Slice of Life

With Love, Burma hints at a fresh take on Burmese food at Onondaga Community College’s teaching restaurant

Courtesy of With Love, Burma

With Love recently bid farewell to Sarah Robin, the chef for the six-month long Pakistani experience, and welcomed Nancy Aye, who will bring Burmese cuisine to the restaurant from Aug. 1 to Dec. 22.

The restaurant at 435 N. Salina St. has traveled about 1,745 miles in the last six months without moving an inch.

The spot’s blue sign that used to read “With Love, Pakistan” now greets customers with “With Love, Burma,” signaling the dawn of a new cuisine in the neighborhood, pioneered by Onondaga Community College’s business-culinary venture, With Love.

With Love, developed under an OCC work grant, provides immigrant chefs and aspiring entrepreneurs with hands-on training in the cuisines of their homelands for six months. With Love recently bid adieu to Sarah Robin, the chef for the six-month long Pakistani experience, and welcomed Nancy Aye, who will map out Burmese cuisine between Aug. 1 and Dec. 22.

“The Burmese food we’re going to do right now is very traditional, yet international,” Aye said. “It’s really good for the summer months. And we will change up the menu down the road when fall and winter comes — for warmer tastes.”

Until Sept. 15, patrons can sample a Burmese menu peppered with an assortment of dishes with tamarind, coconut milk, chili, peanut and tapioca. The concise menu offers up moo ping — barbecued pork with a homemade dip — a green and heirloom tomato salad, chicken curry and garlic noodles, topped off by Shwe Yin Aye — a dessert packed with coconut cream and ribbons, agar-agar and tapioca. The dessert’s name itself means “cool down my golden heart.”

The menu also lists three traditional beverages: a tamarind peanut cooler, a hibiscus mint cooler and a warmer Laphet Yay, alongside Salt City Coffee.

Aye plans to change the menu every four to five weeks as fall and winter draw near, while keeping the “juicy, fresh and spicy” kick of Burmese cuisine a constant in her cooking.

Aye moved to Syracuse when she was 14 years old. About a year into her move to Syracuse, she began experimenting with her cuisine and food, helping her mother in the kitchen and giving the family’s dishes her own spin. She chuckled as she remembered the first time she tried cooking by herself.

“When I really got into cooking, my dad would guide me,” she said. “The first time he let me cook by myself, I mixed things I wasn’t supposed to mix and he ended up calling my cooking ‘crazy food.’”

Aye has a YouTube channel and firm Burmese favorites, like Let Thohk Sohn, translated to “Rainbow Salad.” She plans to unveil the rainbow salad full of vegetables, tofu and noodles at With Love as well.

Three years ago, Aye first met Adam Sudmann, the program manager of With Love, in an Asian grocery store, but her foray into With Love was still in the making as of April this year, when Sudmann ran into her at a party and pitched the idea to her.

“Along with the cuisine, we need an outgoing host,” Sudmann said. “I thought she would be the perfect face here, with her presence and her energy.”

The effort paid off with the first entrepreneur, Robin, who is now fielding offers of spaces and grants in the midst of opening her own café, Punjabi Girl. Robin, Sudmann recalled, was extremely shy at the outset before she completely grew out of her shell, bringing her spirit, sense of humor and conviction alive.

“I was all ‘Where’s the Shy Sarah? Bring her back,’” he said while laughing. “And she said ‘Shy Sarah is dead.’ It reminded me of how these little food scenes are a way to practice coming into their own and grow.”

Now partnering up with Aye, Sudmann said both of them approach food and food philosophy in similar fashions. As founder of My Lucky Tummy, a pop-up food series showcasing immigrant cuisines, Sudmann believes strongly in the unifying power of food.

“We should use what we’ve got: interesting people with great cuisines cooking at home,” he said, explaining the idea behind With Love. “It’s fun, and it’s cool if people want to showcase that and make it into more of a destination to try some new food.”

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