Gone are the days in this country when Asian cuisine was represented by two sauces; The Red Schezwan and the Black Manchurian. For long we Indians have relished these two dishes and it's multiple 'Chindian' (Chinese-Indian) variations. The coming of age for this Pan-Asian cuisine has seen a rather long curve with growth of Black Bean based dishes, use of Lemongrass and Shrimp Paste and the burst of Dumpling outlets at very nook and corner. More recently in the first half of this decade, the South East Asian cuisine has brought a wide array of flavours that also somewhere inside of it has shown mild hints of Indian influences. The Burmese Khao Suey / Kaukswe, Thai Papaya Salad, Tempura based appetisers, Sushi and Sashimi are a few dishes that can be now seen on the menu of almost all mainstream Chinese eateries. While many have opted to introduce a few of these iconic dishes into their regular menu, only a few have managed to keep the authenticity intact. Pune is in the middle of a similar Pan-Asian storm where dying eateries are refreshing their menu with new offerings while a handful of start-ups are building a strong base with authentic provincial dishes from almost all of the South East Asia. One such example of a budding startup offering an attempt at South East Asian dishes is 'The Asian Box' located in Koregaon Park, Pune.

Bowl of Seafood Khao Suey 

Bowl of Seafood Khao Suey 

The owner couple - Dheeraj & Priya Mahtani who shifted to Pune from Singapore also brought with them their experience and flavours of the Singapore street food. More importantly they believed in the concept of a humble street food joint where ambiance and decor was secondary while tang was primary, thus came the birth of 'The Asian Box' which offers dishes from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Japan and Burma. In both of our dining experiences at the outlet (a dinner followed by the next day lunch), the food was consistent & uncomplicated with straightforward flavours. Regional favourites like Malaysian Kway Teow, Nasi Goreng and Burmese Khao Suey were ordered along with contemporary dishes like Kung Pao Chicken, Roast Hainese Chicken Rice and Chilly Bean Chicken.

The 'Roast Hainese Chicken Rice' came with a cautionary advice about it being on the bland side of the palate and needed a heavy dousing of the side chilli sauce. Nonetheless, one spoonful mix of the humble rice brightened by the soup, one fork full of Chicken strip dipped in Chilli Mix and you experience the ultimate amalgamation of fundamental Asian flavour. Period !

Our 'Nasi Goreng' bowl of fried rice was topped with a fried egg, crackers and two skewers of Chicken Satay. Yet again a generous dish with heat derived from the chopped Red Chillis and briny flavours from the long grain rice coated in Oyster Sauce. The Singapore and Indonesian favourite had already wooed us and got us confident enough to indulge into a bowl of the pinnacle of Burmese culinary craft - The Khao Suey. Going for a seafood variation was only a matter of trusting the kitchen to deliver an intense Coconut Milk broth deepened by chopped Basa fillets and handful of Prawns. It's a dish not for the voracious eater, but someone who understands how to tackle two large bowls of curry and noodles combined into one and ornamented with fried garlic, onions, chopped spring onion greens and red chili. This Khao Suey could have easily toppled Busago's version had the celery not been missing from the accompaniments. While it is tiny little addition, the celery brings a zing that stops the repeated flushing of palate with coconut and seafood meat flavours. Vastly on all fronts this Khao Suey is a bowl to be reckoned with. 

The Penang favourite 'Kway Teow' flat noodle dish too was deeply enjoyed across the table. A little dry in nature, but was well accompanied by the slightly curried Chili Bean Chicken. The presence of Sambal Paste in the Kway Teow comes out quite distinctly in the dish, though they do offer the dish minus the sambal paste for people who are intolerant to fish sauce or shrimp paste.

Although they offer a few known desserts for the end of a meal, we're lucky to be offered bowls of a unique 'Pandan' flavoured Panna Cotta with a touch of dark sugar syrup on top. The Panna Cotta was a bit firm, though what intrigued us was the simultaneous presence of an interestingly nutty and grassy flavour caused by the infusion of the Pandan leaves. Top marks for simply bringing the leafy flavours into a Panna Cotta.

In conclusion, the hospitality of the owners, their presence and effort to educate the patrons on their order are some of the highlights of this humble eatery. The quality of food and restricted Pan-Asian menu is a conscious yet brainy move that plays to their strength, which has also build its thick set of loyalists. Not only has all of this earned them a top spot in the Pan- Asian list of eateries of Pune but also bagged them a  title of "Best Pan-Asian (Casual Dining)"during the Times Food Guide Awards 2015, held in Pune. It's an appreciable testimonial for honest cooking, humble beginnings and resolute road-map to success.

