5 Things to Eat in Myanmar (Burma)

Published 31 May 2017

Daisy Cropper

Burmese food is often overlooked for fragrant fares from nearby Thailand and Vietnam. However, travellers to the country will discover a range of fiery street food, flavoursome dishes and unique dining experiences.

The country’s food varies from region to region, with noodle soups from the east and spicy salads from the south. Of course, dishes from Southeast Asia with a Burmese twist can be found – think Nepalese dhals and rich Thai curries.

Where to eat often trumps the issue of what to eat: pull-up a plastic chair at one of the many sprawling street-side restaurants or tuck into mountains of food in buffet-style establishments. Either way, you’ll soon be back to Myanmar for more…

Shan noodle soup

Steaming bowls of broth, laden with thin rice noodles and strips of tofu, pork or chicken and vegetables are a favourite across Myanmar, but most popular in Shan state and Yangon. Packed with ginger, lemongrass and garlic, it comes with an intense kick.

Tucked behind the Bogyoke Aung San Market in central Yangon (which is perfect for souvenir shopping) is Aung Mingalar Shan Noodle Restaurant. Feast on budget bowls of broth, alongside a bustling mix of locals and tourists. Pair it with a refreshing avocado juice.

Bite-sized breakfasts

Sample pakodas – deep-fried vegetable dumplings – alongside crispy samosa, sugary coconut tarts and yellow-bean cakes for a typically Burmese way to start the day.

Nyaungshwe – the closest town to the tourist hotspot Inlé Lake – is home to Thukha Caffee. Serving deliciously-bitter black coffee alongside bundles of sweet pastries, the town’s only Muslim teashop is an ideal place to sample this unique breakfast style. Pull-up a stool alongside the locals and tuck in!

Pickled tea leaf salad

When you think of tea, it’s unlikely you’ll think of it pickled and spicy among a bed of salad. Laphet thohk is a Burmese specialty – the country is one of the few in the world where people both drink and eat tea leaves. You’ll find a mountain of crunchy, spicy, saucy leaves along with seeds, peppers, peanuts, fried peas and zesty lime juice.

Head to vegetarian restaurant ‘Be Kind to Animals The Moon’ (yes, really) in Old Bagan for a salad that really packs a punch. Their iced lemon, ginger and honey drinks are revitalizing in the midday heat too.

Buffet-style dining

Chargrilled okra and broccoli, grilled fish; mala yin – grilled vegetables in spicy bean paste; saucy curries; and sticky rice dishes: this is Burmese dining like you’ve never seen it before. Forget ordering one meal – at these establishments you’ll order a tableload of plates covering a vast range of tastes, textures and spiciness.

Yangon’s Feel Good Food is a sensory overload: from the waves of noise from local lunchers to the colours and smells from the vast collection of dishes on offer. Opt for the dark, saucy mutton curry, fish cakes wrapped in leaves and crunchy eggplant salad. There are plenty of waiters on hand to help you with choices or to just help you navigate the madness of it all.

All the little extras…

Across Myanmar, you’ll order your main dish and a medley of side dishes will arrive (unexpected, at first) to accompany your main meal. These range from pickled green tea leaves to crispy dried chilies, roasted peanuts to aromatic broths.

My best advice? Dig in and taste them all. There’s no doubt you’ll try a few things you’ve never sampled before and you’ll find a few along the way you’ll love. Vegetarians be warned: get your travel companion to taste test them for you, before tucking in.

Travel to Myanmar with one of Round the World Experts Myanmar Holidays.

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