Budget Crunch: Sun Market
With Buffalo’s large Burmese immigrant population comes hidden gems like Sun Market. The word unassuming doesn’t begin to describe this pint-sized eatery: Tucked in the back of a market, behind shelves of rice, green curry paste, and frozen prawns, there’s a cozy, miniscule restaurant serving up some of the most flavorful Southeast Asian cuisine on the West Side. As chef Kevin explains, many Burma natives are familiar with Thai cuisine thanks to the country’s proximity (and many Burmese refugees in Buffalo have spent time in Thailand), so his menu blends Thai favorites like Pad Thai ($7.88–$9.99) and green curry ($7.99–$12.99) with the hearty, rustic curried stews and noodle dishes of Burma. As if that weren’t enough, there are a few east Asian classics such as Yaki Udon ($7.99–$9.99), gyoza (Japanese dumplings; $3.99), and, if you must, General Tso’s chicken ($9.99). Most dishes come with a choice of protein (tofu, pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, or duck, with some variation from dish to dish), and all price ranges reflect that.
On a recent visit I decided to break away from my absolute favorite, Pad Kee Mow (a blisteringly spicy cousin of Pad Thai starring fat, chewy rice noodles, meat or tofu, and veggies; $7.99–$9.99 for a heaping portion) and try a few appetizers and a Burmese entree. Our charming server recommended the Som Tum (papaya salad; $6.99) as an appetizer. It offers an amazing combination of toasted peanut aromas, the crunch of carrot, bean sprouts, papaya, and tomato, and delicate slices of green Empress chili pepper as a quiet side garnish that look innocent enough but turn into the Hulk upon entering the mouth. My date went for the Tom Yum soup, which is best with shrimp—hearty, savory, with a great kick, it’s a perfect fall starter,—and a small (but filling) portion will run you $2.99–$5.50.
We shared two entrees with the intent to compare a Thai dish with a Burmese dish. Pad Prig Pow ($8.99–$11.99) sounded like a good new option on the Thai menu; the presentation is visually stunning, with tiny tendrils of spring onion and an ornate twist of orange atop a colorful pile of sweet and sour goodness. The veggies are gorgeous, fresh, and perfectly cooked, accented by toasted Thai basil leaves and mushrooms bursting with flavor. I highly recommend getting the dish with pork or tofu for maximum flavor sopping.
Again on our server’s recommendation, I chose the Kyit Thar Aloo Hin (Burmese curry, $7.99). It arrived with a heaping mound of white rice and an amazing aroma of sweet curry and roasted squash––I asked for it with pork and the meat absolutely melted in my mouth, falling apart with tenderness atop pillowy potatoes, juicy squash, and just-spicy-enough masala sauce, the dish was for me, an Irish girl, a near-emotional potato experience: beautifully simple and reminiscent of a good lamb stew. It just made me happy, and while you can’t buy happiness, I’d say for $8 you can get awfully close.
Sun Food Market
1989 Niagara St., Buffalo
Julia Burke writes regularly on food and drink for Spree.