Burmese Cuisine in San Pedro La Laguna

published feb 11th, 2015

Aaron Owlex

Burmese cuisine is an often forgotten fare, but residents of San Pedro La Laguna can now experience the magical cooking of Myanmar at the brand new restaurant, Burma Pop.

Burmese food makes a debut in San Pedro La Laguna

Burmese food makes a debut in San Pedro La Laguna

After visiting a restaurant in San Francisco called Burma Superstar, owners Tom Nelson and Sara Kolata were inspired to explore the unique cuisine themselves. Burmese cooking takes many influences from its surrounding countries; Bangladesh, India, China, Laos, and Thailand. However, Burmese cuisine has had limited exposure in the west and is very much a “hidden kitchen” as Nelson puts it.

Nelson and Kolata originally moved to San Pablo, in the north of Guatemala, to help with a charity project focused on rehousing displaced families. However, making money proved to be a bit difficult so they decided to move to Lake Atitlan, which provided many opportunities as a popular tourist destination.

After a short stint teaching English in Panajachel, Nelson enjoyed moderate success with a restaurant in San Juan before experiencing difficulties with the landlady and decided to move on.

“We were frantically looking for somewhere because we had all of this equipment and all of these ideas, and we had lost this amazing space,” he said. They then found a vacant spot right off the main road in San Pedro, and within two weeks Burma Pop was up and running.

Intimate seating from the "Hidden Kitchen" of Burmese fare

Intimate seating from the "Hidden Kitchen" of Burmese fare

Burma Pop is located right on the shore of Lake Atitlan, down a side road next to the Mayan Travel Center on the main tourist street of San Pedro. Open daily from 5 pm, the restaurant has a fantastic view as the sun’s last rays glisten off the water. Under the flowing fabric ceiling, dining guests can enjoy the sunset while seated on comfortable bamboo furniture. The restaurant takes on an open kitchen design, so diners can watch Nelson and Kolata through a wide wooden arch as they carefully prepare each of Burma Pop’s dishes.

Tom Nelson of Burma Pop, San Pedro La Laguna

Tom Nelson of Burma Pop, San Pedro La Laguna

The Coconut Curry with Pork (45Q) featured a superb blend of spices in a creamy sauce that had a pleasing kind of crunch to it, due to the dried coconut shavings used. The curry was well complemented by the small side of crunchy and lightly spiced fried green beans. The Fish Soup (45Q) was full of soft, fluffy white fish in a spicy lemongrass soup that was thick and hearty. Combine that with the vermicelli and vegetables in the soup and you have an excellent meal to warm you up on breezy lakeside evenings.

Burmese fish soup

Burmese fish soup

To wash down your dinner, Burma Pop’s specialty beverage is the bright and refreshing watermelon and mint smoothie (10Q). They also feature a wide selection of hot teas with exciting flavors like White Chocolate, Chamomile and Mango, or Sleepytime.

“We’ve got this vision of taking this cuisine around Central America while Sara continues her charity work,” Nelson said. To sustain their travels, the pair plan to open up a series of pop-up restaurants, whether that means securing a scenic lakeside space like they have now, or setting up shop in a food truck – whatever it takes. They plan to keep Burma Pop open for three months before moving onwards to Nicaragua, and eventually make their way to Burma to open up an eco-resort.

“Sara has always wanted to raise her children like Mowgli, from the Jungle Book,” Nelson laughed. “So our ultimate idea is to find some land there and build our own little paradise.”

Like this article? A full list of Aaron Owlex's contributions to Guatemala Hostels can be seen on his author page.

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