pickled mango. The pork was incredibly tender, and the curry sauce accompanied it very well. I ordered it spicy, and it indeed came out very hot. It is nice to go to a place that actually makes the dish hot when you ask for it.
Other recent dishes my friends or I have had are beef #7 (Kabat_Gyaw) and noodles #4 (Kyarzan Gway) and #5 (Nanjee Gwaw).
The Kabat Gyaw is a mix of beef, peppers and onions. It shows the versatility of Burmese cooking, as it’s like nothing else on the menu. Yet, absolutely delicious. As for the noodles, you can get them either thick and wide or thin, rice or egg noodle, and with the meat of your choice. Noodle #4 is a thin noodle dish and was ordered with shrimp, while #5 is thick noodles with tofu.
Beverages and Desserts
A friend asked me to but in a word about their beverages. She really likes their Burmese Iced Tea. It is similar to but, in her opinion, much better than Thai Iced tea. Now that I think about it, she gets it every time we go. They also have iced coffee.
As for their desserts, alas my favorite one is no longer carried. It was coconut ice cream served in a coconut. Absolutely fabulous. They still have two other desserts: sticky rice or Shweji. The former is sweetened with brown sugar while the latter is a wheat pudding made with coconut cream. Both are good, but they don’t hold a candle to the coconut ice cream. It’s pretty rare when I get one. When I do, I go for the Shweji.
For exotic food made well, Mandalay Restaurant is my place of choice.
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