I’m always up for an offbeat experience, especially when the location in question happens to be one of India’s biggest metropolitan cities. After all, what better way to discover an alternate side to the city!
Chennai’s Burma Bazaar has an interesting story to tell. This is where many Tamil refugees returned to, and set up homes and businesses, after their deportation to India from Burma (now Myanmar).
On my twenty-minute ride to Burma Bazaar from Savera Hotel, my local friend enthusiastically told me about the history of the place (supplemented generously by our auto driver). In 1964, large-scale expulsion of Indians in Burma, under the order of General Ne Win, saw the return of many of the Tamil populace to Chennai. The Government of Tamil Nadu set aside land for these refugees and Burma Bazaar was set up in 1969 to improve their condition. Today, Burma Bazaar is an integral part of the city, with a maze of shops selling everything from cosmetics to electronics, street food vendors.
Not much of a shopping person, my single point agenda at Burma Bazaar was clear: To feast on the various Burmese dishes on offer.
I was excitedly led through the colourful chaos of the city to a row of street-side stalls huddled close, with a crowd of customers. “One plate Atho, parcel!” shouted a heavyset elderly man, as a swarm of college students gustily tucked into plates of noodles.
The stall was run by the son of a refugee in Burma and sold various popular Burmese dishes:
- Atho (cooked plain noodles mixed and served with fresh raw vegetables)
- Egg Bejo (A deep-friedBurmese preparation topped over a boiled egg),
- Mohinga (a rice noodle and fish soup)
- Egg Noodles
I chose the Atho (mostly because everyone around seemed to be enjoying a plate of it) and was not disappointed. I enjoyed the noodles tossed in garlic oil with cabbage, fried onion, tamarind juice, chilli powder, and a dash of lime to balance the flavour.
Of course, the taste was heavily Indianised – but nobody was complaining! As I wandered about, the chatty shop owners were more than happy to talk about their stories and memories of life in Burma, making it an interesting experience for not just my stomach.
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