Aurora Company Highlights Burmese Cuisine and Refugee Issues

Burmese spring rolls plated for the Burmese Village dinner.EXPAND
Burmese spring rolls plated for the Burmese Village dinner.
Mark Antonation

Each year, hundreds of refugees fleeing war, persecution and violence arrive in Denver looking to start a new life. Many of those are Burmese (more than 3,000 since 2007, according to Project Worthmore), including Zin Zin, a talented cook who has partnered with Denverite Marin Toscano to help other refugees adapt to life in a new country. Toscano founded Fooition (a combination of food and intuition) to help teach nutrition to those unfamiliar with Western foods and grocery stores, and Zin Zin has joined her to present cultural dinners that raise money to fund the classes. Since there are currently no Burmese restaurants in the Denver area, Zin Zin's Burmese Village dinners are a rare opportunity to enjoy unique food while helping a worthy cause — and even to assist Zin Zin with the goal of opening her own restaurant.

Marin Toscano (left) and Zin Zin (right) use funds raised from their Burmese dinners to teach nutrition classes for refugees living in Denver. Zin Zin is wearing traditional Burmese makeup called thanaka.EXPAND
Marin Toscano (left) and Zin Zin (right) use funds raised from their Burmese dinners to teach nutrition classes for refugees living in Denver. Zin Zin is wearing traditional Burmese makeup called thanaka.
Mark Antonation

The most recent Burmese Village dinner was held on Saturday, July 23, at the Mango House in Aurora, a resource center for refugees that offers space for education, medical offices, religious groups and other services. Some forty guests enjoyed a five-course dinner prepared by Zin Zin, along with cooking demonstrations and other Burmese cultural presentations.

Burmese cuisine differs from other culinary styles in Southeast Asia because of its proximity to India and its strong Buddhist influence. Burma (named Myanmar by the military dictatorship that took over in 1989) has dozens of distinct ethnic groups and geographical zones, so the cuisine is equally diverse, but common elements include the use of fresh herbs, seafood and abundant produce — all of which featured prominently on Zin Zin's menu. 

Fresh herbs, chile powder, limes and fried garlic — all toppings for mohinga soup.EXPAND
Fresh herbs, chile powder, limes and fried garlic — all toppings for mohinga soup.
Mark Antonation

Spring rolls were bright and crunchy with stir-fried jicama, cilantro, bean sprouts, egg and shrimp, served with a side of date-chili sauce — a recipe Zin Zin created to eliminate processed sugar in favor of naturally occurring sugars. Uncommon ingredients in other dishes included banana stem in a fish soup called mohinga, opo squash in a chicken stew, pennywort cooked into a peppery summer soup, shredded green mango (as opposed to green papaya in Thai salads), and fermented tea leaves in an after-dinner salad. A dessert made with puréed black rice, coconut milk and ghee combined the texture of a chewy fudge brownie with the distinctly Indian flavor of clarified butter.

Zin Zin hopes to open her own restaurant and has self-published a recipe book, also called Burmese Village, that she sells for $10 each to help fund her goal. Although the restaurant is just in the planning phase, she has already talked to government agencies and restaurant organizations to learn about financing and assistance available through various resources.

The next Burmese Village dinner will be held on September 17; tickets are not on sale yet, but here are a few pictures from the most recent dinner to give you an idea of what's in store. The dinner was sponsored in part by Geotech, which provided food-service equipment for the event, and Aurora Health Access.

Green summer soup made with pennywort, and village chicken.EXPAND
Green summer soup made with pennywort, and village chicken.
Mark Antonation
These Burmese spring rolls are made with rice-and-wheat wrappers stuffed with shrimp, jicama, egg, carrot, herbs and sprouts.EXPAND
These Burmese spring rolls are made with rice-and-wheat wrappers stuffed with shrimp, jicama, egg, carrot, herbs and sprouts.
Mark Antonation
Green mango salad and sticky rice.EXPAND
Green mango salad and sticky rice.
Mark Antonation
Opo squash, green mango and chile powder.EXPAND
Opo squash, green mango and chile powder.
Mark Antonation
Mohinga noodle soup made with catfish, banana stalk, hard-boiled egg and lemongrass.EXPAND
Mohinga noodle soup made with catfish, banana stalk, hard-boiled egg and lemongrass.
Mark Antonation
Village chicken with opo squash.EXPAND
Village chicken with opo squash.
Mark Antonation
Zin Zin self-published a cookbook to help raise money to open her own restaurant.EXPAND
Zin Zin self-published a cookbook to help raise money to open her own restaurant.
Mark Antonation
Zin Zin demonstrates how spring rolls are made.EXPAND
Zin Zin demonstrates how spring rolls are made.
Mark Antonation
A summer beverage made with lime and palm sugar alongside a Burmese Village menu.EXPAND
A summer beverage made with lime and palm sugar alongside a Burmese Village menu.
Mark Antonation
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Mango House

1532 Galena St.
Aurora, Colorado 80010

303-984-4778

1532galena.com


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