YANGON — With only 1,500 Filipino people working or living in Myanmar, why would one think that putting up a restaurant that offers Pinoy favorites such as adobo and kare-kare would be successful?
Ramon Fernando, one of the owners of My Adobo Plus, the first-ever Filipino restaurant in Myanmar, is well-aware that he could not count on the Filipino community in the bustling former Burmese capital for his business to be a hit and sustainable.
“There are only about 1,500 Filipinos in Myanmar, 1,000 of which are in Yangon. This number is not enough to make the resto sustainable so part of our marketing strategy is to introduce Pinoy food to Myanmar people,” Fernando told INQUIRER.net in an interview.
“I have been personally encouraged by friends to set up a Pinoy resto after they tasted food I’ve cooked for potluck parties. The opportunity came when my landlady offered me to take over an existing Japanese resto that closed down last Nov. 2017,” he recounted.
And why name the restaurant “My Adobo Plus”?
Because adobo is almost synonymous to Filipino cooking, Fernando said that foreigners who have tried it can easily identify to the dish.
“Adobo is a well-known way of cooking meat, squid or even veggies. We’ve had walk-in guests who know how adobo tastes,” explained Fernando, who serves different variants of adobo such as chicken, pork, chicken feet, squid and kangkong.
Other Filipino dishes being served in the restaurant are nilagang baka, tinolang manok, lumpiang shanghai, tokwa’t baboy, itlog-maalat salad, chopsuey, lumpiang togue, turon espesyal and mais con hielo.
Just like in any business, it’s not always smooth-sailing especially in the beginning.
“Getting the right ingredients such as atswete (annatto seeds) for kare-kare, malunggay (moringa) and dahon ng sili (pepper leaves) for tinola, and ube ice cream for halo-halo can be a challenge ,” Fernando said.
Good thing he and his partners can count on their three Filipina cooks to make their dishes taste as authentic as possible even though some of the distinct Filipino ingredients are not readily available.
One of them, Maricel Umali, 33, said she’s very happy to be working in a Filipino restaurant because “it feels like we’re just cooking at home in the Philippines.”
“It’s so nice here especially every Sunday when we would have a lot of Filipino diners, they’d come here after church and would have a get-together,” she said.
“One time, we had an American customer who was so happy to find a Filipino restaurant here in Yangon. He said he’s been to Cebu and that he misses Filipino food and has been longing to eat it again,” recalled Elsie Andeza, 42, also one of the cooks in My Adobo Plus.
The business may be new and still struggling but it’s little by little getting known and has in fact been receiving bulk orders as of late from corporations in and around Yangon.
“As in any business, profit is the primary motivating factor but then this is balanced off by giving quality service to guests and providing employment to our fellow Filipinos,” said Fernando.
My Adobo Plus can be found on Bo Yar Nyunt Street, Yaw Man Gyi Qtr, Dagon Tsp, Yangon. It is open every day from 10 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 9pm.