Burmese New Year Water Festival 2010


A couple of weeks ago Suanne and I dropped by Bo Laksa King when we were in the neighborhood. We were going to the Chilean bakery next door to get some pastries. It was fancy bumping into Keev who was there having Bo’s Laksa.

Suanne and I were not there for food, having just had lunch. We just wanted to drop by and say hi. Bo and Tiffany are such a nice couple that we do not consider them as “blog topics”. We had become friends. I think many people who had been to Bo Laksa King can vouch how down to earth they are.

Anyway, while there Bo extended an invitation to Suanne and I to the Burmese New Year Water Festival. We were initially not sure of going because we did not know what to really expect. Oh boy … we were glad we did!
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The Burmese New New Year Water Festival is also known as Thingyan. Thingyan is normally celebrated in the middle of April over five days. This celebration is similar to the more well known Songkran festival in Thailand.

There were no water throwing here in Vancouver. Instead they do go around sprinkling water on everyone’s shoulders. The water symbolizes the cleansing of the bad things of previous year and starting anew.

It was only at the festival that we learned Bo was one of about seven people who put together the event. Apparently, they have been doing this for the past 10 years already.

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I was impressed with the organization and the turn out. It seems like half of Vancouverites of Burmese descent were here. Bo told us that there are only about 800 to 1000 Burmese living in Metro Vancouver.

Suanne and I learned a lot about the Burmese culture that day. There were many facets of the people we did not know. The Burmese are such gentle and humble people that we felt at home immediately.

The Burmese are generous people too. They will share whatever little they have and not expect anything in return. This festival is not funded by big corporations. Everything we saw was because of the hard work of everyone. And you are NOT expected to pay to attend this too … although they have a donation box at the entrance. They just wanted people to come and celebrate the new year with them.

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Even though Suanne and I did not understand a word of what was said the whole time we were there, we enjoyed ourselves. The music, both traditional and modern, were contagious. There was once when I was speaking with someone and when a popular song came on, he stopped talking to me in mid sentence, turned to the stage and sang along. We resumed the conversation only after the song ended. LOL!

Yeah, the Burmese are boisterous alright.

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Bo Laksa King was first discovered by the Vancouver chowhound community. The chowhounders were all raving about his laksa and Burmese specialties. But Bo is very conservative. He sticks with just a small menu and he brings out a few specialties only once a while. The chowhounders were once discussing plonking down $50 each for Bo to cook up a dinner for them. That did not materialize but you can imagine how many people are eager to see what Bo has up his sleeve.

Well … ladies and gentleman, boys and girls. This is THE event where you can get Bo’s specialties … and it is all you can eat too!

There must be almost … 20 different Burmese food in the event. And they are ALL excellent. Bo is the one in charge of the food of the event. Bo did not make all the food though in case you are wondering.

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One thing I noticed about Burmese food is that it so closely resembles Malay cooking. The taste, style, flavour, ingredients, color … they are so identical. I had thought that Burmese cooking would be more like Thai cooking.

Burmese cooking is influenced by India, Thailand and China — mostly Indian. It is the Indian influence that explains most of the similarities with Malay cooking.

Look at the above. The Burmese calls this beef curry but it is exactly like Beef Rendang for Malay. You know, I swear that this beats any Beef Rendang I had tasted anywhere else in Metro Vancouver.

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The food was laid out on a long table. There are so much food that there is no way one can carry all the food in one round. We had to go back three times so that we get to sample each and every item. Oh yeah … I think we covered everything at the end.

At the beginning of the line, is the national dish of Burma …

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This is called Mohinga and is vermicelli with fish sauce/soup. The main ingredient is chick pea flour and the broth is rich. It is not actually spicy although the color does suggest it is.

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You are going to gasp at me I know.

If you ask me to pick one dish I like best, it is the one above. Pork Curry.

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OMG. It is absolutely heavenly.

You see, a lot of people uses chicken or beef for curry. But if you think about it, pork is not commonly used for curry. At least not on most menus in Metro Vancouver. So this has some element of novelty for me.

I like Chinese Roast Pork. If you like Roast Pork like I do, you will absolutely love this. Bo made this the way it is meant to be … he he he … with that thick layer of fat. You got to taste it to know what I mean. I went back to get a second helping of this … and this time I asked for the fattier pieces.

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Another of our favourite is the Chicken Briyani. Although they made a very big pot of this, this one was the first to be completed.

By the time we got to this, there were no more chicken. I saw people having huge pieces of chicken with the rice. So we ended up with just the rice and they were marvelous. Just look at it. I am not exaggerating when I say that this has to be one of the best looking (and tasting) Briyani in town.

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We also love the sambal with dried shrimp. It was really, really spicy.

I am sure there is a Burmese name for this but I’ll call it sambal. I was hoping that Bo will make this and sell this in a take home container. I used to eat this with just plain steamed rice.

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This dessert was good too. It is glutinous rice ball with sugar slab filing. It is like the Malaysian onde-onde. The exterior was chewy and the insides had syrupy crunchy sugar. We had two rounds of this.

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This is Suanne’s first round plate …

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…and this is my first round plate. This was the best buffet in town. Too bad they only have this once a year.

You know, if you want to still try Burmese food, you can. Apparently there is another Burmese New Year event being organized by another Burmese group this Saturday (April 24th). There will be lots of food but it is not prepared by Bo (in case you are wondering). Like this event, the exotic food is free of charge but donation is welcome. It is at the Oakridge Mall in Vancouver.

