Mountain of taste welcomes diners at Hkakabo Razi

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, July 4, 2023

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By Linda Baier

Having opened late in November 2022, the owners of Hkakabo Razi Asian Restaurant located at 501 First Street NW C, next to the Hormel Historic Home, are hoping to introduce people to new heights of Asian cuisine. 

The restaurant takes its name from the highest mountain in Myanmar, which owner Aung Paw explains is the area in southeast Asia that her husband and chef Saw Tun are from. 

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Paw said that Hkakabo Raz (pronounced “Ka Ka Beau Rah – Z”) name not only identifies Saw’s heritage but also where some of the cuisine that they prepare comes from. Paw herself is from Thailand. 

The couple have two sons that are eight and 12. 

“Our families sold street food in front of our homes or street side in Myanmar and Thailand when we were growing up, and that is how we learned about (preparing) food,” Paw said.

Last year they experimented with a food truck in Austin, but they found that moving from one place to another was not always convenient for them or their customers. 

Tun has had 12 years experience as a chef. He loves to cook, and it has also been his dream to open up a restaurant, so the timing felt was right to open Hkakabo Razi. 

When the family came to the United States the first job that Tun had was in Austin, and they felt welcomed here. They started their family here and want their sons to grow up and have roots in a community that is a lot like the ones they come from in Myanmar and Thailand. 

People are friendly and the activities that Austin has to offer is one reason they chose to open their restaurant here.

Fusion of taste

It can be easy to use the term “Chinese” for restaurants that serve dishes like fried rice or stir-fry, but Hkakabo Razi is an Asian restaurant, and Paw describes their food as fusion. 

It is a blend of flavors from China, Malaysia, Thailand, as well as their own recipes. 

Most Asians prefer their food to have bold spices and strong aromatics of garlic, ginger, and scallions. Americans, however, tend to not have the same preferences, so Tun has learned to prepare food that is still authentic to their cultures, but is satisfying for everyone else, whether that is using less spices or cooking meat which they normally would eat raw. 

Paw said that when most people come to their restaurant they are not sure of what to order, so people order their fried rice dishes because they are familiar with them. 

They have several options like pork or chicken, and there are some less traditional versions such as pineapple, which is made with rice, pineapple, egg, raisins, curry leaf, and chicken. There is also beef and basil with rice, basil, onion, egg, and beef. 

There are a variety of stir fry noodle dishes and soups on the menu, but some of the most popular dishes are the stir fry platters like the sweet and sour chicken or pork, black pepper chicken or pork, or pad kra pow which is has red pepper, red onion, Thai sweet basil, chicken or pork, with a sunny side up egg. 

These and many other options are all served with white rice. 

In the future Tun hopes to add some traditional desserts and beverages to the menu, but for now they will focus on preparing the best tasting main dishes that they can. 

“We loved the food,” said Kristi Beckman. “Everything we have tried has been delicious. The service was fast and friendly. I’m always so excited when new restaurants open in Austin because I love to try new foods and it’s so convenient to have diverse options in town.”

Other customers like Barb Trimble and her daughter Kenzie Trimble shared the same sentiments, saying: “This place is great, staff is friendly and meals are hot!! We enjoyed every bite. The menu is extensive with a variety of options.” 

There is seating for small and large groups, with a separate room that seats 12 for meetings, parties or just an area where people can visit quietly. 

Hkakabo Razi is open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. for dine-in or take out. Customers can call in their orders ahead of time for dine-in if they need a quick turnaround during lunch or dinner breaks. 507-509-9028.