Burmese cuisine treads a line somewhere between Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, but is subtly different to both. Dishes feature abundant spices, but tend to include less chilli than in Thailand or India, with an emphasis on sour, bitter and salty flavours.
Many dishes in Myanmar are topped with a layer of oil to keep off bugs, but not all dishes are as oily as people expect. Noodle soups and salads are very popular, and the local tofu – made from yellow split peas – is delicious.
Preserved vegetables crop up prominently in Burmese cooking, including pickled bamboo shoots and pickled tea leaves – a local delicacy. Marking the shift from Indian subcontinent to Southeast Asia, many dishes feature fish sauce or ngapi, a fermented paste of ground shrimp. Chinese food and Indian food is also popular, particularly biryani, Indian spiced fried rice.
Lethok son: Spicy vegetarian rice salad.
Mohinga: Burmese fish soup with noodles, the national dish.
Oh-no khauk swe: A soup of rice noodles, chicken and coconut milk.
Shan khauk swe: A dish predominately eaten by the Shan, but popular around the country, it consists of rice noodles either in broth or dry, usually with chicken.
Athoke: Various ‘salads’ served cold, made from noodles, ginger, tofu, chicken and other ingredients.
Biryani: Indian-style fried rice with spices and chicken.
Burmese curry: Most meals feature some kind of curry dish, usually quite mildly spiced and oily, and traditionally accompanied by a selection of side dishes like ngapi (fish paste) as well as rice and soup.
Lahpet: A tasty dish of fermented tealeaves, usually eaten as dessert and considered to be a key part of Myanmar’s culinary heritage.
Htanyet: Jaggery, unrefined palm sugar, eaten at the end of a meal.
Peh-hin-ye: Indian-style dhal (lentil) soup.
Htamin: Rice, the foundation of any Burmese meal.Green tea: Provided free in many restaurants.
Black tea: Drunk with milk and sugar in teahouses, which are important social hubs.
Alcohol: Locally produced beer, rum, whisky and gin are generally available.
Coffee: Usually sold in instant form except for in a few Western-style cafes.
Tips for Dining in Myanmar
1. When eating food in street stalls and markets, avoid eating doubtful meat and try vegetables instead.
2. Although usual Asian flavors dominate Myanmar, in recent years, Yangon and Bagan has seen a spring in international restaurants, such as western, Japanese, Chinese and even Korean.
3. The Chinatown located at the downtown Yangon is a good place to find various kinds of foods from all over Asia.
4. The concept of service is in its infancy, so don’t expect western standards in dining place. While upmarket restaurants do better.
5. Tipping is not common practice in Myanmar, but it’s appreciated. A 5-10% tip will do.
6. Staff working at western cafes/restaurants can speak English, but not those in the markets or street stands. If the language doesn’t work, keep patient and turn to your private tour guide for help.
7. Never drink tab water, use bottled drinking water which is available at every shop. Or our guide will help you with this.
8. There are no sophisticated social rules for dining in Myanmar. Watch what the locals do and follow suit.
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