Earlier this year, both me and hubby were in Yangon, to be a part of the Yoma Yangon Marathon 2013. This was the inaugural race, and we were so happy to be a part of history. If you are interested in our adventures and travels in Myanmar, read our past posts here.
And perhaps the best part of this trip was after the race, when our host, B, took us on an eating spree around Yangon. From our past travels and also what B has shown us, we now have an even better picture of the cuisine of Burma. We have compiled a list of must eats for travelers who are visiting Yangon for the first time. We hope this list helps with your induction into Myanmarese cuisine…
1. Falooda at Shwe Bali (Yangon Chinatown)
One of the terrific things about walking around downtown Yangon is that once you get tired from the sightseeing, you can stop for a refreshing drink of Yoghurt or Falooda.
Falooda or Faluda is a cold and sweet beverage containing many ingredients and is a great drink especially if you are knackered from walking around in the heat. Traditionally it is made by mixing rose syrup with vermicelli, psyllium or basil seeds, jelly pieces and tapioca pearls along with either milk, water or ice cream.
In Yangon, the Indian Muslims have monopoly of the little shops and you normally sit outside, on plastic stools as you enjoy your cold yoghurt (mixed with Jaggery to add sweetness) or Falooda and watch the people on the streets go about their business.
Jaggery is a traditional unrefined, whole cane sugar, concentrated from cane juice or date juice without separation of the molasses and crystals. It can vary from golden brown to dark brown in color, and that’s what gives the yoghurt that mixed white brown color, and also adds sweetness to the sourish tart Yoghurt drink. Our favourite stall is called Shwe Bali and the owner is a friendly fellow who’s always free to chat and talk about the changes that have come to Yangon.
2. Mohinga at Unison Tea House (Mandalay)
The best Mohinga we ever tried was in Mandalay, on our last trip to Myanmar. Most roadside stalls and markets serve the Mohinga, the unofficial national dish of Myanmar, but if you are worried about hygiene, then Lucky 7 (hawker chain) is a great place to try these Burmese noodles.
Mohinga is rice vermicelli in thick fish gravy with slivers of fish meat, sliced banana blossom, crushed crispy fritters, chives, sliced boiled eggs and a lot of wholesome goodness.
In our limited and short experience eating mohinga in Myanmar, we found much inconsistency with the quality and taste from stall to stall. Some were bland, most too salty and some just middle road.
If we had to pick a favourite, it certainly has to be at the Unison tea house in Mandalay city in Myanmar. Located in somewhere on 71st street and 30th street, this restaurant serves up many other amazing tasty street food popular to the Burmese palate such as biryani, chapatis, naan, murtabak, steamed buns, and fried noodles. Having visited this restaurant three times during our visit, we can certainly attest to the great taste offered at very affordable prices.
3. Paratha at Unison Tea House Mandalay & also Style One Food Court, Insein Road Yangon
4. Roadside Seafood, Banana Fritters and Spring Rolls ( Yangon Chinatown)
From 5 pm onwards, the streets of Chinatown change into an extended outdoor dining area, selling all sorts of food and beverages.
A most impressive selection of seafood can be seen running just paralel to the mainroad as vendors set up stall and start frying prawns, lobster and crawfish in preparation for dinner. The aroma is wonderful and the food is unending.
It is true then that Myanmar folk eat constantly – it’s all a blur as the feasting continues regardless of time of day.
5. Mandalay Beer
Mandalay Beer (with the red label) is by far the best tasting beer in Myanmar. It is not as easy to find as Myanmar beer, which is also drinkable, but not as nice. Trust us and look for the red label – a real thirst quencher!
6. Myanmar Salads
You will find this in most any day or market, on the streets of Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake or Taunggyi.
It makes a refreshing change from all the salty meat dishes you get in Myanmar really. We have never gotten sick from eating salads, but eat at your own risk.
