Myanmar, the new exotic tourism destination, is an enchanting place, a land of pagodas, with cultural and religious festivals, traditional music and dances, and a variety of communities. People who visit Myanmar will also discover a tasty cuisine that largely hidden from sight for almost 50 years.
Myanmar cuisine can be best described as a fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine with Thai influence. Although drawing on its neighbors, it is neither as hot as Thai, as spicy as Indian, nor does it resemble Chinese cooking much except in the stir- fry vegetables. It is the way that all different ‘foreign’ ingredients are combined to make Burmese dishes unique and diverse.
Burmese typical meal
The typical Burmese meal consists of the staple rice with accompanying dishes such as soup with leafy greens, meat curries, cooked vegetables, lentils, spicy salad and chili condiment. After meal, it is common to eat fresh fruits such as durians, mangoes, papayas…, semolina cakes flavored with coconut or banana cakes.
Eating habits and customs
Burmese traditionally eat their meals on the round and low table. Family member sit on a bamboo mat around the table when eating. Food is not served in courses. Out of respect, the eldest diners are served first before the rest join in.
Many people eat with their hands. If that is the case food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand, using only the fingertips. Knives and forks are used rarely in homes but will always be provided for guests and are available in restaurants and hotels. Chopsticks and Chinese-style spoons are used for noodle dishes, although noodle salads are more likely to be eaten with just a spoon.
Most Burmese are Buddhist, thus neither beer nor alcoholic beverages should be expected on traditional Burmese dining table. Drinks are not often served with the meal and, instead, the usual liquid accompaniment is in the form of a light broth or consommé served from a communal bowl. Outside the meal, the Burmese beverage of choice are green tea, or strong black tea with sweetened condensed milk…
Myanmar Cuisine Standout Features
Common Ingredients: White rice (htamin) is the staple of Burmese food, seafood is common ingredients especially in coastal cities while meat and poultry are common to Burmese cuisine receipt of the landlocked regions.
Freshwater fish and shrimp are used in inland cooking as a primary source of protein in variety ways of fresh, salted, salted and dried, salted and made into paste…
Spices and Condiments: Myanmar lies in a zone of the world historically famous for spices and seasoning which adds much zest and flavor to the food. Some spices commonly used in Burmese dishes include basil, caraway, chili, cinnamon, coriander, curry leaf, garlic, ginger, pepper….
Burmese cuisine is characterized by extensive use of fish products like fish sauce and ngapi (a pungent paste from salted, fermented fish or shrimp). Ngapi is considered the cornerstone of any Burmese dishes, and used in soup base, in salads, in main dishes, and also in condiments.
Burmese cuisine is full of condiments from sweet, sour to savory. The most popular are pickled mango, balachaung (shrimp and ngapi floss), and ngapi pyaw (fried ngapi).
For an overview of Myanmar cuisine, here are 5 Burmese dishes that every visitor to the country should taste:
1.Tea leaf salad (laphet thoke)
When we are talking about Myanmar cuisine, it is impossible to ignore the huge variety of salads. Without doubt, the most famous and popular salad of them all is laphet thoke, which is made of tea leaves fresh from the bush and pickled with variety of crunchy bits.
To make the dish, the sour, slightly bitter leaves are mixed by hand with julienne cabbage, sliced tomatoes, crunchy deep-fried beans, nuts, peas, a splash of garlic oil and slices of chili and garlic.
We can eat this dish as a snack, an appetizer, or coupled with a plate of rice.
(*) Eating too much laphet thoke may prevent sleep.
No conversation about Myanmar cuisine is complete without a mention of mohinga. . Regarded as Myanmar’s unofficial national dish, mohinga is made from round rice noodles served in a hearty, herbal fish and shallot- based broth, often supplemented with the crunch pith of banana tree.
Depending on where you are, the optional extras can include a sliced hard-boiled egg, fish cakes, fried onions, and other tasty additions. The dish is seasoned to taste with a squeeze of lime or flakes of dried chili.
Mohinga is beloved as a breakfast dish, as well as a common snack at any time of day or night as it sold by mobile vendors.
3. Burmese curries
Milder than the one you will find in any other country in Asia but as tasty, Burmese curries are ideal for those who are not keen on spice and want to try a different take on curry. As the name suggests, curry is the central element, which usually will be based around pork, shrimp, beef, or mutton. Curries are often served with side dishes including rice, salads, fried or fresh vegetables, soups, herbs, and dips.
After you have finished, you will get a traditional Burmese desert, a lacquer tray containing pickled tea leaves and nuts, or a jar of chunks of palm sugar.
4. Shan-style cuisines
Shan ‘tofu’ noodle
Shan state is one of the most popular state in Myanmar for tourist, not only because of the different attractions it offers but also because of its cuisine:
Shan rice (nga htamin)
Shan rice, or nga htamin in Burmese, is originally a traditional food of the Shan ethnic group but now popular throughout Myanmar.
Known as fish rice, this Shan dish is among the most typical Myanmar food. It consists of rice, potato, and tomato cooked with turmeric and moldered into a bowl shape, then topped with freshwater fish cooked with onion, garlic, and chili. It becomes a snack when served with sides of leek roots, cloves of raw garlic and deep-fried pork rinds.
Shan ‘tofu’ noodles
Shan ‘tofu’ noodle, or hto-hpu nwe literally ‘warm tofu’, is one of the most unusual dishes that almost visitors to Myanmar should not ignore.
The dish actually does not include tofu but a thick porridge made from chickpea flour. This sticky yellow stuff is served over thin rice noddle, chunks of marinated chicken or pork, topped with a dazzle of chili or garlic oil. It is served with a side of pickled vegetables and broth.
5. Burmese sweets and fries
Burmese sweets, known as ‘muon’, are not consumed as dessert but rather as snacks, typically taken with tea in the morning or afternoon. These dishes are not very sweet, instead getting their sweet flavors from ingredients such as coconut, coconut milk, rice flour, or fruit. The top of Burmese snacks consist of hsa nwin ma kin (translate as an odd name: ‘turmeric unavoidable’), bein moun and moun pyit thalet, ghee and raisins.
The Burmese have an obsession with deep-fried foods in oil. The majority of snacks found on the street are deep fried such as samosas, spring rolls, savory fritters, fried bread. They are served with a sweet and sour tamarind sauce and cannot refuse by visitors! Most cakes are made from glutinous rice flour, or a mixture of different flours.
Myanmar offers plentiful meals for visitors to enjoy. The food of Myanmar is delicious and an important part of any visit to this incredible country is tasting as much of it as possible.