Story appears in Dec. 2013 Irrawaddy print magazine
YANGON – In any conversation about India, it’s very important to get in a mention of your tolerance of spicy food as soon as possible. That should be followed up by a mention of how India is the world’s biggest democracy, a vast and colorful nation of contrasts and strong smells and Bollywood and handy cricket players and more gods and call centers than can be counted.
Once the clichés are out of the way, it’s often better just to eat. And the spicier the better, for I can handle some of the hottest – just saying. Well, as hot as a freckly, grey-skinned, ginger-headed and probably drunken Irishman can handle.
In Yangon, there’s arguably no better place for Indian food than The Corriander Leaf, between the Summit Parkview and Yangon International Hotels on the Ahlone Road, and all told a ten or fifteen minute taxi ride from the downtown Sule Pagoda area, depending on the traffic.
Sanjeev Gupta, CEO of The Corriander Leaf, says that the three chefs in his kitchen come from different parts of India, so he has much of that regional diversity of what we call “Indian cuisine” covered.
After I order a mutton curry with bread, he’s keen to recommend his hometown speciality. Mr Gupta comes from Hyderabad – that’s the home of biryani. And when the fragrant and brightly-colored rice-based dish comes, it’s worth the short wait, which wasn’t a wait at all, really, given the time was spent in an enthusiastic assault on a Kashmiri speciality – a mouthwatering mutton rogan josh – the drool-inducing curry gravy mopped up by steaming and scented naans.
“We import the rice from India, along with a lot of out other ingredients,” says Mr Gupta. Biryani, like other Indian dishes, a particular thing from a particular place, and the ingredients have to be right.
The litmus test of any Indian restaurant, Gupta adds, is what comes out of the tandoor, the clay oven. Spicy chunks of minced lamb, delicately-flavored slices of butterfish as well as spicier chicken and prawn – surely mean that The Corriander Leaf passes the test with flying colours – namely the eye-catching greens, browns, scarlets of the oven-baked morsels of meat.
With dishes coming in around 8-10 dollar mark, The Corriander Leaf is more expensive than some of heaving lunch-time Indian diners downtown, but you get wifi and aircon – much-needed when it’s 90 per cent plus humidity during Yangon’s rainy season – as well as peace and quiet, if that’s what you are after.
But not on evenings from Thursday through to Sunday, when it’s far from quiet. On those nights it’s best to book a table, as The Corriander Leaf is much in demand among Yangon’s growing foreign business community. “It’s a 25-75 split between Burmese and foreigners,” says Mr Gupta of the clientele frequenting The Corriander Leaf.
The upstairs part of the restaurant features two ante-room suitable for business or lunch meetings or private parties, while Mr Gupta also runs a 150 seat function room, catering for seminars and workshops and other daytime gatherings.As well as Indian, The Corriander Leaf serves Indo-Chinese fusion, while the and the Banquet Hall serves European and other Asian food. For the thirsty – and thirsty you will be after chowing down on some of the two chili indicator curries on the menu – the in-house bar has cocktails, mock tails, wines and liquors.
The Corriander Leaf. Bldg No 12, Yangon International Hotel Compound, Ahlone Yoad, Yangon, Myanmar. Tel: 0943185008. Email email@example.com Website www.corrianderleaf.comShow