As tourism in Myanmar grows, so is the popularity of Burmese food. While the food isn’t as well known as its Thai and Vietnamese neighbors, I’m a sucker for delicious food and I knew Myanmar was the perfect place to go on a culinary journey. A lot of travelers that I met didn’t care much for the food in Myanmar and if you don’t know what to order, I can see why. However, armed with the right list of must try dishes, I found myself deeply enjoying every bite. From delicious curries to their many amazing salads, Burmese food was something that thoroughly surprised me. So without further ado, let’s head straight for the good stuff.
Tea Leaf Salad (Laphet Thohk)
Hands down, out of all the Burmese food that I’ve tried, this is my favorite. Living in Chiang Mai, there is a couple of Burmese hole in the wall restaurants which I frequent just for this. It’s a delicious tangy mix of tea leaves, shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, crunchy deep-fried beans, nuts, and peas, mixed together with some peanut oil, chili, and lime. It is absolutely delicious and a must try. Some people eat it as a salad while some eat it with rice. Either way, it’s delicious.
Shan-Style Rice (Nga Htamin)
This fish rice dish is their version of fried rice and is a mix of various herbs and spices. The rice itself is cooked with turmeric and fresh fish. Often served with sides of garlic, leek roots, and deep fried pork rinds to add crunch and flavor. Although it doesn’t sound as appetizing when described, it’s actually delicious.
Considered as the national dish of Myanmar, Monhinga is a tasty rice noodle soup topped with crispy fried fritters and is considered a staple breakfast meal for many locals. Everywhere you go you will see dozens of roadside stalls and vendors selling this delicious dish. Although it doesn’t tickle everyone’s fancy, I found it to be quite good (I couldn’t eat it for breakfast though!) Coming from the Philippines, we have something similar which we eat when we’re feeling ill!
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Unlike traditional Indian curry, I found most Burmese curries to be on the blander side when it comes to spice. However, with that being said, they were still delicious. As soon as you order your curry with whatever type of meat you fancy (chicken and fish are pretty popular), an array of side dishes are also served. From various boiled vegetables and dips, it’s a full on meal. The curry I found to be watery and mild compared to traditional Indian or Thai curries. Although there was one particular curry in a roadside by Inle lake that was super good.
Deep Fried Snacks
Quick snacks are virtually everywhere in Myanmar. As you walk along the streets, you will find lots of small stalls or tea shops selling deep fried samosas, spring rolls, bread, or savory fritters. Although not the healthiest, I’m guilty of sampling a few samosas here and there. Okay, who am I kidding? I love samosas!!
This dry noodle dish is essentially a noodle salad topped with chicken, fish cake, and bean sprouts. They often top this with egg and is tossed with a turmeric and chili oil dressing. The chili oil adds a nice kick to it and is reminiscent of Indonesia’s Mie Goreng.
This rice noodle and pork dish is a specialty of the Shan people of the Eastern part of Myanmar. While there are various variations to this dish, it is typically rice noodles cooked in a clay pot served with pork, lots of soup, and fresh greens. While in Mandalay, consider ordering a piping hot bowl to see what the fuss is all about.
Related: Mandalay Foodie Tour Review
Similar to the Indian Biryani’s this dish is deliciously cooked in turmeric, saffron, with hints of coconut milk. Chicken biryani is the most popular kind that is served and is a pretty good meal when you get tired of the rich curries and soups.
Aside from my favorite tea leaf salad, they also serve a wide variety of other salads that are honestly, out of this world! A few of my favorites are the Pennywort Salad (Myin Kwa Yuet Thote), Tofu Salad (Tofu Thohk), Tomato Salad (Karyanchintheet Thote) and a lemon pulp salad whose name I can’t remember. These salads are great appetizers and delicious accompaniment to any meal I ordered.
You’re essentially given a plate with rice and are given an assortment of rice, vegetables, soup, chutney and curry. While I did not find this particularly mind blowing, it was still pretty good. As a lot of these meals are cooked beforehand, take a look at the general look of it. You can tell if it looks fresh or if they are just reheating leftovers from the day’s previous thali.
Shan Style Noodles (khaut sew)
This dish is real simple. No frills or fuss. Just good old noodle soup. Essentially made with thin noodles served with a peppery soup topped with either chicken or pork and pickled vegetables. Compared to other noodle dishes, this one is rather bland but still delicious. This article here gives great tips on where to try out delicious Shan Style noodles in Yangon.
Due to its location, you will find lots of Indian, and even Chinese influence in Burmese food. Dishes such as chines fried noodles, and sides of chapati and dhal soup are very common. While in general, it isn’t the most exciting type of cuisine in the world, it isn’t bad either. Our Burma itinerary went from Yangon, Bagan, Kalaw, Inle Lake and a few more places down south. To make travel within Myanmar easier, consider checking Flymya, a company specializing in flights, tours, transport.
If you’re heading to Myanmar, my suggestion is don’t completely write off the food. Eat locally, sample everything and anything you can (not too sure about the grilled bats I saw in Bagan). Happy eating!
Looking for more tips around Myanmar? Check out a few of our articles
- Where to Stay in Bagan: Top Hotels & Hostels
- Where to Stay in Inle Lake: Top Hotel & Hostels
- Bagan Temples: Your Travel Guide to the Best Pagodas
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