Jagaul.com Lifestyle Fashion Ankit Gupta’s Culinary Odyssey: Bringing Burmese Flavors to Indian Tables with Burma Burma

Ankit Gupta’s Culinary Odyssey: Bringing Burmese Flavors to Indian Tables with Burma Burma

Ankit Gupta, the co-founder and director, Hunger Pangs Pvt Ltd. spearheads Burma Burma Restaurant and Tea Room, the exclusive organized Burmese restaurant chain in the country renowned for its genuine Burmese culinary offerings set in a modern ambiance, complemented by a curated selection of teas.

Graduating in Hotel Administration from Rizvi College and earning a Higher Diploma in Hospitality Management from the American Hotel and Lodging Association in 2008, Ankit commenced his career as a Management Trainee at the Taj Group of Hotels. He steadily ascended the ranks, achieving the position of Assistant Manager at the iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai.

Beyond his professional journey, Ankit is a third-generation hotelier, with his family boasting a legacy of four decades in the hospitality industry.

Question 1: Can you explain a bit about your journey of how Burma Burma came into existence.

When we started Burma Burma, the vision was to bring to the mainstream Indian table, an authentic representation of the Burmese tastes and flavours, that I had experienced across my childhood. The inception and inspiration for the restaurant was deeply rooted in my personal connections to Burma and its cuisine. In 2011, I embarked on a journey to explore the concept of a specialty restaurant, driven by my mother’s Burmese heritage. Growing up, my mother often cooked Burmese dishes at home, and it was an integral part of my upbringing. Our home had a dedicated pantry stocked with Burmese ingredients, and the aroma of my mother’s cooking attracted friends and family over for meals. These memories kindled my fascination for Burmese culture and its culinary treasures.

Over 2011 to 2013, together with my Head Chef Ansab, we embarked on extensive travels across Burma. We immersed ourselves in the local food scene by dining in homes, sampling street food, and sourcing ingredients from their bustling street markets. This immersive experience, combined with my mother’s cherished recipes, culminated in the concept of the specialty Burmese restaurant and tea room- Burma Burma.

To test the waters, we organized pop-up events in Mumbai and Goa, where we introduced Burmese cuisine to Indian diners. The enthusiastic response validated our idea, and I shared this with my school friend Chirag Chhajer. Together, we opened the first Burma Burma Restaurant in 2014 in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda area. This endeavour fused my hospitality industry background, deep cultural connections, and the culinary and cultural knowledge amassed from multiple visits to Burma.

Our original vision was two-fold: to present the richness and variety of Burmese cuisine to Indian diners and to infuse our restaurants with authentic Burmese craftsmanship, art, and textiles. Burma Burma isn’t just about the various facets of Burmese food; it is a celebration of my filial heritage and the culture of Burma. Witnessing the excitement and enthusiasm of people lining up to savour the food I had cherished growing up, was immensely heart-warming.

Since our inception in 2014, our journey has been very dynamic. We’ve expanded to nine restaurants across Mumbai, Delhi NCR (Delhi, Gurgaon & Noida), Bangalore and Kolkata. In mid-2023 we launched our second restaurant in the heart of Bangalore in Brigade Road followed by a restaurant in Palladium, Ahmedabad in Aug 2023. We followed that with our first restaurant in Knowledge City in Hyderabad in Oct 2023 and one at Mall of Asia in Hebbal, a fast growing suburb in North Bangalore in December 2023. We have also extended our reach beyond the restaurants with our new retail offering available at our restaurants as well as online at Shop Burma Burma. Bringing Burma’s true taste and eclectic flavours, the retail range of Shop Burma Burma includes new ready-to-cook sauces and pastes, snacks and spice mix along with a selection of teas, souvenirs and giftable items from Burma. In the summer of 2023, we launched a range of artisanal small batch ice creams, which are available both for in-restaurant dining and retail. Our latest menu launch is the most extensive yet, reflecting our commitment to continuous innovation through our food and beverage program.

