ALIF - My parents ran away from Myanmar. I think they came to Malaysia around 1977. I was born in the state of Kelantan in Malaysia. I lived there until I was about ten years old. We moved a lot. The life was a little bit hard because we didn’t have any IDs or papers. We were refugees.
We had the refugee card from UNHCR, but it was still hard. I don’t think we were allowed to work—so when the cops saw you, they wanted money. To take you to prison, you know.
I’m not saying it was a bad country. We were still given the opportunity to stay there, and we were thankful for that.
But when I got to like seventh grade, things changed. They didn’t allow anymore refugee people to go to the government schools.
So from that time, all my brothers and sisters— including me—couldn’t go to school anymore. The only place we could go were schools opened by UNHCR for refugees.
So I started working at age 13 or 14 doing electrician work with my uncle. We did phone lines, construction. I did that for like seven years until I came to the US. It was a good job. I had a Chinese boss who allowed us to work even though we didn’t have papers.
I loved playing online games too. I used to play World of Warcraft a lot at home during that time. I played it for like four years. It was really popular at that time, but I quit because you can spend a lot of time on that (laughs).
When I was a refugee, I also learned a lot from using the internet at home: video editing, graphic design, how to run a business, coding, apps.
A little bit here, a little bit there. That’s how I learned, and eventually that’s how this restaurant happened...
Cuisine and Craft
I like to stick to the original recipes and tastes. We try to find all the right ingredients. Noor imports original Burmese products for her grocery store. They have to drive pretty far south to this warehouse to pick it up. All our dishes are Halal. We get some things from a Thai grocery store on Argyle.
We do our best, and I think we get 100 percent to the original taste.