contributed by LUNA Summer Intern 2017, Isaiah Curtis
World Refugee Day, promoted by the United Nations, honors the strength and bravery of refugees worldwide. In honor of World Refugee Day, Sam and I decided to spread LUNAlove while participating in Exodus Refugee Immigration’s week-long social media campaign; in which photos, articles, and videos are shared to educate people. Thinking with our stomachs, we decided to visit local refugee- and immigrant-run restaurants in Indianapolis. We received many recommendations for tasty ethnic Burmese restaurants on the southside of town. So, we set out on a little field trip- and weren’t disappointed!
The first restaurant we visited was Chin Brothers. This unique restaurant not only serves the local Chin communities’ appetites, but also offers a variety of products which can be found in its adjacent market shop, operated and owned by the same person.
Having never tasted Burmese food before, we opted for the recommendations of the server, who seemed happy about our interest in their food and culture. After placing our order, the owner of the restaurant cordially greeted us. He invited us to stand with him and take a tour of the restaurant and market where he began narrating his life story. He spoke of coming to Indiana as a refugee for political reasons, working two jobs, buying a house, and eventually raising enough money to open a market and then a restaurant.
After a pleasant conversation with the owner, Sam and I returned to our table only to be greeted by a wonderful spread of food! This hearty meal consisted of delicious nut-flavored noodles with chicken, soft and fluffy Puri- unleavened deep fried bread which had a hint of sweetness, Mung Dal sauce- a nutty savory sauce, a sweet and refreshing Mungletsawng drink- a cold and crunchy concoction made of tear drop rice and plum sugar syrup, and Kyay Oh soup- a combination of pork, veggies, noodles, and our first experience with quail eggs!
Our final stop was a small Burmese restaurant located five minutes from Chin Brothers; Kumi Restaurant! This small shop, adorned by decorative parasols, provided a quaint and relaxing ending destination. Being full from the first restaurant, Sam and I decided to take it easy and enjoy a light meal- chicken, onion, and potato stuffed samusas and traditional Burmese sweet hot tea- which we’ve concluded tasted like a combination of hot chocolate and tea- delicious!
In the end, Sam and I felt we had a deeper and more meaningful understanding of Burmese refugees because of the stories we heard from the shop owner and our exposure to their delicious food and hospitable culture. We’ve learned that like their savory food, the Chin and Burmese communities enrich Indiana with their diversity. We’re forever grateful for their presence and happy to receive them into Indiana. Looking forward, we hope to continue supporting local refugee-run restaurants and show that we stand #WithRefugees!