There aren’t many Burmese restaurants around the corner worldwide, but this can mean only one thing: there’s still more to discover about Asia. Thai, Indian or Chinese cuisine has become much too common to be exotic so you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover Burmese which is a mix of those with a twist of its own.
Neither too spicy, nor engulfed in too much gravy (though a little bit oily) Burmese food addresses for a wider range of gourmands than any other Asian cuisine. Everything’s here: shrimps, fish, chicken, mutton, rice, noodles, soup, fried insects, plants, dips; although not very praised by devoting Buddhists on the one hand, and Muslims on the other hand beef and pork are also present (and quite tasty we may add).
Eating at a Burmese restaurant, with its seemingly never-ending courses and side dishes, is an experience in itself. Upon arriving at any – let’s say – Yangon based restaurant and having chosen a curry, fried dish or salad, a succession of side dishes will follow. One of these side dishes is invariably soup. A tray of fresh and parboiled vegetables and herbs is another common side dish eaten with various dips. Additional vegetable-based side dishes, unlimited green tea and a dessert of pickled tea leaves and chunks of jaggery (palm sugar) are also usually included.
If you order mondhi instead of mohinga or the other way round you have nothing to worry about as they both taste very good. For the sake of clarity though we should mention that mohinga is the most popular noodle and unofficial national dish and are thin rice noodles served in a thick
Fish and shallot broth and topped with crispy deep-fried veggies or lentils while mondhi are spaghetti-like noodles served with chunks of chicken or fish. However, if you order laphet (fermented green tea leaves mixed with a combination of sesame seeds, fried peas, dried shrimp, fried garlic, peanuts and other crunchy ingredients) you might be put off by its appearance and you’ll have to trust your taste buds rather than your eyes in order to enjoy this surprisingly tasty dish.
Because refrigerators and power supply are scarce all food is freshly cooked (and it takes quite a while to do that) which for the Westerners fed up with ready-made meals may be a real blessing.
In terms of food places you can choose upscale restaurants, eat with the locals or enjoy the variety of street food stalls. The main thing is to eat early – by 10pm all but a couple of places and a few large hotel restaurants will be closed. You may also want to keep in mind some useful phrases: htamin (rice) peh-hìn-ye (lentil soup) ngăpí ye (a watery, fishy dip) athoke (salads) moun (sweet dishes).
Myanmar’s cuisine reflects its multicultural mix of people. With the offerings ranging from Shan-style rice-noodle curries and soups to tamarind-flake sweets in Bagan and fresh grilled seafood in Rakhaing State, you’re sure to find something new and delicious every time.
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