During my visit to Myanmar one of the priorities – as is always the case when I travel – was to sample local food. I was certainly lucky to be travelling with friends who knew this and had arranged a Burmese lunch tour on our first free day.
A young local guide met us at our hotel and as we made our way into the busy city of Yangon he told us we would sample traditional noodle dishes, unique salads and sweets. That’s a pretty good deal for 25,000 Kyats (around AUD$30 each).
Our first stop was a street food stall where a local man was making samosa salads.
His cart had large bowls of cooked vegetable samosas which he cut into pieces with scissors. He then added a spoonful of cooked chickpeas, some pieces of yellow potatoes that had been cooked in turmeric, shredded cabbage and diced tomato. For the seasoning he added a bit of chilli powder, garam masala and tamarind sauce which he mixed in with a little bean broth that was warming in a pot.
He made us two salads: a soup like version with extra bean broth and one with just enough bean broth to mix the seasonings. I preferred the dry salad as you get a better sensation with the different textures of ingredients. It was such a simple dish and oh so tasty – I’d love to recreate this at home.
Our next stop was a busy eatery where our guide ordered bowls of sticky Shan noodles, accompanied by a light, clear broth (vegetarian for me) and a side of Shan chin (pickled vegetables). Our guide said this is a popular dish for workers as it’s cheap, quick to make and fills you up.
A little something extra to try was a steamed bun with black bean. They had sweet and savoury buns and the white fluffy dough was much like that of other Asian steamed buns.
A Burmese lunch is usually quite a big meal – always with rice – and many will have around six small dishes at the table so there’s lots to choose from.
Along with rice and a bowl of hot and sour soup each, our shared dishes included a potato curry, watercress, ladyfingers, winter melon leaf and fried egg with pepper. It was really quite a lot to get through, especially after the salad and noodles!
With so much food in our bellies, we welcomed the chance to walk around the city while our guide pointed out places of interest and good shopping spots for us to check out during the rest of our stay.
Our last stop of the day was for sweets – because there’s ALWAYS room for dessert, right?
Our guide returned from the counter with a faluda – a milkshake with ice cream, tapioca balls, green jelly noodles and pudding, similar to a sweet custard but firmer. This isn’t a drink – you get a spoon instead of a straw and eat your way to the bottom of the mug. WOWZER. It was so good that we wandered the streets the next day to find that same shop, just so we could have it again.
The verdict: Burmese food is delicious! Everything we tried was really interesting and flavoursome, lots of fresh produce and very filling meals. It was easy to get vegetarian dishes and it certainly helped having a guide to request veg versions of things like soup.
I would love to return to Myanmar and taste the regional specialities in other areas of this fascinating country.
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