Bagan is an unassuming little eatery in Strathfield’s busy restaurant hub, decidedly daggy inside (think ageing Burma tourism posters and mocha coloured walls) but it’s the food that counts, right? Bagan’s extensive menu spans soups, salads, curries, noodles, rice dishes, meats and seafood, with dishes ranging from the heavily Chinese influenced, to Indian-inspired, to uniquely Burmese.
The only other Burmese place I’ve tried was a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Phnom Penh, run by Burmese people of Indian ethnicity, so it was all paratha breads and curries. Bagan’s menu is quite comprehensive though, so we pick the crispy, sticky ‘Bagan Chicken’, a bit 80s Chinese but with a delicious spicy kick balancing out the sweet honey coating, and tuck into Burmese fried rice, loaded with prawns and richly dark from soy.
A huge fan of all kinds of Asian salads, I eagerly await the Laphet Salad, a traditional Burmese salad of fermented tea leaves often served at traditional ceremonies, but for once am stumped. There is a really strong, fermented odour, almost fishy. The salad has a beautiful mix of textures but is overpowered by the pungent taste of the tea leaves. It kind of reminded me of eating something in Cambodia packed with prahok, everyone’s favourite fish paste. Next time, I’ll stick to green mango, or try the pennywort. The plus side is the ridiculously good prices at Bagan – the salad’s are mostly $5.80 each!
The standout dish was the Watt Thanut, or pork curry with green mango pickle. So rich, earthy and complex, with melt in your mouth slow cooked meat and a subtle hit of green mango pickle, mellowed in the cooking process. If you’re a fat fan, you'[ll love the little chunks of silken pork fat swimming in the curry (too soft and gelatinous for me though). The curry dishes at Bagan are $8.80 – they’re not huge servings, but enough for two people to share if you order several dishes. Bagan is a unique eatery with much to explore, from comforting staples to more unique flavours.