In Focus

Authentic Mon food near Shwedagon at Jana Mon

photo -Marie Starr

Nestled among the streets behind Shwedagon Pagoda, Jana Mon is a good spot for a post-Pagoda bite,though a little hard to find. However, it is on Google Maps, so with a savvy taxi driver and a little gumption you can find it without too much bother.
This bijou restaurant has a cosy atmosphere, with cute little decorations dotted about the place. It does get busy, however, so it mightn be advisable to make a booking – though the delightful wait staff will happily squish 7 or 8 people family-style around a table.Jana Mon doesn’t serve beer or alcohol, but you can bring your own. There’s a seasonal selection of fresh juices which are not overly sweet, so you might be tempted to skip the booze entirely.

At first glance, the menu looks like the typical laminated A4 page dotted with price stickers, but on closer inspection, you find exotica such as jellyfish, snails, jackfruit, and wild mangosteen. For the less adventurous, there’s a solid offering of more familiar-sounding curries and salads. We were lucky to run into a Mon friend who’d wanted to try Jana Mon, and assured us the menu was indeed typically Mon.

After much deliberation we ordered lemongrass beef patties, steamed squid with sticky rice, Mon spicy sour fish curry, jackfruit curry with pork and banana flower salad.

It was hard to pass on the country style dishes and Mangosteen curry, but sadly there’s only so much
one can eat.Although it took a while for our food to come, the waiters were beaming and affable and made us feel
incredibly welcome. Complimentary sticky rice crackers speckled with black sesame kept our hunger at bay.

When the food came, the feast was a delight. The lemongrass beef patties were crisp, tasty morsels – somewhat like Thai fish cakes. They were served with an excellent, punchy dipping sauce, the unusual kind of rare culinary experience that makes even the most jaded eyes widen with surprise. I’ll be thinking about that sauce for weeks.

The stuffed squid might be a bit much for less adventurous diners, but it was fishy and delicious with just the right amount of bite – and good, fun messy eating.The spicy-sour fish curry had zesty, zingy flavours similar to Thai, but with a comforting savoury depth
balanced with the aromatic lightness. It kisses you full on the chops and gives you a massive hug at the same time.

The jackfruit curry, contrary to my expectations, was not sweet but earthy, lifted by the freshness of the jackfruit and augmented by the herbaceous tang of Thai holy basil. The pork was a little bit chewy, but tasty.

The banana flower salad consisted of crunchy slithers of damask banana flower tossed in a light, slightly spicy, citric dressing.
Every dish was complimented by the coconut rice, a surprising green colour but with a deep, savoury flavour – no cloying sweetness here.Luckily our friends on the next table were feeling generous and let us try their country style duck, which
is mind-blowing, and the chicken salad and veggie curry are likewise tasty.

Mon food is light and fresh, and not remotely oily. Even if you overindulge, you feel pleasantly well-fed rather than engorged. So we decided that we’d earned dessert, seeing as we had a healthy dinner… right?In addition to being charmed by the food and atmosphere at Jana Mon, we were happy that the bill was only 20,000 MMK for all 5 dishes, rice, drinks and dessert. We’ll definitely be going back again soon. That country style duck has my name on it.

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Liz Dickie


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