Food in Myanmar: Traditional Dishes, Prices and Cooking Schools

Myanmar food culture is known for being a mix of different influences. When you come to Myanmar you can sample Chinese, Indian and local Mon dishes and rice is a staple food all over the country. As a general rule, the local Burmese cuisine is known for having quite a strong flavour but if you are used to Indian and Chinese food then you will find a huge amount to enjoy here.

Burmese fruits by radkuch.13

Traditional Food

As well as Indian and Chinese food you will also find Burmese regional dishes and different states have their own signature flavours such as Shan or Mon curries. As Myanmar is a coastal country, you will encounter a wide variety of seafood served in areas close to the sea. Due to the hot temperatures across Myanmar, preserved meat is usually served in the centre of the country.

Vegetarians are well catered for as many Indian and Burmese dishes don’t include meat and there are quite a few halal options, too.

Top 5 Myanmar favourite foods with list and pictures

You will find a number of great specialty dishes in Myanmar that you absolutely mustn’t miss. Some of these to try include...

Mohinga

This is the signature dish found across Myanmar and is made up of rice vermicelli noodles in a fish gravy which is usually bright orange. The dish comes with coriander and is sprinkled with chili powder. The dish varies a little according to who is making it and it can be either spicy or sweet. Mohinga is usually eaten as a breakfast dish and is widely held to be the national dish of Myanmar.

Ohn No Khao Swe

Ohn no khao swe is another noodle dish which is made with thick noodles in a broth that has been thickened with coconut milk and mixed with shredded chicken. When you order the dish it will often be served with an array of side dishes such as fruit which has been deep fried in batter or congealed duck blood which is similar to black pudding. It is similar to something like laksa in Malaysia and is one of the heartier and most famous noodle dishes served in Myanmar.

Laphet Thoke

This is one of the most pungent dishes served in Myanmar and is a kind of salad which is made from tea leaves which have been fermented and mixed with nuts. It is usually also mixed with slices of lettuce and is served with rice. This is a popular food in Myanmar but it originates from Shan State.

Nan Gyi Thoke

This is another salad found in Myanmar and is made of rice noodles which are doused in a sauce made of chicken. You will usually find this dish served in the central areas of the country.

Curry

Curry is ubiquitous across Myanmar although it differs from curries found in other parts of Southeast Asia. As a general rule, curry in Myanmar is spicier than Indian or Thai curries and is usually served at room temperature rather than heated through. Most Burmese curries do not use coconut milk, which makes them different from many other Southeast Asian curries and often use copious amounts of onion.

Top 5 Myanmar specialty drinks with list and pictures

Myanmar has a number of specialty drinks that you can enjoy with your food. Here are some of them to start with:

Yen we jan

Yenwejan is a sort of Chinese tea. This is usually served for free when you order food in a restaurant. This tea is just a mix of local tea leaves and boiled water.

Milk tea

You can get a milk tea version of Yenwejan, too, which is reminiscent of Indian or Malaysian milk tea, but normally milk tea is not served in restaurants and you will need to go to a dedicated Burmese cafe in order to enjoy this delicacy usually served with toothsome samosas.

Coconut and sugar cane juice

These are two most popular non-alcoholic drinks found throughout the country. While you can consider drinking cane juice somewhat unsafe as it is squeezed in the streets with a frightening looking metal press, coconuts are wonderfully affordable, refreshing and hygienic.

Myanmar Beer

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, beer is often the drink of choice in Myanmar and the local brand is called Myanmar Beer. Other brands that you will find in Myanmar include Tiger Beer, ABC Stout and Mandalay Beer. For a draught glass of Myanmar Beer expect to pay around MKK 600 while a 650 ml bottle will cost you around MKK 1,700. You can get beer all across Myanmar in cafes, bars, and nightclubs, and places that serve alcohol usually have a beer sign located outside the establishment.

Toddy Juice

Another popular tipple in Myanmar is known as Toddy Juice which is made with fermented palm sugar and is similar to arak which is found in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is very strong however and may not be distilled properly, especially in the northern parts of Myanmar.

Food Prices

The price of food differs across Myanmar depending on where you dine. Many local restaurants have dishes in the range of MMK 500-3,000 and it is possible to get a full meal for less than USD 10 if you choose a traditional Burmese style cafeteria. If you want to dine in an upscale Burmese restaurant then you can expect to pay around MMK 8,000 for a single menu item. Most of the fine dining options in Myanmar can be found around Yangon and Mandalay as well as some of the resort areas like Ngapali Beach which cater mostly to tourists.

Best Restaurants to Dine

If you are looking for a special dining experience when you are in Yangon in Myanmar then you can make your way to the Strand Hotel on 92 Strand Road to sample their famous Afternoon Tea. The hotel and tea are an influence from the British colonial period and although it is steep by local standards at USD 18, it is well worth it for the experience. As part of the classic colonial high tea you can enjoy sandwiches as well as scones, cakes and tarts. There is also a Burmese version that comes with samosas, spring rolls and some fragrant local sweets.

Food Security

One of the main questions many travellers to Myanmar are worried about is whether it is safe to eat street food. As anywhere around Southeast Asia, food sanitation norms are loose or non-existent in Burma from the point of view of a Western traveller. You are unlikely to get serious food poisoning eating from the street stalls but diarrhea and upset stomach are quite common among the first-time visitors.

These recommendations will help to minimize the risks:
1) Choose those stalls and restaurants where you see a lot of locals – it means that the products used for cooking are most probably fresh.
2) Try to avoid drinking beverages which contain ice – it is not often industrially produced in Burma and can be made of tap water.
3) Chili is said to act as a disinfecting agent; that is why it is so common in cuisines of many Asian countries with hot and humid climate. If you can resist eating spicy dishes – go ahead.

Learning How to Cook Burmese food

When you are in Myanmar you can also have a go at learning how to make some of the local dishes by taking a cooking class. Despite the fact that Myanmar is a relatively new tourist destination in Southeast Asia, there are a number of cooking schools that have sprung up across the country.

One of the most famous of these is the Bamboo Delight Cooking School in Nyaungshwe and the Pennywort Cooking School in Bagan where you will get to learn how to make some of the local regional dishes famous in these areas. If you are in Yangon then you can try the Flavors of Myanmar Cooking School which includes a market tour to learn more about the signature ingredients found across the country.

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