15 Burmese Food MUSTS

As in many countries, Burmese food is all part of the cultural experience and one cannot really experience the country without trying out its numerous delicious dishes! It has it’s very own style, from the wide variety of eclectic tastes, which reflects the many different origins of Burmese people, to the way it is served on your table (note that it’s not in your plate, but on your table). Of course, street food plays a major role. For any traveller, trying out street foods is one of the best ways to get to know better your host country, essentially because that is what the average common people eat every day.

The way the food is presented is also quite unique to Myanmar. As in most countries of South East Asia, a large portion of rice is used as a base to accompany most meals, but then in Myanmar, the rice will be accompanied by a multitude  of small plates of raw fresh vegetables, like cucumber, soja or eggplant, a bit of chicken, a bit of curry, a bit of egg, some lentil soup and a seemingly never-ending succession of other side dishes.

  1. Tea Leaf Salad

  2. Deep fried food

  3. Mohinga

  4. Shan style noodles

  5. Samosas

  6. Curries

  7. Dosa

  8. Shan style rice

  9. Nangyi thoke

  10. Koh Pièh

  11. Bein Mont

  12. Kauk Nyin Tok

  13. Mont Lone Yay Paw

  14. Shwe Yin Aye

  15. Falooda

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For those who are interested, the famous American chef Anthony Bourdain, even  made an episode on Burmese food:

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  1.  Laphet Thohk (Tea Leaf Salad)

My favorite!! Probably THE most famous dish in Myanmar. It’s supposed to be a mix of pickled tea leaves, shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes, crunchy deep-fried beans, nuts and peas and on the side, slices of chili and garlic. The sauce is made from tomato, salt, sugar, cooked bean powder, oil-garlic sauce, spring onions, and coreanda. That’s the supposed recipe, but, having ordered them as often as I could, I don’t think I ate twice the same tea leaf salad! But it’s always a delicious combination of soft, crunchy, crispy, and saucy. They also have various other kinds of similar salads with nuts and that dressing, like tomato salad, ginger salad, carrot salad, lemon salad, etc.

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    2.  Deep fried food and Wat Thar Dot Toe

Everywhere in Myanmar you’ll find street food stalls, where you can buy and deep fry meats, vegetables, spring rolls, breads, etc. I never really found the food very attractive, especially after a French girl living in Yangon, told me that an Australian lab had done a research on the oil used in these stalls… and most of them used an oil from China, half mixed with plastic… bon appetit !

Similarly, vendors of Wat Thar Dot Toe, meaning « pork on a stick », will have stall with a big wide pot with all the body parts of pork clearly displayed over the boiling soup, in which the pork is cooked. Some vendors use Coca-cola, soy sauce, scallion and/or sugar as their soup base. Perfect for adventurous travelers!

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    3. Mohinga

This fish-based rice-noodle soup is the national dish of Myanmar. Usually eaten in the morning, it’s a real breakfast for champions (but you can still find it served during the rest of the day)! Just like the tea leaf salad, every town or restaurant has it’s own version. However, it is commonly prepared by adding boiled duck egg and fried vegetables.

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    4. Shan style noodles 

Similar to a vietnamese Pho or a Thai noodle soup, Shan style noodles is a combination of (more or less, depending on where you go) thin, flat rice noodles, in a broth with marinated chicken or pork, coriander, sometimes with fish sauce or vegetables or even served as a salad. Simple, but always efficient!

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    5. Samosa Thoke or Samosa Salad

Yes! Samosa is also popular in Myanmar. This dates back from when Myanmar was under British control and named the « Province of British India ». Unlike Indian samosas, Burmese like their samosas to be flat and triangular, much smaller in size and mainly made of vegetables (often potato and beans). The Burmese eat their samosas as snacks, as part of a soup or as a salad.

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    6. Curries 

Wet That Sipyan (pork curry), Burmese fish curry, Golden egg curry, Pumpkin curry, all kinds, all styles, weather with pork, fish, prawn, mutton or beef. Curries in Myanmar are milder than the ones in other neighbor countries. They are mild because they are cooked with a ton of oil, which, if cooked long enough, breaks down the harshness of ingredients like chilis or ginger. Once cooked, oil is even often added to the top of a curry, because the dish might sit out all day in large pots and oil preserves the food and protects it from things like bugs or bacteria.

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    7. Burmese Dosa 

Similar to samosa, dosa is a southern Indian food that has become part of Myanmar cuisine. Burmese dosa is prepared by wrapping cooked cabbage, carrot, onion, bean, chili, scallion and pepper.

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    8. Shan style rice 

Known in Burmese as nga htamin (fish rice), this Shan (one of the country’s largest states) dish combines rice that’s been cooked with turmeric and squashed into a disk with a topping of flakes of freshwater fish and garlic oil.

shan rice

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    9. Nangyi thoke 

This very popular and tasty « dry » noodle dish, is usually served with sides of pickled greens and a bowl of broth. The dish takes the form of thick, round rice noodles with chicken, thin slices of fish cake, par-boiled bean sprouts and slices of hard-boiled egg.

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    10. Koh Pièh

Koh Pièh is a savoury glutinous rice cake with a natural sweetness from the coconut added to the mixture. The cake is then coated in toasted sesame seeds and served with extra grated fresh coconut and salt and pepper.

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    11. Bein Mont

Burmese style pancake, topped with poppy seeds, slivered almonds and fresh coconut slices.

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    12. Kauk Nyin Tok 

This « banana wrap » desert is made sugar laced banana, coconut powder and salt, then it is mixed with sticky rice, wrapped up with a banana leaf and eaten warm!

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    13. Mont Lone Yay Paw

Is a desert similar to Japanese Mochi and it means « flooding rice balls » in Burmese. Usually made during the holiday season such as Thingyan (water festival in April). Not sure what it’s made of… some sort of rice powder and something sweet. Apparently, sometimes people insert a hot chili inside to tease their friends.

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    14. Shwe Yin Aye

Popular in the summer when heat is at its highest, Shwe Yin Aye means « cooling down golden heart » and its main ingredients are jelly, bread, sticky rice, tapioca pearls, coconut milk and sometimes toped with ice and condensed milk. I didn’t actually get to try either, but I’m not sure all the jelly part would really have been popular with me!

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    15. Burmese Falooda

Similar in aspect and composition, Falooda is a drink that comes with rose syrup, vermicelli or agar agar jelly, basil seeds, sago or tapioca pearls, ice-cream, milk or water. Looks sweet, but kind of good!

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Want to know more ?

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