Co-founders Dan Anton and head chef Zaw Mahesh had a vision a few years back to shine a light on the largely undiscovered and untapped cuisine of their Burmese heritage and after taking to their first site in Hackney in 2017, their success ramped up in London, quickly becoming a sought-after foodie's favourite. Not long after, they established their first permanent restaurant in Shoreditch and just in April 2022, they opened up their West End branch. With all ingredients imported from Burma and both founders channelling their own Burmese-enriched upbringings and experiences, Dan and Zaw have managed to innovate and refine the concept of authentic Burmese dining and introduce it into the culinary scene of London. In this article, Dan Anton shares with us his insights, inspiration and tips behind authentic Burmese cuisine and how the concept for Lahpet came to fruition.
In 2017, Lahpet first opened in Hackney and made an impressive splash in London. What is the concept and vision behind Lahpet and what have been the key driving factors behind its success?
The vision and inspiration behind Lahpet originated from my Burmese heritage on my father's side. Throughout my childhood, I grew up eating a lot of classic Burmese dishes mainly made by my grandma and auntie. I realised there was a gap in the UK market for this new, largely-unexplored Asian cuisine, and I believe this has been the key driving factor behind its success. It's so unique – we all love South-East Asian cuisine here in the UK and Burmese food plays on that – it's entirely new yet familiar at the same time, with its own unique and delicious flavours.
The concept for the restaurant came about when I first visited Myanmar and realised most of the food there is still street food. I wanted to modernise, champion and refine these brilliant Burmese dishes; the name (Lahpet) itself even comes from the first time I ate tea leaf salad (also called Lahpet) and was completely blown away.
Tell us a little about what inspirations you've taken from your Burmese backgrounds into your London establishments.
I've taken great inspiration from my grandma's cooking, in particular, her coconut noodles, pork curry and balachaung, which I grew up eating and are now hugely-popular dishes at Lahpet. We've also introduced an Asian thread to each of our cocktails at Lahpet, such as Jaggery in our Lahpet Margarita, Pandan Syrup in our Pandan Sling and Pickled tea oil washed vodka in our Mar-tea-ni.
What are your top three tips for authentic Burmese cuisine?
Always have your pantry well stocked with key Burmese food ingredients:
Pantry items such as fish sauce, shallots, dried shrimps, garlic, chickpea flour, pickled tea and pickled ginger are central to producing Burmese flavour profiles and the best Burmese dishes. Once you have these key flavours in your kitchen, it's time to start experimenting and creating your own Burmese dishes! Combining these pantry items also makes for a delicious Burmese salad, which is one of the more unique parts of the cuisine.
Make your own homemade shallot and garlic oil.
Shallot oil and garlic oil are central to a good Burmese dish, and making it at home is much more economical. Fry four or five whole shallots (thinly sliced) with 500ml of peanut or rapeseed oil, turning them frequently until they're golden and crispy; once the moisture has evaporated from the shallots and the shallots are lightly browned (the last bit of this process happens very quickly so keep an eye), safely remove them and place on a paper towel and leave the shallot oil to cool. This process makes crispy shallots perfect to top a salad or sandwich and also shallot oil – the bi product of the process. The oil can be stored in your pantry and used for other purposes such as garnishing salads, noodle and rice dishes and even pizza.
Don't ask for chopsticks when eating mohinga! Spoons only.
We at CSP Times thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Lahpet West End and were recommended to try their signature Lahpet Thonk Salad, an extraordinarily unique tea leaf salad with a delightful burst of savoury, sour and smoky flavours and with a medley of different textures going on. We also managed to try their Coconut Noodles with Chicken, an aromatic, soul-warming large bowl of rich, curry, soupy goodness, another popular and highly recommended dish, as well as their vibrant and colourful King Prawn Curry, a dish that tastes as gorgeous and appetising as it's presentation.