Sibling duo brings Burmese food to Ashland
Burmese cuisine is the latest to broaden the region’s international flavors.
Razi Authentic Burmese Kitchen opened in mid-October in the former location of Blue Toba in the Ashland Street shopping center. Brother and sister Ting Dessar and Angela Webb tout a menu that’s both unique in Southern Oregon and health-conscious.
Alongside vegan and plant-based dishes are preparations of locally sourced grass-fed beef and organic chicken. Pervading the tiny space, which serves only takeout, seasonings from Dessar’s and Webb’s native country make a big impact.
Curry, ginger, chickpea powder and tea leaves are some of the ingredients that define Razi’s recipes. But rather than searing the palate, these spices impart subtle intrigue.
Hailing from a mountainous region of Myanmar — formerly Burma — Dessar and Webb are part of the Rvwang ethnic group. Burmese food, in general, traces some influences to India, China and Taiwan.
Samosas, indeed, caused me to do a double-take when my partner and I visited Razi on a recent weekday. A quintessential Indian dish, these fried pastries are one of my perennial favorites. I couldn’t pass up the portion of five for $10.99.
From three curry bowls — beef, chicken or potato — the last in that list would have duplicated the samosa filling. So my partner ordered the chicken masala ($13.99) with tomato salad.
Curry bowls each come with a side of white rice (cauliflower “rice” costs $2 extra) and a choice of side salad. Among the day’s salad options — tomato, cabbage, cucumber and ginger — the only one that seemed to beg for more explanation was the ginger, also offered as a larger portion with a side of rice for $12.99.
Fried beans, peanuts and chickpea powder, along with its namesake root, were the salad’s key ingredients, Webb explained. Sounds heavy, my partner commented. I thought it sounded heavenly, and indeed customers posting online comments give it rave reviews.
I skipped the salad, however, in favor of more protein of the plant-based kind. New on the menu was Burmese tofu salad, combining bean curd with chickpea powder, garlic, peanut oil, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage, green onions, vegan stock, lettuce and cucumbers. Served with a side of white rice, the dish cost $12.99. Mine was the first order the restaurant filled, Webb said.
The rainy day, which kept us from eating at one of the outdoor picnic tables, did suggest hot Burmese tea ($3.99). My partner requested a Mexican Coke ($3), the other beverage on offer.
Customers awaiting orders can take a seat in a few modern plastic chairs arranged along one wall. Potted plants brighten the space, decorated with bamboo screens and colorful, floral motifs on the large menu board. I noted “yellow split bean soup” and tea leaf salad would be joining the lineup in December.
Following in the footsteps of Blue Toba, which occupied the Ashland Street storefront for eight years before moving downtown, Razi offers Rogue To Go, which supplies reusable takeout containers to a growing number of local eateries. Customers get started in Rogue To Go by paying a one-time $10 fee that furnishes a durable plastic container they can return to any participating restaurant in exchange for a clean one.
Manufactured in the United States, Rogue To Go containers are made from BPA-free plastic that can be melted down and reformed into other recycled materials products. All are commercially sanitized between uses, in compliance with Jackson County public health guidelines.
The program’s other eateries are Ashland Food Co-op, Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe, Burrito Republic, Common Block Brewing Co., Falafel Republic, Kobe, Pie + Vine, Simple Cafe and Skout Taphouse & Provisions.
Rogue to Go fans, my partner and I visited the day before Razi signed up for the program, so we couldn’t exchange our container — kept in the car — for a clean one packed with our food. Reducing landfill waste, the program also reduces packaging costs for small, family-owned and -run businesses like Razi.
Webb delivered the samosas first, piping hot and still glistening with oil. It was soon apparent the Burmese interpretation relies on a wrapper reminiscent of spring rolls, rather than the thicker pastry favored in India.
The mashed potatoes were silky and finely textured, barely encased in their thin shell that shattered with the first bite. A vinegary dipping sauce with diced shallot complemented the savory, but light snack.
The samosas’ side of fresh cucumber slices was duplicated with both our main courses. Mounds of sticky white rice with each matched the proteins in size.
Tossed with julienned fresh produce, my tofu had a contrasting creamy texture, its clean flavor enhanced with chickpea powder, an accent that would be almost impossible to pinpoint without Webb’s explanation. Diners who think they don’t care for tofu likely would change their minds after sampling this dish.
More straightforward, my partner’s curry comprised primarily chunks of chicken breast in its lightly spice sauce. Mingled with fresh cilantro, the tomato salad represented one of Burmese cuisine’s indispensable flavors, according to “The Burma Cookbook,” which resides on my bookshelf.
Portions were large enough to take some home. Next time, I’ll return with Rogue To Go container in hand for the tea leaf special and ginger salad.
Located at 1690 Ashland St., Ashland, Razi is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Monday through Tuesday. See facebook.com/raziburmesekitchen or call 541-841-9300.
Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org