Each year, our travels to Burma breathe fresh inspiration into Burma Burma. Our evolution encompasses diverse facets – from restaurant design to culinary exploration and cultural representation. This ongoing journey mirrors the vibrant evolution of Burmese cuisine itself, intertwining tradition with contemporary flair.

Question 2: How is the response of people towards Burmese cuisine?

We have received a very enthusiastic response to our cuisine and beverage offering from the very first day. The multiple flavours and textures that are a part of Burmese cuisine, resonate well with the Indian palate. We have put together a menu that has a universal appeal and goes much beyond the usual Khao Suey, with a lot of focus on small plates, refreshing salads, and hearty mains. Add to that a wide repertoire of Burmese cuisine inspired desserts and international desserts. Burmese cuisine overall has many nuanced flavours and textures, which are at the same time familiar, making it an easy transition for most Indian diners.

Diner response overall has been one of surprise and delight, once they discover the sheer variety we have to offer. It also finds appeal across age groups, and we have many repeat customers coming to our restaurants across cities.

Question 3: Why a vegetarian restaurant? Any specific reason?

Burma Burma is a product of years of research, conducted over our many trips to Burma, where we are inspired to bring a slice of the culture and cuisine of this lesser-known neighbouring country of India. Our belief in the appeal of the cuisine, as well as its familiarity with the Indian palate, gave us the confidence to launch Burma Burma in 2014, and since then grown to multiple restaurants across Mumbai, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad. Our efforts were to bring back the local ingredients, spices, and artefacts to India and to create the most authentic Burmese experience. It is a continuous effort that has resulted in the growth of the brand today to 11 restaurants and delivery kitchens across eight cities by the end of calendar year 2023.

The decision to keep the menu vegetarian at Burma Burma is a conscious choice. We believe that the essence of Burmese cuisine can be effectively represented in its original vegetarian form by exploring various textures, cooking techniques, and flavours. Considering India has a large vegetarian food eating culture, we wanted to ensure that Burma Burma would be a welcoming and inclusive place for all. People come to experience the flavours of Burmese cuisine and there is so much to choose from that they never seem to miss or complain about the absence of non-vegetarian options. And that’s precisely what we are aiming at – a cuisine style. As people visit our restaurants and taste the sheer variety and flavours of Burmese food, the way that we showcase it; they are delighted by the offering, taste, and presentation. And ultimately that is what counts.

In indigenous Burmese cuisine, vegetarian dishes are prevalent, with meats typically added as broths or toppings. While traveling across Burma, it is common to come across a wide range of vegetarian dishes. We recognized the significance of this vegetarian aspect of the cuisine, which lies at the soul and core of Burmese cuisine, and felt it was crucial to showcase that through our menu offering. We have carefully researched traditional recipes and incorporated them into our offerings. Our aim was to create a wholesome dining experience that appeals to all. While some dishes traditionally include meat, we have taken the approach of using meat alternatives like mock-meat and tempeh to replicate the textures and flavours that individuals may miss. This allows us to offer a comprehensive menu that reflects the essence of Burmese cuisine while catering to vegetarian preferences too.

Ankit Gupta, co-founder, Burma Burma

Question 4: Tell us a bit about your expansion plans.

We currently operate a total of 11 restaurants and delivery kitchens across 8 cities in India, including Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, Mumbai, three restaurants in Bangalore, and one each in Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Ahmedabad. The calendar year 2023 was a particularly active year for Burma Burma as we launched four new restaurants and took the brand to three new cities.

The next Burma Burma is scheduled to open in February 2024 at Oberoi Mall, Goregaon (our third in Mumbai after the restaurant in Fort, and a delivery kitchen in Santa Cruz).

We are actively exploring new markets and suitable spaces for our brand and 2024 will see us exploring new cities where we believe there is a potential for a restaurant brand like Burma Burma.

For the first nine years of our journey, we operated on a bootstrap budget. The first round of fundraise was done in December 2022. Lead investor was Negen Capital. The round size of funding was about 2.1 Million dollars. We are currently in the process of raising our Series B round. We are raising growth capital to open 7-8 restaurants by 2025.

Apart from this we have launched our new Retail products under Shop Burma Burma in September 2023.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post