This reviewer is undertaking a 30 day ethnic food challenge aiming to eat well, save money and lose weight. The idea is that traditional foods can be more natural, affordable and delectable if chosen with a bit of thought and some local knowledge. To begin let’s agree that for this purpose “Ethnic Eats” refers to cuisine stamp collecting. In other words the classic or interpreted foods of other countries. 30 distinct cuisines are not hard to collect in the greater Boston area but sorting out the gems and discovering the secrets spots before they are “outed” is key.
First stop (weighing in at 174). “Hello Rangoon!” If you have an imminent mission to Burma you might want to dip your culinary toes in first at YoMa in Allston, MA. Burma (now Myanmar) is situated east of India and west of Thailand and has ingested the best parts of Indian, Southeast Asian and Chinese cooking. Burmese born Chef Sai Kyaw’s kitchen is redolent of lemon grass, lime, ginger, cilantro and chili peppers. The neat and sedate dining room has a vaulted ceiling with panoramic scenes of Burma. Tofu Jaw, a chickpea flour tofu is found in many of the dishes and the level of spicy hotness across the menu varies from cooling to somewhat hot. Those wise in the way of lunch advise to start with some of the unique salads.
LaPhetThot (Tea Leaf Salad) included pickled tea with sesame seeds, peanuts, crispy peas and garlic, tomato, cabbage, canola oil, chili, lime and fresh garlic was welcome contrast of flavors and textures. The pickled tea leaves themselves a bit like grape leaves, proved so toothsome one craves a western portion. On a successive visit the JinnThot (Ginger Salad), the ThaYetThot (green Mango Salad) and MeeShay (Noodle with Pork Stew, mustard green and fried garlic) are equally welcome new tastes.
MoHinGa with mashed catfish, somen wheat noodles w/egg in a steamy cloud of lemongrass and ginger keeps the whole meal company in Burmese soup fashion. A happy companion to AThoSone (Assorted Noodles). Three types of steamed noodles both rice and egg varieties intertwine and are joined by the Tofu Jaw, cabbage, cucumber, onion, potato, peanut, garlic, cilantro, scallion and tangy tamarind. This dish was a bit spicy hot for one diner but for many the helix of perfectly steamed noodles with vegetables showered with dry chili would be hot, but not too hot.
Paired with Burmese Iced Tea topped with half & half this meal was a fresh and tranquil oasis with attentive service and a quick kitchen. Open for lunch and dinner but closed on Wednesdays, YoMa is located at 5 North Beacon Street in Allston, MA 02134. (617) 783 1372. YoMaBoston.com
The 30 Day Boston Ethnic Food Challenge continues next in Thailand, just down the street.