HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Discussion

Pagan: Chowdown Report

Ruth organized a chowdown in honor of Grayelf's visit at Pagan, a Burmese place in the outer Richmond (that also serves some Thai dishes; we ordered exclusively from the Burmese menu). There were 16 of us total, so we split into two groups of 8. Overall, my wife (Joanne) and I (Amit) thought that the 2 soups, 2 salads and 8 entrees ordered by our half of the chowdown were very good. Specifically, our group got the following dishes:

- Moo Hin Ga (mohinga in other restaurants): this fish chowder was excellent, comparing favorably to the mohingas at Yamo, Larkin Express Deli and Burma Superstar.

- Chin Hin Yee (Burmese hot and sour soup): a thinner broth than its Chinese analogue, but welcome on a chilly night. Like the rest of the food labeled "hot" or "spicy," the heat was not overwhelming; pretty accessible for those not into very spicy food.

- Lap Pat Thut (tea leaf salad): Tasty, although one member of our group took exception to the fact that it included lettuce.

- Lat Thut Song (rainbow salad): I can't remember the nine ingredients, but I remember cilantro, peanuts, tomato and (surprisingly) potato; the staff doesn't mix it up for you like they do theatrically at Burma Superstar.

- Spicy Eggplant with Dried Shrimp: evocative of the close link between Burmese and Indian food because of the eggplant/potato combination. However, the eggplant taste was arguably overwhelmed by the shrimp flavor, which was extremely strong. I noticed that this was the dish with the most left over at the end of the night, probably because the shrimp taste was best in small doses.

- Chin Mong Jaw with Shrimp: a dish with an intensely sour flavor, coming from "Burmese style sour vegetables." Most people really liked this dish but one person thought the sour taste was too strong.

- Shrimp Biryani: maybe the most overall disappointing dish of the night; it really had very little flavor or aroma that would lead one to describe it as anything more than rice with shrimp in it.

- Burmese Style Curry Lamb: wonderful smoky curry flavor, and the lamb was succulent and tasty. A great dish.

- Burmese Style Fish Cake Curry: this dish went the fastest; it was more sour and less smoky than the lamb curry, most likely because of the presence of tamarind.

- Nan Gyi Dok (Mild Chicken Curry): very mild and creamy because of split pea yellow powder; I am not a chicken fan but I loved it.

- Nan Pia Dok (flat noodles chicken curry): while the Nan Gyi Dok was served over rice noodles, this was served over more of a chow fun noodle. The great texture to the noodle made it a totally different, and very tasty, dish.

- See Jyet Kaukswer: this pork noodle dish was not curried like the others, but still had a bold flavor; it was a good contrast.

Hopefully, these quick descriptions will get the ball rolling on a more full discussion of the dishes, particularly the ones at the other table! Thanks to Ruth for organizing a wonderful meal and evening.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Amit, thanks for kicking off the topic for your table. I hope we can get a list of the dishes from where Ruth and I were sitting. I've not had the mohinga here yet, but am now really interested in trying it based on your description. Did you order any desserts?

    "If a chowdown happens in San Francisco, and no one reports it, was it really a chowdown?"

    1. The company was wonderful but I was a bit underwhelmed by the food. It was okay, but much of a sameness-maybe the chef was overwhelmed with the large number of people there - our group plus another large group plus other small groups.

      The wait staff were REALLY overwhelmed and I wonder if the experience might have been more enjoyable with less noise (too many people no soundproofing) and better pacing of dishes.
      I definitely agree that the biryani was poor - unflavored (but colored) rice with pieces of dry shrimp. My favorites were the salads. I had asked what the difference was btwn Burmese curry and others and got an answer that Burmese is flavored mostly by "onion and garlic" - but that would not have been my take based on the taste. None of the dishes were spicy (at least to me) and few had complex flavors. I may be one of the few who did not like the fish cakes - the sauce was okay, but compared to the tasty and spicy fish cakes I have had in Thailand these had no taste. The noodles with coconut curry were nice but heavy on the noodles and extremely light on the meat (pork, I believe) - almost undecernible.
      I am no expert on Burmese food and while this was a pleasant experience I wouldn't find myself hurrying back. I tend to prefer more complex and spicy food. I also found the serving size small given the prices and location - but perhaps I am out of touch or just spoiled by the bounteous servings in my local Asian places.

      1. I was 'underwhelmed' as well...nothing really reached out and grabbed me, and the only memories ...except for a volume induced headache..was lettuce in the salad and too many dishes with potato as a filler...I will stick with 'Mandalay' when I am in the Richmond.. if I am craving Burmese food (which is one of my favorite Asian cuisines...!)

