housay Khow suey, originally from Myanmar, is a popular dish in Karachi due to the city’s diverse influences. It’s a flavorful soup meal with egg noodles, curried meat, and coconut milk. People in Myanmar still enjoy it with their own variations. The cultural connection between Myanmar and Pakistan may seem surprising at first, but history sheds light on this phenomenon.
The dish khow suey became popular in Karachi thanks to the Memon and Gujarati communities who settled there. During World War II, Indian forces were stationed in Burma to protect the Empire from the Japanese, creating ties between the two regions. Additionally, Memons, a thriving business community in colonial India, traded goods in East Asia, fostering cultural exchanges.
After the 1947 Partition and Myanmar’s independence, Memons migrated to Pakistan, and some settled in Yangon. Those in Karachi preserved their Burmese heritage, enriching the city’s cultural tapestry. Another wave of Indian immigrants from Myanmar occurred after the 1962 military coup.
The Memon community, facing religious intolerance and expulsion by the junta, wisely returned to their ancestral homeland in Karachi. There, they introduced Burmese cuisine, which became popular among the locals and other communities who migrated under similar circumstances. The two khow suey versions have slight taste and ingredient variations.
The original is a light, soupy dish with a chicken broth base, while the Pakistani version uses spaghetti as the base with a gram flour and coconut milk curry, garnished with crunchy textures and spices like green chilies and ginger. Popular among the Memon and Gujarati communities, it’s a must-have dish for various occasions, and some make the noodles from scratch.
You can enjoy this delicious dish in Karachi at various places, including Pan-Asian restaurants like Soi and Khao Dosa in Defence, or local vendors like Lala’s Food Corner on Burns Road and the famous Mirchili Food franchise across the city. Mirchili’s Khow Suey offers a desi and meat-centric flavor with plenty of spices and crispy toppings catering to local tastes.
Home-based Khow Suey businesses are putting their unique spin on the dish, experimenting with new ingredients and flavors, showcasing the blend of food and culture that reflects the city’s history and migration.
The dish beautifully combines influences from Pakistan and Myanmar, embraced by communities like the Memons and Gujaratis, making it an integral part of Karachi’s multicultural culinary landscape and a symbol of the city’s rich heritage.