Oct 4, 2021 - Food and Drink

Colorado's first Burmese restaurant highlights heritage, savory flavor

Urban Burma Denver

The sii cheh kao sweh at Urban Burma in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Pacharej Nuntanavooth/Siri Tan

Brothers and business partners, Siri Tan and Za Awg, spent their September suddenly popping up around town.

Driving the news: Colorado's first Burmese eatery has taken to the streets with the launch of its new trailer, from which hungry folks on the go can snag the spiced and savory Southeast Asian dishes.

Flashback: Tan grew up in what was formerly called Burma — now Myanmar — and moved to Colorado in 2014 where he helped resettle refugees in Aurora. Though he'd never previously worked in restaurants, Tan almost instantly noticed the city's lack of Burmese cuisine, and longed for traditional family mealtime.

  • On a trip to San Francisco, his yearning and curiosity turned to inspiration as he and his uncle lined up in a slow-moving queue for the Bay Area's famed Burma Superstar.
  • "In Burma, you don't wait for food like that," Tan said. "I thought there was a great opportunity for me to start a Burmese restaurant in Denver."

Inside a former Aurora mini mall, his idea found a home, with the 2019 launch of Mango House, which describes itself as a "shared space for resettled refugees." He set up Urban Burma one of six independent stalls tucked in the food hall and started serving in April of that year.

The menu: Short and precise, Burmese fare is influenced by its neighboring countries' cuisines — think of dishes from Thailand, China and India. Almost all of Urban Burma's dishes can be made vegetarian or vegan and Tan says his secret sauce is "really good" not "cheap," soy sauce.

Order this:

  • Tea leaf salad: This Burmese staple mixes fermented tea leaves with cabbage, tomato wedges, garlic and peanuts — both fried — and crunchy yellow lentils.
  • Samosas: These warm pockets of spiced veggies with a crispy exterior are best dunked in the smooth, sweet tamarind sauce.
  • Noodles: Slurp the sii cheh kao sweh, long, flat noodles mixed with fried garlic, sesame oil, green onions and for the meat eaters strips of crispy marinated pork or chicken.
    • If you're sharing family-style, get the ono kao sweh, too — chewy egg noodles and chicken drenched in a coconut broth and topped with crispy lentils, cilantro, red onions and a not-too-soft boiled egg, all topped with fresh herbs and lime.

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