        1. I liked the Rainbow Salad, it was notably spicier than the ones I've had at other places. I also enjoyed the Moo Hin Ga. The curries were unmemorable for me, but I the flat noodles in the Nan Pia Dok were well cooked.

          We ordered dessert from the Thai side of the menu -- the standard mango with sticky rice and fried bananas with coconut ice cream. Nothing special, but both good enough to order again. It looks as if I enjoyed this more than others, but perhaps I'm influenced by the fact that the food is a good value -- most things were around $8-9. They handled our large rather raucus group graciously and I appreciate the effort put into this type of family run neighborhood eatery.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wanderlust21

            Thanks to all the SF Bay Area 'Hounds who showed up for "my" Chowdown (yes, that is what I've been calling it, so sue me!). It was big fun putting faces to names, and you were so welcoming to a wandering Vancouver 'Hound. I only wish I could have met the folks at the other end of the table properly :-(.

            Since this was just the second time I've ever had Burmese food, you can take the following with a grain or three of salt: I found several of the dishes a bit mellow too and I was not a fan of the fish cakes (to be fair, that is a general thing with me). I found the okra inedibly chewy, and was taken aback by the lettuce in the two salads we had. Whinging aside, I really did value the chance to try so many other Burmese dishes in a different style and setting than Larkin Express Deli (now going by Burmese Kitchen Larkin Express, I understand). The flavour of the tea leaf salad alone is so unique and memorable that it will draw me back again, though I might consider trying Mandalay next time for comparo's sake. We ended up doing a tour of City Hall on Tuesday at 2 which seemed like a great excuse for a late Burmese lunch at Larkin so I managed to squeeze two Burmese fests into our short trip. Will post on it and the rest of our feasting as soon as I can... thanks again, everyone!

          2. Our group at the other end of the table had:
            #1 Battered fried squash sticks served with chef's special dipping sauce.
            #6 Samusa Soup (Vegetarian) with samusas, falafals, lentils, cabbage, and onions
            #8 Ong No Kaw Soi (Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup) with chicken, onion, cilantro, and lime
            #11 Tea Leaf Salad (Lap Pat Thut) Imported Burmese tea leaves, mixed nuts, fried garlic, sesame seed, peanuts, grounded shrimps and dressing
            #12 Ginger Salad (Gin Thut) Pickled ginger, toasted mixed nuts, fried garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, peanuts, grounded shrimp and dressing
            #28 Pumpkin stew slow cooked with pork (w/ a side of coconut rice)
            #33 Burmese Style Lamb Curry Lamb - cooked with potato, tomato and spices
            #42 Nan Pia Dok (Flat Noodles Chicken Curry) - Flat flour noodle with spiced chicken curry sauce, fish cake, split yellow pea powder, fried onion and cilantro
            #38 Burmese Style Fish Cake Curry - with tomato, onion, tamarind and spices
            #23 Pan Fry Okra Prawn - Sauteed okra with prawns in ginger and garlic spicy sauce
            Palata - bread
            Shwe Yin Aye (Combination Sweet) - Coconut milk, sticky rice, white bread, jello and tapioca

            I loved the lamb curry, it made me very happy. Other top dishes for me were the coconut chicken soup, the ginger salad and the okra. The squash appetizer was a total waste but the other dishes were nice enough. The combination sweet dessert was interesting but I don't need to do it again.

            8 Replies
            1. re: larochelle

              Well, I liked the dipping sauce on the squash appetizer <g>.

              I thought generally the curries could have used more oomph. I've never had the Samusa soup, and I enjoyed it, but I can't compare it to the famous BSS version. The chicken coconut soup suffered from my memories of the first version I had at the original Nan Yang, as did the ginger salad. Now I'll have to revisit those (IIRC those were two dishes that survived the yuppification of Nan Yang in good form).

              I'm not an okra fan, but the sauce on that dish was my favorite. The noodle dish grew on me -- at first bite struck me as bland, but subsequent bites revealed some interesting smokey notes. Unlike greyelf, I've always enjoyed the rubbery chewiness of fish cakes. The palata was also an addictive mix of crisp and chewy.

              It was a pleasure to meet greyelf and I was pleased that so many people came to show her some San Francisco chowhound hospitality.

              1. re: larochelle

                Thanks for posting, Rochelle. Thought I should get back to this thread since it’s Burmese new year. I think our table liked our dishes better than the other group did.

                The Chin Mong Jaw with Shrimp at the other table is a dish I've enjoyed here before. The sour vegetable is sorrel.

                The wine I brought was the 2003 Mönchhof Robert Eymael Estate Riesling from Germany’s Mosel region. Corkage is $10 here.
                http://www.moenchhof.de/03_englisch/0...

                #1 Battered fried squash sticks served with chef's special dipping sauce.
                This turned out to be zucchini, don’t order this.

