Developed By Modern Nobody
Cultural hub, training provider….more than just a restaurant.
Tucked away off Shwegondaing Road is this cute no-frills eatery consisting of only half a dozen odd wooden tables. Although the restaurant is rather bare, the burst of exciting aromas that hits you when you walk through the door, and the lively clatter of the kitchen gives this place its life.
When I arrived the lovely manager, Paing, came over and introduced himself. A sweet round faced Mon man with a charming smile, Paing explained how he had set up Jana Mon (Jana meaning food in Mon language) four months ago, which developed out of a project called the Mon Club he started eight years prior at the British Council, which aimed to enhance Mon youth initiation in Yangon. They then went on to create a youth capacity building training programme in Mon and Kayin State. The restaurant is an important way to gather funds to support the Club as well as providing training and opportunities to young Mon people, particularly women.
The traditional Mon menu was surprisingly large for such a small establishment but after inquiring about a number of dishes we found they were only available seasonally, something that must be considered a positive quality control!
I was pre warned about the level of spice here so I mentioned to the waiter that we would like all the dishes less spicy (even though I love spicy food I still like to taste everything else…). The menu starts with an array of appetizers, four of which are different types of patties. We opted for the Lemon Grass Pork Patties, delicious, if a little dry, particularly as the sauce was too spicy to soak them into! We also went for the Banana Flower Salad, which was super zesty with a fantastic crunchy texture.
I love fish so we opted for the Hapru (sour fruit) Fish Curry, which was exactly what I want from a curry. Creamy and zesty, not too much oil and really fragrant. The Hapru fruit is an indigenous fruit to the Mon area and has no direct English translation. It’s distinctive flavour can be found in a lot of the dishes here.
The Duck ‘Country Style’, that came recommended, was not my cup of tea. A bit on the dry side and with too much gristle. The meat itself was also slightly indiscriminate and could have been beef or pork?! The Long Bean Salad was the perfect accompaniment to our meal, a fresh dish to cut through the spices and our Chicken Salad, similar to Thai Style “Larb Gai”, was divine. Our finishing point, was a sago pudding which is a bit strange, made with potatoes and carrots, perhaps not for everyone.
That said, I LOVED the food here. For those who live or work nearby it’s a perfect eatery, although its small capacity means a larger group would struggle to be accommodated and a fun dinner out would be dampened somewhat by its lack of atmosphere. Its close proximity to the Shwedagon makes it a perfect place to take visiting friends for a unique, healthy, regional food experience.
FYI: BYOB (shop selling beer next door). No MSG Used.