It kind of flies under the radar, but Macau has a thriving Burmese community. In fact of all the Southeastern Asian countries, the Burmese population is the largest. The migration began in 1948 when Burma was granted independence from Britain, and numbers swelled again in 1962 when socialist policies inside the country confiscated and foreign and Chinese assets alike. When the disaffected fled, they fled poor, arriving in Macau with nothing.
Being hard working and industrious though, they were able to assimilate into the local culture quite quickly, building good lives from then. The Three Lamps District is the centre of Burmese dining in Macau, home to quite a few restaurants that serve Burmese food exactly how it’s done in Myanmar, not some scaled down second rate version that sold out for the Chinese palate.
Ya Xiang is probably the most well known and celebrated of these restaurants, and I tried it out with my good friend Wang Jian, during the 2017 Dragon Boat Races.
Arriving for a Saturday lunch, we had to wait about 15 minutes to be seated. After perusing their menu, we tried all three of their specialty dishes: Coconut Chicken Soup ($30), Fish Soup Noodles ($29), and Stirred Noodle with Ba La Chuang ($31), along with Burmese Hot and Sour Beef Soup Noodles ($37).
Of the three specialty selections, the Coconut Chicken Soup and Stirred Noodle with Ba La Chuang are definitely the ones to try. In fact, I thought so much of them that I included both on my list of 10 Can’t Miss Dishes.
Two completely different styles, the Coconut Chicken Soup pairs soft noodles with tender pieces of chicken in an irresistible coconut soup, while the Stirred Noodles are a salty sassy mix of shrimp paste to the same type of noodle, that just tease with taste and texture.
The Fish Soup Noodles really pale in comparison, lacking both mischief and mayhem, they just sort of “are”, and I wouldn’t order them again.
The Burmese Hot and Sour Beef Soup Noodles for $37 were great as well, almost to the level of the two specialty dishes that I described above. Granted there wasn’t a ton of beef nor did the noodles add much of anything, but the soup itself was spectacular.
A stone cold killer, the salty sour broth packed a vicious punch, like getting knocked straight into next week. It’s the type of spice experience that hardly ever gets featured in Western cuisine, so you might as well try it when on the road in far flung Asia.
Extremely economical, Ya Xiang keeps the prices down no matter what you order. Other things available include noodles ($25 to $30), rice and meat dishes ($37 to $40), and main course favourites like potatoes, squid, chicken wing and duck ($26 to $62).
** There are actually two Ya Xiang restaurants right beside each other with the same menu. The only difference are the hours, with the other shop open daily between 7:00 am to 5:00 pm.