Following a strong Sanchaung tradition of hole-in-the-wall joints that serve what is essentially teashop food but under cooler, more sanitary conditions, Bagan Box markets itself as a place for traditional Burmese food with a “modern twist.” With recipes that claim to avoid MSG, palm oil, and other artificial ingredients, the salads, stir-fries, and juices at this pleasant, orange box are both palpably fresh and unexpectedly tasty.
During a recent dinner, none of the dishes we sampled disappointed, and a few left an impression. The tealeaf salad came already mixed and had a good balance of tealeaf, tomatoes, and crunchy bits. Also decent was the fried cauliflower, which was mixed with an egg and not much else. It tasted fresh and maintained its natural crunch.
Even better, though, was the tom yum fried rice (K2,500), which tastes exactly like a tom yum soup, but in rice form – in a good way. It comes with sugar snap peas mixed in, as well as a choice of chicken, pork, or prawns. Sprinkled with a little of the spicy garlic fish sauce that makes any fried rice taste infinitely better, this fried rice – you guessed it – tastes infinitely better.
Bagan Box prides itself on its fresh juices, and they definitely have the potential to be some of the best in the neighborhood. The kiwi lemonade (K2,000), for example, is flavorful and true to its description. However, on the two occasions when we ordered it, it came with just two ice cubes floating at the surface of the tall glass, so the depths were warm – the opposite of refreshing. More ice would definitely make this drink a go-to favorite.
Like the lemonade, the iced coffee (K2,500) also suffered from a shortage of ice. While seemingly counterintuitive, it was not surprising. If there’s one thing we can recommend to every establishment in Yangon, it’s more ice in every glass.
Another thing that can be improved is a change to the repetitive soundtrack, which played the same soft guitar melody for about 20 of the 30 minutes we were there, before switching to an equally repetitive one. To be fair, the melody seems pleasant at first – better than Westlife or the lower top-40 pop pseudo-hits from 2009 that you might hear in other places where people gather in Yangon – but by the end of a meal on a day when there’s not much else to complain about, this music will have become a satisfying target.
Overall, Bagan Box neither shoots for the stars nor lands on the moon, but it does earn a place on our list of decent places to go for a casual lunch or dinner and a potentially refreshing beverage. The staff are sweet, attentive, and willing to take advice, as was evidenced by the feedback forms on every table and the brief yet earnest conversation we shared at the end of our meal.
One thing that does not need to change, however, is Bagan Box’s pricing. A meal for two will probably come out to around K9,000 or less. That’s nothing to complain about.
Bagan Box is located at 42 Ma Kyee Kyee Road, just west of Kyun Taw Road, in Sanchaung Township. It’s open every day from 10am t0 10pm.