Pa Wah

Kwe Ka Ba, Authentic Karen/Burmese Cuisine

Pa Wah arrived as a refugee from Thailand and has been with Oakland Bloom since 2015.  Through Oakland Bloom’s Entrepreneurship Training program, Pa Wah catered a 3-series event at Stanford University and continues to do catering events around the Bay Area. She was also recently a guest chef at one of SF’s favorite restaurants, Hog Island Oyster Company. Pa Wah’s goal is to create a farmer’s market and food truck food business.

Pa Wah was born and raised in ethnic Karen State, a tropical region in Southern Myanmar bordering Thailand. Karen State is infamous as ground zero for the world’s longest-running civil war, but few people know about its serene countryside filled with amber rice paddies and emerald bamboo forests. Pa Wah recalls her childhood village having quiet empty farm roads and just one single Buddhist temple; the air always smelled of fermenting fish paste and crackling wood-fire. Neighbors took care of each other and continued planting even through the six decades of guerilla war between Karen fighters and the government army.

The year Pa Wah turned 12, the fighting spilled into her village and her family had to flee into the forests. They walked and shared a boat for 3 days to cross the border into Thailand. It was in Bangkok where Pa Wah polished her kitchen skills, learning to cook from other refugee families, reclaiming the flavors of home. In 2011, she immigrated to the United States and is now a mother of five in East Oakland. She continues the village tradition of sharing food with her neighbors and cooking for others.

With her culinary experience in both traditional Karen and Thai cuisine, Pa Wah brings a unique combination of flavors to her cooking that doesn’t currently exist in current Burmese restaurants. If most of what you’ve had of Burmese food is tea leaf salad, her dishes will introduce you to a whole new world of southeast Asian flavors.

As a part of the Open Test Kitchen, Pa Wah would like to test and share her signature dishes: Nya Ba Toh (Nobato: banana leaf sticky rice), Ah Taw (Fish paste), and Wet U Gyaung (Burmese Sausage)

Get To Know Pa Wah And Ask Her About

  • Various Karen groups in Burma
  • What she ate growing up
  • How Karen-Burmese food is similar/different from what we find in the Bay
  • Raising five kids in Oakland

Help Support Pa Wah With:

  • Private catering events
  • Marketing
  • Start-up capital

Volunteer Today:

Are you interested in helping Pa Wah? Get in touch with us and let us know how you’d like to get involved