An ode to Myanmar food

Myanmar is still one of those unknown countries which we’ve read so much about but in truth, we really know nothing about that country. For many years, the country had been closed to most of the world but in recent years, the economy has been improving and the tourist industry, booming. I got the chance to visit the country last year and spent 9 pretty awesome days travelling around the cities of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle.

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Everyday, we were either racing to chase the sunset, or the sunrise. Most of the time, we made the sunsets, which offered for some pretty spectacular views

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Above all, we found the cuisine quite distinctly different from the rest of South East Asia. True, the main staple remains rice, but there were some dishes which were pretty unique and interesting.

Mohinga – rice vermicelli with a thick fish gravy accompanied with coriander and lime. We enjoyed this dish while in Mandalay at Mingalarbar Myanmar Food Centre – recommended by the hotel that we were staying at.  It’s a very common breakfast dish in Myanmar.

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Another breakfast dish which we enjoyed was Onnokauswe which comprises of egg noodles in a thick soup of coconut milk and chicken. The taste was quite similar to the laksa we enjoy in Singapore.

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Tea leaf salad (lahpet) – salad of fermented tea leaves and a variety of nuts. The dish is originally from the Shan state. We also enjoyed this dish in Mandalay after stopping for an afternoon tea break. The taste is quite unique, and while I liked the variety of nuts, the tea leaves took a while to get used to

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A common Myanmar lunch meal is to have rice with vegetable dishes and some curry. During one of our day trips around Mandalay, we had lunch at a local eating place which served such ‘lunch sets’. Myanmar people have a very different definition of curry in comparison to countries such as Thailand and Singapore. For one, Myanmar curry does not contain coconut milk and it is cooked with a LOT of oil. The best drink to go with it is always some Myanmar beer to wash all that oil down.

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Another similar rice + curry + vegetables lunch set we had while in Inle.

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Shan noodles, as its name suggests, is a ethnic dish from the Shan tribe. This can be found all over Myanmar, but one of my best experiences was having it at a night market in Mandalay. The noodles are usually served with some tofu looking ‘puffs’, but (and we were quite surprised to learn), they are actually made out of chick peas. This was one of my favourite dishes from the country. When we were back in Yangon, we visited 999 Shan Noodles which served an equally decent rendition of Shan Noodles.

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This may be seem like a surprise but Myanmar (especially Yangon) is reported to have one of the best Indian briyani restaurants outside India. The recent for this is that due to its close proximity to India (hey, the former Mughal Emperor is buried in Myanmar) and hence many Indian nationals have come over to Myanmar to set up businesses and to work. We found this charming briyani place on the street where our hotel was situated at in Yangon, and we enjoyed a very tasty chicken/mutton briyani before our flight back to Singapore.

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Overall, the cuisine in Myanmar is pretty diverse. There are some similarities, but their flavours can be pretty distinct and most of the popular/famous national dishes can be found all over the country.

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