Traveling in Myanmar is an adventure to the taste buds. Sure, you come across familiar stuff such as Indian breads and Chinese dough sticks due to the heavy influence of these cuisines, but the rest are uniquely Bamar.
Chinese and Indian Flavors
Myanmar shares boundaries with India and China in the north so it is inevitable that their cuisines should mingle. In addition, the British brought many Indian workers during the colonial period. These migrants brought their cuisine with them.
These big crisp breads are similar to Indian papadom. Roadside stalls in Ngauyungshwe near the jetty is the place to find these.
Unlike the Indian samosas, these are lighter and less spicy.
Of course, the Chinese are everywhere. These Chinese dough sticks are very good with coffee for breakfast.
Do take note that these “foreign” cuisines have been adapted and assimilated to Myanmar cuisine in general so the samosas are Myanmar as much as they are Indian.
The Bamar are the dominant ethnic group in Myanmar.
The food is very good. Admittedly, those not used to the strong flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine will need to get used to it. There’s a liberal use of ginger, mint, chili, and other spices.
A traditional Myanmar meal consists of a main dish (your choice of curry) and an entire slew of side dishes, dipping sauces, rice, and lentil soup.
In a restaurant serving Myanmar food, you simply choose your curry and the rest of the dishes and dessert come packaged in.
Except for the main dish, the rest is refillable. Waitresses are always on the lookout approaching you with “Do you want more?” Your gluttony will no know bound here.
The friendly rice bowl from which your attentive waitress will refill your plate with.
The soup is the filling Peh-hin-ye (lentil soup)
Dessert is a plate of white gelatin and laphetthoke which looks more like a salad than dessert. You mix a variety of fried nuts to pressed green tea leaves thatv have been cooked in a little oil. Looks strange but quite good, really.
The more normal-looking gelatin called kyauk kaw
The strange-looking Laphetthoke
No-frills eating places called t’amin zain (rice shop) specialize in these.
In Bamar cuisine, pork makes its appearance in a salad of chopped cabbages in a slightly salty soy sauce dressing.
A unique item that I truly enjoy and which is served the whole day as a snack or with breakfast food is tofu made from yellow-split peas. They’re cut into small squares and fried to a beautiful golden color. Crisp on the outsidec and pillowy soft on the inside. It has a milky egg-like taste. Very good especially when dipped in a soy and chili sauce.
Here it is uncooked.
Because I traveled around the Shan State during my entire trip in Myanmar, I had the opportunity to try Shan cuisine which is similar to northern Thai, where there are also Shans.
Nyaungshwe has lots of eateries specializing in this cuisine.
I had a very very good pork in soybean paste at Shan Land. The balance of the saltiness of the soybean paste and the thinly sliced ginger was just perfect with steamed rice.
Another Shan favorite is noodle salad. Thick chewy noodles are mixed with a peanut-based gravy. Soooo good.
This Shan noodles dish has a gravy made of tofu. It’s rather oily but really good. I had this at one of the stalls in the small night market at Ngauyungshwe.
If you can’t get away from your fried rice, fear not. This old stand by is everywhere.
Snacks are everywhere and you can keep your tummy happy with these. The word for snacks is mont.
This sweet and sticky snack called mont lak kaw is well… sweet and sticky. Tastes a bit like our caryoka.
Fritters and other fried stuff are cheap, yummy, and filling. You can find them at street corners, tea shops, and eateries. They may be eaten as snacks or as part of the meal. In eateries geared towards tourists they may be referred to as “tempura” in the English menu.
The round one is fritter of mashed bananas while the flat one is of vegetables.
This is a crisp fritter with nuts.
This one is made of spring onions and other vegetables and dipped in a mildly hot tamarind sauce.
This looks like okoy complete with shrimps. Saw this one near the U Pein bridge at Amarupura where there were many seafood snacks.
Every evening at a corner near a msin road in Nyaungshwe, this man sells this flat and crisp thin pancakes with spring onions.
In the evening, locals have these fried food with beer. Some are served with a bowl of dipping sauce made of what looks like lard with finely chopped cabbages.
What would a Southeast Asian country be without some sticky rice cakes sold in a basket?
There’s also ice-cream. This guy is peddling some at U Pein bridge in Amarapura.
Lots of Indian snacks. In Kalaw, I had 2 paratha breads and 3 vegetable samosas for the equivalent of less than Php 30! That is dirt cheap.
A snack of banana chapati and coffee at Everest so I can use the wifi and write my blog.
The best snack is taken under a large tree.
These egg-like things are similar to the ones sold in Thailand but these are savory rather than sweet and are doused in a spicy sauce. They’re called mont lin ma yar.
Where To Eat
Myanmar is probably the cheapest place to eat in the whole of Southeast Asia. The servings are big and there is so much food served to you.
This meal at Too Too Restaurant in Mandalay only costs about Php 120.
This meal at a restaurant in Kalaw only costs the equivalent of Php 120
The most expensive meal I had was at Green Elephant in Mandalay. Geared towards tourists, it has garden seating, candel lit tables, and nice presentation. They even hand you a bottle of mosquito repellant when they seat you at your table. The button mushrooms cooked in spicy shrimp balachaung (a kind of paste) was very good.
On the cheap side, one of the cheapest meals was this bowl of Shan Noodles at a restaurant fronting the lake in Pindaya. The noodles are chewy and the broth tasty with a mild chili.
Markets are great places to eat tasty, authentic, and cheap food.
This bowl of Shan noodles at Minglar Market is around Php 23.
Tourist spots would always have a shack selling some snacks and basic meals such as this one by the walkway to Thaung Thut pagoda in the southern end of Inle Lake.
Don’t be put off seeing fried this or fried that. The meals are quite good.
In Kalaw, you can say to your friends back home that you’ve eaten at Everest.
Their chicken biryani which is only served on weekends come with soup and side dishes.
Coffee, Tea, and Me
Myanmar coffee with milk is good especially the freshly made one. I had a cup at a small shop near my hotel in Mandalay. It only cost Php 9!
There are many many tea houses and weak tea is served free in restaurants.