Location : Ground Floor, Shahinsha Building, Lane no. 6, Koregaon Park, Pune.

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"Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.

Shifu: Illusion?"

I believe Oogway made a reference to many pandas when he said that. The illusion of control is that i cannot ask the young Panda to serve a precise Cantonese meal or a Chinese meal-in-a-box when it (the Panda) has grown in the suburbs and wants to prepare a Funky Asian Gourmet ! Go Panda is neither Funky nor is it Gourmet; It is just Pan-Asian. The menu features a vast variety of Asian flavours right from Burmese Khau suey to Malay Korma to Thai Pot Rice. One can also find an outlandish amalgamation of Asian fillings inside Panini breads and Tacos. 

Glamour Quotient :

Well, being situated in Lokhandwala and being subtle is a crime in itself. Therefore, Black, White and Red themed interiors and Yellow takeaway boxes with shiny laminated insides to complete the Lokhandwala fashion quotient. 

Expat Flavours :

Overall, the use of ingredients and the generated flavours meet expectations of an informed audience, but may struggle to make it work in an area that is so contrived that it cannot grow beyond Frankies, Tandoori and Barista. 

Some of the well worthy try outs would be the Prawns Nest, Barbeque Fish, Tom Kha Soup, Thai Jungle Curry and the Malaysian Lamb Korma (avoid the roti). The deep fried noodle wrapped Asian Prawns Nest works well as a quick bite with its sweet chili drizzle and so do the fragile pieces of Asian Barbeque Fish. Tom Kha Soup is rendered well in taste and texture, but may get rejection if auditioning for the first time to a desi palate. I sincerely loved its mix of flavours coming from the coconut base and kaffir lime leaves. The Jungle Curry traditionally known as 'Kaeng pa' in Thailand is known to not feature any element of coconut, but the version here is rendered with enough of it which works well to our taste-buds. The slow cooked Malay Lamb Kurma tastes alluring and can easily be consumed without it's dull looking roti. 

Blowout :

The Vietnamese Smoke Chicken sandwich (mind you, it's not a Banh Mi) is only recommended to one with a craving for Wasabi; Overwhelming would be an understatement here. The Fish in Mustard Sauce is equally overwhelmed by it's mustard base so much so that none of the other ingredients could sensitize the palate. Our Chicken Satay came with barely any seasoning, a very inorganic flavour and overcooked meat. The Peanut Sauce supplied along can be best left unsoiled.

Climax :

Wholesome portions, mostly well altered Asian flavours and a glamourous brand; 'Go Panda' has it all in order to break into the Lokhandwala food culture. It's a valiant effort by a bunch of young entrepreneurs that reflects their thought of bringing cuisines from various parts of this subcontinent under one roof. Moreover it's the only option in that part of the suburb which serves all these delicacies and for a reasonable amount.

My verdict - Go for their Signature Meals, Pot Meals and Appetizers.

Location : Shop 7, Grenville Building, Near Mala Tower, Andheri Lokhandwala


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For many years my knowledge of Burma / Myanmar was primarily limited to that of my decade old tryst with Khao Suey. Other than that what many years of schooling geography taught me was that this country was once the largest exporter of rice. Trust me those books never taught us how culturally diverse this once kingdom of pagan is. Influences of India, China & Thailand is easily visible in their cuisine. Deriving stir fry techniques from it's east and spices from it's west, Burmese cuisine is a symbiosis of Indian, Chinese & Thai flavors. Bringing a near authentic experience is a few months old south mumbai restaurant & tea room named - Burma Burma

It's located right inside one of the lanes of Kalaghoda's gastro epicenter. Coming from a graphics industry background, I'm sucker for clean minimal logos and BB's exterior has one such cute clean signboard logo that encompasses meaningful visual of a lacquered doll greeting you with her serene face and folded hands. Get past the door and you're greeted with an Myanmar inspired wood work ceiling partially filled with Parasols and the tea bar wall made of shelves filled with more burmese artifacts. 


The food menu is quite a rich and vast that easily can easily cover the length and breadth of Burma itself, From Paukse to Thoke and Khao Suey to Durian Ice Cream. The Tea menu is equally elaborate and features a collection of finest tea from the subcontinent. The first snack to arrive on the table are Sunflower seeds. Pick, Break and Eat is what one will be doing atleast for the first 5-10 minutes as you settle on the table. They've tied up with Mulshi Springs to package a house special mineral water induced with cranberry, mint sprig, cinamon stick and lemon rind - By far the most refreshing flavored water. Our order flowed like this -  Brown Onion & Roasted Chilli Buns, Tea Leaf Salad and Burmese Falafel. Mid meal break was a portion of Royal Myanmar Cha served in earthen cups. Then continued to main course which consisted of Tomato Peanut Chutney with Coconut Rice and lastly ended with Burmese Falooda and Chaw Chaw.

