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Taste of Southeast Asia: Dining in Myanmar

Welcome to another edition in our Taste of ASEAN series, where we follow our appetites in search of all the best-tasting traditional cuisines of Southeast Asia. With its vast range of flavors, Southeast Asia offers a host of must-visit destinations for all curious foodies.

In this feature, we’ll be exploring the delightful foods of Myanmar. Join us as we share tasty dishes from local kitchens and tell you where to enjoy them. We’ve also included some mouth-watering Burmese recipes to make at home. Let us know what you think, we’d love to know if Burmese cuisine has tempted you to visit the wonderful nation of Myanmar.

Burmese Cuisine

While Myanmar is the official name for Burma, you’ll find the names used interchangeably to refer to this Southeast Asian nation. Bordering India, Bangladesh, Laos, China and Thailand – Myanmar is home to more than a hundred different ethnic communities. Boasting incredible beaches, captivating temples and unique cultural spots, there’s a multitude of interests to enjoy within this beautiful country.

When it comes to the food, Myanmar cuisine tends to be less chili-hot and commonly features fish products such as Ngapi (fermented seafood). Expect to find salty, sour and savory flavors in dishes with influences coming from neighboring Southeast Asian countries. Rice is central to Burmese meals and you’ll find different styles of rice recipes, including the popular shan-style rice (made with fermented fish). As an accompaniment to rice, there is also plenty of vegetable and meat curries, fried breads and soft noodles.

One dish that you’re likely to find served every morning is mohinga (noodles in fish soup). This much-loved traditional Burmese meal is famed as the national dish of Myanmar. For lunch, we’d recommend sampling the famously delicious laphet thohk (green tea leaf salad). Locals both drink and eat tea leaves and it’s easy to see why once you’ve tasted the incredibly flavorsome Burmese tea leaf salad.

Burmese Restaurant – Min Lan Seafood Restaurant

Min Lan Seafood Restaurant, has multiple venues dotted around the south-west region of Yangon and is frequently recommended by locals for its delectable seafood dishes. The restaurant specifically sources fresh seafood from the Rakhin State of Myanmar and takes its name from the road – Min Lan – where the first outlet was opened.

The menu at Min Lan features various curries, soups, salads and barbecued varieties of lobster, crab, prawns, octopus, and shellfish. A no-frills restaurant, this place is the perfect spot to satisfy seafood cravings. Generally, Burmese cuisine is less spicy than its chili-loving neighbors but with the strong Rakhine influence at Min Lan, expect to enjoy fiery hot dishes here. Pick from a range of curried seafood dishes to savor a taste of Min Lan’s signature style.

Burmese Recipe: Nga Si Pyan (fish curry)

Burmese fish curry. Image: LWYang / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

If you’re craving a taste of Burmese fish curry, this wonderful Nga Si Pyan recipe from food blogger – Trisha’s kitchen Alchemy, offers a step-by-step recipe to make at home. Nga means fish in Myanmar and Si Pyan refers to the oil that rises to the top of the gravy as the fish slowly simmers on a low heat.

Carp fish pieces are marinated in salt and turmeric before being deep-fried in hot oil, drained and left to cool. Garlic and onion are sautéed with tomatoes, coriander, fish sauce, and salt to form a rich gravy before the fried fish is added back in to soak up all those lovely juices. Garnish with coriander leaves, chili and serve with rice.

Burmese Restaurant – Aye Myit Tar

For those traveling to Mandalay, Aye Myit Tar is a great place to start your food adventures in this former royal capital city. The restaurant is housed in a historic colonial-era merchant’s house located near the breathtaking pagoda close to Mahumi’s golden Buddha temple.

Offering a great introduction to Myanmar cuisine, Aye Myit Tar serves a dazzling selection of authentic Myanmar dishes. This local establishment attracts regular diners who come here to enjoy the reasonably-priced signature dish – Burmese curry and rice. Pick from a range of pork, egg, chicken, and mutton among many others. Go there with an empty stomach – portion sizes are big and complementary salads, soups and vegetables are also provided.

Burmese Recipe: Kyan Thar Si Pyan (Chicken Curry)

Myanmar chicken curry. Image: LWYang / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Flickr

Kyan Thar Si Pyan is the Burmese name for chicken curry. It’s usually served as one of many small dishes as part of traditional meal as easy to find in most eateries around Myanmar.

If you can’t wait until your next travel trip to Myanmar, why not try Cook and Savor’s delectable Myanmar curry recipe at home. Using jalapeno, garlic, ginger, paprika, turmeric, fish sauce with chicken, red potatoes and tomatoes, you can cook this delicious curry in less than one hour. Serve hot with rice and enjoy a flavor of Myanmar.

Burmese Restaurant – Rangoon Tea House

If you’re looking for something more upmarket – Rangoon Tea House is the perfect spot. As tea culture is an important part of life in Myanmar, tea houses are considered institutions. Rangoon Tea House can be found in downtown Yangon and regularly receives high praise from locals and travelers who visit this stylish venue.

Opened in 2014 by co-founder Htet Myet Oo, Rangoon set out to challenge and inspire the perceptions of Burmese cuisine. With its ever-evolving food menu, you’ll find a diverse range including samosas, chicken biryani, king prawns with shan salsa (from the shan region) and crab mohinga. Influences from its neighboring Southeast Asian countries can be observed alongside regional interpretations of authentic dishes.

The highlight of Rangoon, of course, is the tea menu. 16 varieties of tea are presented in an easy-to-follow infographic menu, indicating the varying strengths of sweet black tea, evaporated milk and condensed milk. With so much choice, there is a tea for every taste!

Burmese Recipe: Burmese Tea

Tea production is big in Myanmar and the love for tea can be seen most commonly through the local food dishes and beverages. The name for the tea you drink is laphet yay in Burmese – a slightly different name from the tea leaf salad – laphet thohk. It can be helpful to remember this difference when ordering food and drink in Myanmar.

This Burmese iced-tea recipe from US-based food and travel blogger – The Hungry Buddha, shares an easy way to make Burmese tea at home. The perfect chilled drink for a warm day, this simple recipe features strong breakfast tea, hot water, condensed milk, evaporated milk and ice cubes. Remember to add straws at the end, to enjoy all the delicious layers in this tasty Burmese specialty.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Taste of ASEAN feature of Myanmar- thanks for joining us! Have you tried any of these Burmese recipes at home? Let us know! Join us next time in the land of smiles, as we take a culinary tour of local dishes from Thailand.