Clarkston couple shares the glories of Myanmar home cooking

Last year, as the pandemic set in, Roi San told her husband she’d like to sell the sweet, dessertlike drinks of their native Myanmar out of their Clarkston home. They could advertise the colorful concoctions on Facebook and see what happened.

To their surprise, Roi’s pink falooda (sweet milk with rose syrup) and show-stopping shwe yin aye (layers of shredded coconut and coconut milk, sticky rice, red tapioca pearls and green, squiggly pandan-jelly noodles) were such a hit that customers asked the couple if they had any savory dishes in their repertoire.

“Some people told us, ‘Why don’t you cook? We miss our home cooking and home taste,’” Roi’s husband, Yapar Shel, recalled of the beginnings of Two Fish Myanmar Cuisine, a home-based endeavor that’s become a word-of-mouth sensation for those seeking the authentic flavors of the Southeast Asian nation still known by some as Burma.

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Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

My first encounter with Two Fish — which serves food on Wednesdays and Saturdays only — happened in July. A food-writer friend was visiting from out of town, and I wanted our first meal to be something unexpected, something adventurous.

Though the majority of Two Fish’s business is takeout, Yapar welcomed us into the family living room, where we dined on an astonishing array of hot and cold dishes — crispy spring rolls and samosas straight from the fryer, a definitive char kway teow (stir-fried noodles with shrimp), and a simple plate of sliced chicken with rice, cucumber slices and a wonderfully pungent dipping sauce.

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Credit: Wendell Brock

Most entrees are $6 or $7. Portions are more than generous. I’ve yet to have a bite that wasn’t delicious.

Roi, who grew up in northern Myanmar, and Yapar, who hails from Yangon, met some years ago in Malaysia, where they had gone to escape the political unrest back home, and where they both worked in restaurants. They relocated to Atlanta in 2015.

Wonderfully complex, the rice-based cuisine of Myanmar is both similar to and different from the fare of neighboring India, China and Thailand. Myanmar food, known for its sour, salty and spicy notes, includes curries and biryanis (think: India); a staggering variety of hot and cold noodles (think: China); and all manner of aromatic salads, spiked with garlic, ginger, lemongrass, citrus and fish sauce (think: Thailand and Laos).

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Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

One of the more unique dishes of Myanmar is the electric lahpet thoke, made from fermented tea leaves; I’m looking forward to the day it hits the Two Fish menu.

The restaurant has shied away from offering items that Myanmar expats often make at home, like curries, Yapar said. Rather, the menu — which changes regularly, and is posted on Facebook, along with photos and prices — might feature mohinga (a rice noodle and fish soup), meeshay (noodles with meat sauce and various garnishes), platters of grilled pork offal, or beautifully composed papaya salads.

“Most of the menu is my wife’s creations,” said Yapar, who, before Two Fish, worked in Japanese and Korean restaurants in Atlanta and now has a full-time job driving a van for a company that sells inspirational books.

Two Fish has given its owners a chance to test-market their cooking. Because Myanmar restaurants are few and far between, they have a built-in clientele among fellow expats. Some find them on the Internet and drive as much as an hour to get a taste of home.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

But, along with success, the couple has encountered challenges, too.

They’ve outgrown their home kitchen and need more space and manpower, Yapar said. Though they dream of opening a brick-and-mortar restaurant, “we are not ready for that,” he said. “We need to prepare.”

To that end, they will close temporarily in the coming months — likely December — to plot their next move.

If you decide to try Two Fish, keep these limitations in mind. Some dishes may be sold out. The house-restaurant is not really set up for table service, though Yapar is too kind to wave off people who want to perch at the one small table inside, or the picnic table on the front porch.

Credit: Wendell Brock

Credit: Wendell Brock

On the upside, you may see the couple’s adorable 3½-year-old daughter toddling about. (When I stopped by on a rainy Saturday night for takeout, she was tickled by the sight of my dog impatiently waiting in my car.)

Roi and Yapar, both 40, grew up Buddhist, but later converted to Christianity. In fact, Two Fish is a reference to the Biblical account of Christ feeding the multitudes with five loaves and two fish.

“I believe if we open the restaurant one day,” Yapar said, “maybe we can feed a lot of people.”

10 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. 1067 De Leon Court, Clarkston. 404-980-1643. Check Facebook for updated menus.

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