Here Is How Khow Suey Became A Famous Memon Dish Despite Its Burmese Origin

By Saad Zubair | 27 May, 2024

This article is from hungerist.com

Khow Suey is a coconut curry broth with noodles/ spaghetti, chicken or beef, and other condiments. Long before Khow Suey was available at The Deli, Soi and Mirchili in Karachi, it used to be a favorite dish of the Memon and Gujrati community.

It has been said the Burmese khow suey, called Oh No Khow Swe, is somewhat similar to the Malaysian laksa. There’s even a Thai version called khao soi. The Chang Mai Khao Soi has been influenced by the Burmese Oh No Khow Swe. Another Burmese khow suey was made popular by the Shan people and its known as Shan Khow Suey.

 

Oh No Khow Swe, Source: wikipedia.com

 

It’s strange that I’ve grown up eating and loving khow suey and yet never knew the origins of this amazing dish. Traditionally, it’s always been served with Slims chips  and lemon juice as an added condiment. You can even add chaat masala for added spices.

Recently, I’ve wondered about the origins of the dish and how a Burmese coconut noodle broth became such a huge hit in the community I belong to.

 

Source: Chai and Churros

 

From the information generally available online, the dish was brought to Eastern India by immigrants from Burma (now Myanmar).

These immigrants, Indian Memons, were reportedly from Rangoon before migrating to India. They had left Burma during the Second World War. Most Memon families ended up in Karachi once Pakistan gained independence from India.

According to Mirchitales, “there used to be a thriving community of people from the sub-continental due to historical trading ties. Burma itself had a trading port setup by the British at Akyub (present-day Sittwe). In March 1962, when the army overthrew the current government industries were nationalized and foreigners (including South Asians) were discouraged from staying and this led to them coming back in settling in present-day India & Pakistan bringing with them back their dishes from back.” The website recommends the book, Burma:Rivers of Flavor, for more history.

 

Source: TemptAsian/ Facebook
Source: TemptAsian/ Facebook

 

The popularity of the dish in memon community was spread to other communities and later was even being served in Karachi’s popular restaurants and eateries.

Soi serves the Thai version of khow suey or khao soi as it is known in Thailand. The Deli offers closer to the Burmese version and Mirchili is a desi-fied version- probably closer to the Memoni version. At the same time, the rise of homechefs in the digital age has spawned successul chefs who are making made-to-order khow suey dishes from their homes. They sell these dishes on the internet. Two famous homechefs are TemptAsian and Saira Faruqi.

 

Source: Saira Faruqi/ Facebook

 

Speaking exclusively to Hungerist, Ratan Salem of TemptAsian gave us a history of the dish as she has roots in Burma. “My mother’s side family is from Burma. My maternal grandfather came and settled down in Karachi and they became popular with the locals who loved to experiment with the Burmese food like Mohinga, Lehto, Sonamukhi etc.”, she said.

Ratan also stated that the popularity of the dish goes back to 70 years.

A burst of excitement came over as she described about people’s love for khow suey. “I can’t quite pin point what it is about this dish that that everyone loved so much, whether it’s the delicate yet creamy coconut milk sauce, the tanginess of the lime you add at the end or the mix of garnishes you put on to the crispy garlic and onion with the freshness of cilantro and green onion… and of course the most favorite among the condiments   is the chili oil. Ah the heat when you bite into a sliced chili pepper. It really makes people drool!,” says Ratan. The Memoni version is more yogurt based than coconut based apparently. Its also awesome because that’s what I grew up with. 

 

The Deli’s Khow Suey, via: Instagram

 

The Khow Suey offered  by TemptAsian is closer to the Burmese version but still catered to local palette, according to Ratan. If you’ve ever been to a home of a Memon, Bohri, or Gujrati-speakers, you may be offered this awesome dish. Thanks to homechefs like Ratan, you can get delicious Khow Suey at your home if you can’t make it yourself. Recipes are available online for those daring to learn this art.

From Burma to Karachi, Khow Suey has taken the journey from home kitchens to restaurants. If you want to know some of the best places to get it from, read our list here. Bon Appetit!

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’re trying to make dinner plans but can’t decide which restaurant to go to, then you should check out hungerist.com

 

 


Cover Image Via Your Food Lab/YouTube

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