                #6 Samusa Soup (Vegetarian) with samusas, falafals, lentils, cabbage, and onions
                I enjoyed this, but I like the thickened texture of B Star Bar and Burma Superstar’s more. So, maybe there’s still a reason to go back to BSS.

                #8 Ong No Kaw Soi (Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup) with chicken, onion, cilantro, and lime
                Chicken-y, velvety comfort. Liked this quite a bit, especially after spiking it with a squeeze of lime and a bit of the crushed red chili pepper served on the side. Probably my favorite version in the city these days.

                #11 Tea Leaf Salad (Lap Pat Thut) Imported Burmese tea leaves, mixed nuts, fried garlic, sesame seed, peanuts, grounded shrimps and dressing
                Preferred the ginger salad, too much lettuce.

                #12 Ginger Salad (Gin Thut) Pickled ginger, toasted mixed nuts, fried garlic, peanuts, sesame seeds, peanuts, grounded shrimp and dressing

                #28 Pumpkin stew slow cooked with pork (w/ a side of coconut rice
                )Loved the coconut rice (as I always do), but this dish was a miss. The components didn’t really come together and lacked depth. Seemed like it needed more time on the fire.

                #33 Burmese Style Lamb Curry Lamb - cooked with potato, tomato and spices
                Delicious, and I especially appreciated that the lamb was tender and not dried out and stringy.

                #42 Nan Pia Dok (Flat Noodles Chicken Curry) - Flat flour noodle with spiced chicken curry sauce, fish cake, split yellow pea powder, fried onion and cilantro
                Forgot that I’d had this the first time here or we wouldn’t have ordered it. Didn’t stand out then or this time, but competent and a pretty presentation.

                #38 Burmese Style Fish Cake Curry - with tomato, onion, tamarind and spices
                The fish cakes were more spongey than rubbery, but the gravy didn’t deliver for me.

                #23 Pan Fry Okra Prawn - Sauteed okra with prawns in ginger and garlic spicy sauce
                This was my favorite of the saucings. At first glance, it looked just like the one on the fish cakes, but luckily, had more going on. I liked the okra, cooked just enough to sweeten them but still capture the fresh greenness. They were cut rather awkwardly, making them hard to handle or bite into. This is a seasonal offering and I’d order it again.

                Palata – bread
                The palata here was golden, crisp and multi-layered once more. Much better than the norm.

                Shwe Yin Aye (Combination Sweet) - Coconut milk, sticky rice, white bread, jello and tapioca
                This inspired some interesting comments as we tried to figure out what all was in it. The blobs of sticky rice were hard to find. “White bread” doesn’t sound all that appealing, but the yeasty flavor and firmish texture of the bread really make a difference here.

                I had a cup of hot ginger tea, which is made from a tea bag of musty dried ginger powder. Not recommended. I actually liked the one sip of instant Burmese tea I tasted.

                Jennifer Maiser on Pagan and Burmese Food
                http://blogs.kqed.org/bayareabites/20...

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  Melanie, your mention of the ginger tea reminds me that I really enjoyed the Thai iced tea I had here. The first time I had this was at Lime Tree, and it was great. I then ordered it from the Slanted Door takeaway at Ferry Plaza and had to chuck it out, it was so sweet. Next I tried it at Pagolac where it was again very good. I think the Pagan version gets the edge because it is very tasty and comes in an elegant glass :-).

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Was it made with sweetened condensed milk? That's how i prefer it, but i've noticed that some spots are using half-and-half and sugar instead.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      I think it was, as it had that slight stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouthiness :-).

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        I'm always surprised when someone says they use sweetened condensed milk in Thai iced tea. My experience has been that while sweetened condensed milk is used for Vietnamase coffee, iced tea is made with half-and-half -- sweetened condensed milk doesn't dissolve/disperse as well in an ice-cold beverage, and my sense is that you'd have to pre-mix it in the kitchen rather than serve it as iced ice topped with sweet milk. Maybe I'll test my theory at home -- gotta love squeeze bottles of SCM!

                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          I had the Thai iced coffee and I too think it was made with scm, but in Thailand they use BOTH scm and sugar! I found Pagan's too sweet (and I like sweet) - but perhaps true to the original as I often have to tell the people in Thailand to go easy on the sugar!

                          1. re: estnet

                            I've just realized that the super-sweet drink I had at Out the Door in the Ferry Plaza was actually a Hong Kong milk tea -- sorry about that. The ones at Lime Tree and Pagolac were both that distinctive orangey colour though, and not as sweet, I thought. I noticed that some darker layered beverages in the same tall glasses were heading down to the other table -- I take it those were the iced coffees.

                  2. link

                    -----
                    Pagan Restaurant
                    3199 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94121