7. Pork Offal Hotpot , Streets of Myanmar
If you are a fan of pork and offal, then you will love this. When we first saw the hotpot of fat and lard on the boil, and people crowding around it to eat, we nearly did a double take. Think lok-lok but greasier, and you won’t be far off the mark.
It is communal and pretty disgusting if you think about it – I try not to think about it! But here’s a tip – if you search carefully, some hotpots are less oily than others. The soup actually looks clear. Pull up a stool, sit yourself down and get comfortable. It is only 100 kyat for one skewer of pork meat or offal.. so get busy and get eating.. Dip the skewer into the hot soup to cook the meat or pray that it kills some germs at least.. Mmm.. delicious!
8. Shan Food at Aung Mingalar Shan Noodle (Downtown Yangon)
Shan noodles comes from the Shan State in Myanmar. The Shan State borders China to the north, Laos to the east, and Thailand to the south. The state gets its name from the Shan people, one of several ethnic groups that inhabit the area. Shan State is largely rural, with only three cities of significant size – Lashio, Kengtung, and the capital, Taunggyi.
Aung Mingalar is a noodle shop in Yangon that is popular with both the local as well as foreigners. The food is relatively affordable and service excellent. The staff speak English, so that helps with the ordering. Make sure you try the freshly made dumplings as well as the beef noodles.
9. Duck at Golden Duck, 8th Mile Pyay Road
Yangon is not just about noodles. There are other delicious dishes too, such as the duck. Don’t miss the chance to visit Golden Duck for some super succulent roast duck. Also try the fried noodles – it is deep-fried before a starchy white sauce is poured over it. Somewhat like our Malaysian “Ying Yong” but starchier.
10. Pork Noodles by Aung San Bongyoke Market (also known as Scott’s Market)
This dish is not for the faint hearted. The strange aromas, from a large pot of pork offal that has been on the boil, for the entire day, fills the tiny, cramped room.
Folks sit on little plastic stools and low tables, waiting patiently for their bowl of hot, steamy pig intestine noodles to appear. The noodles and offal are eaten with a slightly sweet, chilli sauce. Delicious!
11. Myanmar Style BBQ at Super Win , No. 67, Insein Road, Hlaing Township
No trip to Yangon is complete, without trying the local BBQ. The minute you enter Super Win, you are ushered to large refrigerators and asked to select your food, most of which are on skewers.
Larger items like fish and vegetables are also available. Once they have barbecued the food, they serve it to you at the table.
12. Indian Style BBQ at Cherry Man, Latha Rosd, Chinatown
Apart from the Myanmar style BBQ, there is also an Indian Style BBQ. The difference is in the marinade.
Just as tasty as the Myanmar BBQ, and the taste is more familiar to the Malaysian tongue since they have tandoori chicken and mutton fried noodles. At most restaurants in Yangon, no corkage is charged so many folks bring their own booze to dinner, and just order ice and mixers to go with it.
13. Pork Ball Noodle at YKKO, Capital Mall
Good prices and large portions. YKKO is clean and modern, so no need to worry about tummy aches. There are several branches per township. I highly recommend the seafood noodles and pork noodles.
14. Sichet, Samosas and Zhong at Kan Road (off Insein Road)
This place is just a corner road side stall with no name, but you can find them on virtually any corner of any street in Yangon. The Bachang (Zhong), Samosa and Sichet (konlow or dry noodles) are to die for. Also a stuffed version of the Paratha, that tastes like mutarbak is something that’s perfect for breakfast.
15. Rakhine noodles at Inya Lake Park
This famous and trendy dining area is filled with young people with a ravenous appetite. It is located opposite Yangon University.
Rakhine, is a rice noodle dish traditional to the Shan people of Myanmar. Its spicy fish soup can really pack a punch. A perfect way to warm your cockles during the winter. It reminds me of the mohinga as there are similarities, yet it has its own distinct taste. This dish comes from Rakhine state on the west coast of Burma. The noodles are thinner than other noodles, cooked till rather soft, and you can add more chilis if it isn’t already spicy enough for you!
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