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Here are all the other food we tried at the festival.

The entertainment was great but what surprises me was that Bo is actually a great singer too!

We asked Bo why he does not make all these food. I am very sure a lot of people will enjoy it. I find it strange but Bo said he just doesn’t want to do that. He chooses to just keep it small.

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Thanks a lot for the invite, Bo. Suanne and I was glad we made it. You can be sure that we will be there next year. This next time, we will make a beeline and make sure we get a piece of that chicken with the briyani.

29 thoughts on “Burmese New Year Water Festival 2010

  1. Dear friends,
    Thank you all for your energy to promote the Burmese nature(Generosity and peace loving culture.)
    Wishing you all happy,healthy and generous people in the place you resided.
    best wishes, with myitta,
    shwe

  2. Pingback: Chow Times » Burmese Feast in Bo Laksa King Bubble and Bits, East Hastings
  3. Pingback: Chow Times » Bo Laksa King Bubble and Bit on East Hastings and Nanaimo, Vancouver
  4. wow, what a cool event. now that’s how to try authentic food, instead of at a restaurant. amazing looking buffet of food… wish i could have been there.

  5. Thanks for this informal post about Burmese food. Great stuff and good to know next time where to go!

    Beside Bo’s restaurant, is there another Burmese restaurant in Metro Vancouver?

    • Hi Jean:
      I am not aware of any other Burmese restaurant in Metro Vancouver. Seeing that there are only about 1000 Burmese in the Lower Mainland, I am not surprised if Bo is the only one who operates an eatery.
      Ben

      • A few years ago there used to be a small cafe/restaurant on Burrard just north of the bridge called Mini Mandalay. I never been, but heard about it from my cousin’s wife who’s from Burma. Not sure if they’re still in business.

      • I have been to Mandalay…it was pretty decent actually. It’s long gone.

        New Mitzie’s in Chinatown has (had?) a Burmese chef. I haven’t been there in a while, but I recall that they had some Burmese dishes within a predominantly HK Cafe type menu.

      • Wow talk about memory lane. I think I been to the “old” Mitzie’s in the early 80s, or it could have been late 70s even.

        Not to hijack the thread, but fmed, you been to Jade Dynasty just a few doors west ? I was at New Town Bakery the other night and noticed JD, didn’t even know there are still dim sum in Chinatown other than Floata. Push carts or menus ?

  6. fmed ur rite. like always…. 😀
    Theravada Buddhism teaches to do good, avoid evil, and purify the mind. the first two are pretty much in every religion. purifying of the mind requires mindfulness of your speech action and thoughts. and to rid one selves of any ego, desire and materialistic thoughts. they believe that life is suffering and that suffering is inevitable. to end suffering and reach nirvana you have to remove all impure thoughts. normally done via meditation. i imagine lots of Burmese kids spent a month or longer as a monastery as a novice monk(samanera)
    i think the teachings are reflected in the Burmese culture and people.
    be very interested in a BO catered event. wonder what are some of his other specialties he can prepare. do you think he can do an extreme Burmese dinner. 😀 just kidding..
    i be more than interested in helping organize it, since it means i get to eat some great food.

      • I did some research…so if you don’t mind me geeking out a bit: Burma is mostly Buddhist of the Theravada sect which allows the eating of pork.

      • buddhist theravada are less likely to be vegetarian as the mahayana buddhist.
        theravada buddhist monks ask for alms for food and cannot choose what is offered to them. so they eat whatever is offered by their devotees.
        eating is to kill your hunger and not for pleasure.

  7. There are a few hotels offering weekend international buffets. They may be interested to host a Burmese theme. Besides the exposure and experience will be a win-win for all. If Bo is reading this, go for it. No venture no gain 😉

  8. First time I saw Bo’s pic. He looks cool. I originally pictured him as middle aged.

    Hmmm now if we can only get a group pic of the 8GTCC team …

    • Hi Jonnek:
      The 8GTCC team will remain faceless. Some of the team members don’t even want to use their real first names. If you want to see what they look like, you have to join us in the dinners. Are you coming to the next one? The 8GTCC team wants to see what Jonnek is like in person.
      Ben

  9. Haha. Rockstar Chef! (That is Bo is it not in the last pic?)

    At Chowhound, shortly after uncovering BLK, we had toyed with the idea of having Bo cater a Burmese dinner for us. That was before he started the delivery business. He was going to Thailand as well, so we held off. Though that trip fell through, we haven’t picked up the project. It never hurts to ask if he would do this a la 12B or SwallowTail ;-). We just need a venue.

  10. Mmm…this kind of event is way better than Taste of the City or Eat Vancouver!

    I wonder if they advertised it much? If so, I will definitely look out for it next year!

  11. I thought u said suanne and yourself had just eaten lunch, and yet u guys could eat again..well..who can resist free food…right!…lol!..just kidding

    • Hi Mimi:
      I meant to say we had just eaten lunch on the day when we dropped by Bo’s Laksa. That day was the week before the Burmese New Year Water Festival. I should have been clearer on this.
      Ben

  12. Bo is the man! Wow this sounds like a wonderful food and culture night. I didnt know about the donation box. Or I would have definitely gone.
    Bo’s Rendang is defintiley top three in city. His burmese sambal with chili padi(bird’s eye) is the best. His roti canai and laksa are superb as well..
    Ben ur probably swamped with 8gtcc, extreme dimsum and reman extravaganza. But should consider adding a burmese nite as well. Perhaps the chowhounder can organize it. hint hint! 😀

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