To shortlist a few dishes that were stellar and stuck with me even after the meal -

  • Mandalay Laphet Thoke (Salad) with crunchy fried dal, alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, red cabbage and brewed tea leaves. A not so well presented dish but high on flavours and textures. This is the the most ordered & talked about dish on the menu.
  • Brown Onions & Roasted Chilli Paukse - These steamed buns are like sliders filled with caramelised onions flavoured with roasted chilli greasy base. Caution - To be consumed right away and if left for more than 10mins, The buns turn a chewy and boring.
  • Coconut Rice with Peanut Chutney - Yet another starry and talked about dish that's a little on the dry side of the palate. Smartly mixed flavours in the Tomato & Raisin based Peanut Chutney works extremely well with the Sticky Cocounut Rice. Must Order this !
  • Chaw Chaw - This jelly dish may not be liked by everyone but suited well to my taste. Made by combining Seaweed Jelly / AgarAgar and Coconut cream these wobbly checkers put a fantastic end to your traditional meal. 

Pricewise, it's a descent fare for a rather sparse cuisine that provided a totally satiating experience to a meat lover like me. Eight dishes costed 1910/- without taxes and including a cluster of taxes & charges it was 2400/-. The Marwari duo of Ankit Gupta & Chirag Chhajer have worked tightly and neatly perfected every aspect of this restaurant. Kudos to the team on getting this from Burma and of course with a lot of love :-)

Location : Kothari House, Allana Centre Lane,Opposite Mumbai University, Fort (Kalaghoda)

Phone : 022 40036600 / 01 / 16 (Make sure you reserve your table. High chances that you'll be on a waiting of nothing less than 24 hours)


My first interaction with this Burmese hot-pot dish was at friend's place for a potluck lunch around 8 years back. The fact that i gobbled bowl after bowl of this curry and rice combination didn't go down well with my girlfriend cause of the fact that i was relishing a dish that her friend had bought to the lunch ! Guys, Never ever do that ! There are some serious repercussion (no pun but it's your buns that are going to get the spanking). I could not stop myself from digging into spoonful of that rich creamy golden curry with rice and a garnish of barista (caramelized onions). Many years later i was reunited with that dish in 2012, Chef Nikhil Chib who opened Busaba in the 2000's now opened a full blown outlet 'Busago' that was dedicated to just Burmese cuisine. It had to battle the trends of Pastas & Dim Sums and it did quite graciously that they now have 3 outlets in the city.

Talking about meal in a bowl, i can compare it to another wholesome affair - Khichda. This rather dense paste is made from lentils, pulses & lamb and garnished with barista, chopped coriander and mint leaves. Both are equally filling and sustaining plus the garnish / accompaniments work exactly the same way and cut through the rich texture and bring a zest into your bite. 

Kaukswe at Busago, BKC.

Kaukswe at Busago, BKC.

Busago's version spelled 'Kaukswe' is the closest you can get to the original Burmese flavours. Mildly spiced coconut curry with Chicken / Veggies has to be combined with Rice Noodles and an array of accompaniments. As you can see in the picture below, I've combined my portion of noodles with curry and made a heap by adding caramelized garlic & onions, loads of chopped celery, chopped spring onions, slices of boiled eggs, chilli flakes and coarsely crushed peanuts. The base curry itself is so creamy and mellow on the palate that one can enjoy it as a rich creamy soup. It boost of flavours from cumin, turmeric, poppy seeds and more. As you take a spoonful of it, You'll start to experience the different textures and layers of the accompaniments trying to make it's way through the cream curry base. Especially the caramelized garlic that leaves a sticky sensation between the teeth and the celery which shines as the freshest and greenest element. Usually i do not prefer adding any crunchy elements as a garnish in any curry or rice, especially nuts. But every time i'm here i make an exception by garnishing my kaukswe bowl with a teaspoon of the crushed peanuts.

While you're here do try their signature Bahn Mi sandwiches (especially the Strong man's) and their curries with either Jasmine or Sticky Rice.

Outlet Locations : 
- 11, Gasper Enclave, Opp Golds Gym, Pali Hill, Bandra.
- FIFC Building, Ground Floor, BKC 
- Opp. Blue Frog, Mathuradas Mills Compound, Lower Parel.