ashland.news
July 23, 2024

Can’t make it to Myanmar? You’re in luck: Authentic Burmese food has come to Ashland

Mung and Dee at Razi. Tod Davies photo
June 16, 2023

Sister and brother prepare family recipes, mostly to go, with the guidance of their grandmothers

By Tod Davies for Ashland.news

The Razi menu. Tod Davies photo

Did you know Burmese cooking is the only one in the world that uses dried tea leaves in its food? Me neither. But having tasted the Burmese Tea Leaf salad served up at Razi Authentic Burmese Kitchen, I honestly have no idea why the concept hasn’t spread.

Luckily it’s spread to Ashland. We have cause to celebrate that a sister and brother, originally from Myanmar, want to share it with the rest of us.

“Tea leaf salad is the number-one favorite, hands down, for people who know our food,” Mung, the sister half of the team, told me over snacks — which, I’m embarrassed to say, I scarfed down as she talked. “It’s totally authentic, like all our food. Not Americanized at all.”

Mung, who also goes by Angela, and her brother Ting, also named Dee, were born in Putao, in Myanmar, on the northern border with China.

Samosa

“But our mother went to university in Georgia, and when we were born, she gave us American names as well. You can call me whichever you like.”

“Mm hmm,” I murmured, my mouth full of deliciously crunchy ginger salad.

“Then I went to university in Missouri and met my husband there. I didn’t know how to cook then, but being away from home, especially in the Midwest, you can imagine I was really craving home cooking! You know, the kind grandmothers make. So I wanted to learn.

The Rangoon Veggie Bowl

“I started cooking for my friends. All these recipes we serve here at Razi — they’re all passed down for generations! I’d send money back to Myanmar and ask for recipes from the grandmothers. Especially the beef and chicken ones.”

At this point I’d moved on to the beef curry, so I nodded enthusiastically.

“And the samosas! The samosas are as authentic as you can get, a potato/shallot stuffing, with their tamarind dipping sauce. I learned fromthe grannies! They would tell me ‘you have to add boiling water to the curry.’ If you just add room-temp water it isn’t as tender. How would I have known that without them?”

The Tea Leaf Rice Bowl (tofu version available)

I paused and contemplated how tender the beef was, indeed. But how did she learn from the grandmothers so far away?

“Facebook, of course! I’d Facebook Message them. One of the grandmas doesn’t use Facebook, so I did it through the grandkids!”

When she cooked for her friends in Missouri, it was a huge hit. She loved doing potlucks. Inevitably they urged her to open a restaurant.

The deets:
Razi Authentic Burmese Kitchen
To-go with limited outdoor seating
Rogue To Go containers encouraged
Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday
1690 Ashland St. (former site of Blue Toba, which is now at 145 E. Main St.)
Facebook: Razi Authentic Burmese Kitchen
541-841-9300

“I wasn’t even thinking about doing that. But then my brother was here — he runs the sushi bar at Market of Choice — and my husband and I came to visit. We loved Ashland. Dee and I thought, why not? So we fantasized. We thought this place would be perfect, but a friend’s restaurant was already here. They were thinking about moving, though.

“Then of course I got pregnant! And the lease came up. The day my daughter was born we signed the lease. Four months later, we opened!”

I was astonished. A new baby and a new restaurant? But Mung just laughed. “I had no idea how much work. It’s so labor intensive, a baby and a restaurant. Especially Burmese food. I mean, you can’t just go out and buy a sauce. You want it to be authentic. I toast all the spices and grind them into curry. Very traditional, the way Burmese cooking was back in the day.”

Razi Authentic Burmese Kitchen opened Oct. 10, 2022. The name, “Razi,” means “from the mountains.” As Mung pointed out, “Dee and I are originally from the Himalayas. Now we’re from the Cascades. So it fits!”

I asked about that dried tea leaf salad.

Mung beamed. “That’s fermented green tea leaves. Every family back home has their own secret recipe. This one is mine. I made the paste 53 times to get it right! This recipe is my baby. Along with Madelyn, of course.”

She turned serious for a moment. “I hope that people will come and enjoy our food, and get to know Burmese food better. Now you don’t have to go to Portland or San Francisco. You can come here!”

She laughed again. “I love cooking now, but when I get home, I tell my husband, ‘Don’t ask me to cook!'”

Fortunately, she’ll still cook for us.

Tod Davies is a board member of Ashland.news, as well as the author of the “Jam Today” cookbook/memoir series. As you can probably tell, she loves food.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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