Take a Bite

'Eden Eats' Burmese at Lemongrass Cafe

March 16th, 2012

pgcNadine Kam photos
Pacific Gateway Center executive director Dr. Tin Myaing Thein, left, and chef Aye Aye Maw, right, welcomed Eden Grinshpan, host of the Cooking Channel program “Eden Eats” to PGC's Lemongrass Cafe March 15 for a taping of a Honolulu episode of the show.

I admit to selective hearing sometimes. Invited to a popup dinner at Pacific Gateway Center's Lemongrass Café on March 15, I heard mainly "Burmese food," and maybe something to do with the Cooking Channel.

Dinner will start at 6, I was told. Two-and-a-half hours later ...

Beyond simply enjoying a cuisine I'd never tried before, the event was made-for-television, meaning a lot of delays and waiting. I felt like an actress, prepared to smile, perk up, animate and be excited on cue. Not one to emote, that's not easy for me. Put it this way: When my Kailua house was robbed of jewelry, all the contents of my dressers strewn throughout the bedroom, I overheard the police officers talking outside, saying they didn't believe me because I was too calm and rational. What was I supposed to do, cry, be hysterical? That's not me.

Le Cordon Bleu-schooled Eden prepares to dig into the mohinga, a breakfast staple in Myanmar.

The crew of "Eden Eats," hosted by Eden Grinshpan, was delayed getting to the restaurant after filming malassada action at Agnes' Portuguese Bake Shop in Kailua. By about 7:30 p.m., other diners were allowed to start eating, but not the head table, where I was sitting and most of the filming would take place. Sitting next to me, Makana Shook said she was prepared to eat my arm. I was actually grateful for the delay because I had eaten lunch at Chun Wah Kam, and was still sated eight-and-a-half hours later.

The other diners paid for their earlier start, though, when at 10 p.m., those who wanted to leave were asked to stay for the sake of keeping the restaurant filled from beginning to end. We were released at about 10:30 p.m., easily a 12- to 14-hour day for most of the guests. People may have been tired or nervous because there were at least three incidents of tipped glasses over the course of the evening, though none while cameras were rolling.

The premise of the show is to peek into the sometimes strange world and kitchens of immigrants across the nation rebuilding their lives in the United States, recreating their cultures through food. It's a great concept, and you can get a taste of it at director Samantha Schutz's projects site. That is, if you don't mind a few bloody bits. True foodies wouldn't flinch.

The Honolulu show will air sometime in August.

The TV crew had the option of Ethiopian fare or Burmese, but Aye Aye Maw's Burmese cooking won the day. Her menu of ginger salad, shrimp fritters, cucumber salad, mohinga—a fish sauce and rice noodle soup that is the national dish of Burma—and tapioca dessert did not disappoint. (Read more in my column coming up March 21.) After a month of popups, she'll begin offering Burmese meals every Sunday from 6 p.m., at a very reasonable $20 per person.

"It's not for profit at all," she said. "I just want people to know what is Burmese food."

pgcmohingaMohinga, a thick rice noodle soup that is the national dish of Myanmar, is brought before the camera.

pgccucCucumber salad.

pgcshrimpShrimp fritters accompanied by an herb-filled tamarind-fish sauce and Burmese black tea, for sipping, not dipping. Unbelievably yummy!

pgccamerasCameras roll as Eden speaks with Dr. Thein, who also hails from Burma, and the chef.

pgcchipsPotato chips and shrimp chips kept hungry diners fueled before dinner started. Diners who said they never eat potato chips, finished off every bowl offered.

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