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Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Best Burmese food in St. Paul: Mandalay Kitchen

The lahpet thoke, or a tea leaf salad, I ordered at Mandalay Kitchen.
Mara Peacock
The lahpet thoke, or a tea leaf salad, I ordered at Mandalay Kitchen.

In Saint Paul, a new Burmese restaurant called Mandalay Kitchen opened in Nov. 2023 at 383 University Ave W. The restaurant’s owner, Chris Tunbaw, ethnically Karen — a minority group from Myanmar — long wanted to open a restaurant in the Twin Cities with traditional Burmese and Karen food items, according to the Pioneer Press. Tunbaw lived in Myanmar until he was 10 years old when he moved to Minnesota due to the dictatorship and conflict in Myanmar. He dedicates Mandalay Kitchen to his grandmother, Daphne Tun Baw, who passed away just before its opening, and commissioned a mural outside of the restaurant depicting his grandmother. 

I went to Mandalay Kitchen, which is a 20-minute drive from Mounds View High School, on a Saturday afternoon to try a couple of their menu items with some friends. 

We started by ordering drinks. I ordered Thai tea and tried the basil lemonade and jasmine tea, which my friends ordered. The Thai tea had a great flavor and a perfect amount of sweetness. The basil lemonade balanced the savory basil well with the sour taste of the lemonade, creating a refreshing taste. While the Thai tea and the basil lemonade came with ice, the jasmine tea came out in a small teapot, steaming hot, and had a very classic and comforting feel. 

After we ordered our drinks, we ordered the cream cheese wontons, a familiar appetizer in many restaurants in the U.S. These wontons had a crispy texture and delicious flavor, served with a sweet and sour sauce. The plate also came with six wontons, which split perfectly among my group of three. 

Mara Peacock

After appetizers, I decided to take a look at the “Chef’s Recommendations” for my entree. Mandalay Kitchen has a board of “Chef Recommendations” with various popular Burmese dishes. I chose the lahpet thoke, or a tea leaf salad, which comes with fermented tea leaves, peanuts, garlic, sesame seeds and tomatoes. The tea leaves have a strong flavor, and the peanuts and garlic paired nicely with them and added a crunchy texture. I ate the dish in small bites, as the sharp, unique taste from the tea leaves didn’t allow me to eat it very quickly. Even though I ate the lahpet thoke slowly, I still liked it and enjoyed trying a dish like nothing I’ve had before. 

The restaurant had a very calm atmosphere, as it wasn’t too busy when we arrived, and the greenery hanging from the ceilings and the warm lighting gave the restaurant a cozy feel. The quick and attentive service demonstrated how much Mandalay Kitchen values their customers, as the waiter frequently checked in with us, making sure the food tasted great, and had a very friendly attitude. I also did not have an issue with parking, as a couple of small parking lots accompany the restaurant.

I would highly recommend trying Mandalay Kitchen, especially if you’ve never had Burmese food before. This restaurant had a great mix of both authentic Burmese and other Southeastern Asian food, as well as many popular food items you’ll find in Minnesota and across the country. I can definitely see myself going there again.

About the Contributor
Mara Peacock
Mara Peacock, Staff Reporter
Mara is a junior staff reporter, and this year is her first year on The Viewer. Awards: Best of SNO - Soundless storytelling: ASLHS to interpret spring musical Best of SNO - Sports betting: Teens hit the “slots” Best of SNO - The teacher shortage crisis
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