Burmese food is influenced by that of India and China, but it has its own specificity. In addition to Burmese food, other traditional ethnic foods such as Shan food, Rakhine food and Myeik food are also different. Rice is the core of Burmese food, and good vegetarian food is widely available. Burmese food is usually extremely spicy. Similar to the neighboring countries of Southeast Asia, fish sauce (ငံပြာရည် ngan bya yay) is a very popular condiment in Myanmar, and is widely used to flavor many dishes. Food is cheap at most restaurants (priced at MYK 500-3,000 per item at most local restaurants, but can go up to 8,000 MYK at posh restaurants). There are many luxury restaurants in Yangon and Mandalay.
Most middle and lower class restaurants use an inexpensive blend of palm oil for cooking. This oil can be unhealthy and roadside restaurants should be avoided if you have the lowest risk of high blood pressure, heart disease or other conditions related to fat or cholesterol. High quality restaurants may use peanut oil instead.
What to eat
- Curry: The Burmese have a very different definition of curry than other countries. It is very spicy compared to the Indian and Thai options, and although it is possible that it is served at room temperature in cheaper restaurants, in a typical Burmese house all curry dishes are served hot. Burmese curry does not contain coconut milk, unlike its counterparts in Southeast Asia, and has a large amount of onion or tomato depending on the region and the preference of the cook. Myanmar is the largest consumer of onions per capita in the world. Very often, Burmese curry is cooked with a lot of oil, much more than other regional curries.
- Laphet thote (pronounced la-peh THOU): A salad of fermented tea leaves and a variety of fried nuts. It is commonly mixed with sliced lettuce and eaten with rice. The dish originally comes from the state of Shan.
- Mohinga (pronounced mo-HIN-ga): A plate of rice noodles with fish soup, usually accompanied by cilantro and chili powder. Its flavor can vary from sweet to spicy, and is usually consumed at breakfast. It is considered by many as the national dish, and is widely available throughout the country, albeit in different styles in different regions.
- Nan Gyi Thoke (pronounced nan gyi thou): A special dish of rice noodle salad with chicken sauce. It is eaten mainly in the middle of Myanmar.
- Onnokauswe (pronounced oun-NO-kao-sui): A plate of thick noodles in a thick soup of coconut milk with chicken. It is served with a variety of condiments ranging from fried donuts to solidified duck blood. "Khao soi" ("noodles" in Burma), often found in the streets of Chiang Mai, is derived from this Burmese counterpart. It is also comparable to the spicier Laksa that is often found in peninsular SE countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.
- Shan food: The Shan are an ethnic group that inhabits the Shan State around Inle Lake, near the border with Thailand. Your food is wonderful. It can be found in Yangon easily.
Tap water in Myanmar is not drinkable, just as ice may be contaminated. Bottled water is available at many tourist sites. You can also safely drink from the many clay jars scattered throughout the country, or find drinking water in the temples. Just look for the big steel tanks with cups attached to the spigots. The water in the clay jars is filtered and many people in Myanmar use them. The owners of the jars fill them with water as a way of making merit.
Like Chinese tea, Yenwejan is usually offered for free at restaurant tables. Although it is not tasty, it is boiled water and is so safe to drink (do not drink water alone, even in restaurants, unless it is bottled water). Dry tea leaves similar to Laphet Thote tea leaves (except wet ones) are added to the boiled water to give Yenwejan. Be sure to order it with Laphet Thote (Regular / Good combination).
Alcohol is frowned upon by conservative Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, but it is widely consumed, mainly among men. Myanmar Beer is the most popular in the country. There are other variants, including Mandalay beer. However, many of these companies are owned by the government and / or have links to drug trafficking. Toddy juice (ta-YEI) is popular in central Myanmar and is made from fermented palm sugar. A popular alcoholic beverage in the state of Shan is Shwe le maw, and according to reports is very strong. It is also possible to buy Beer Chang imported from Thailand; Exports to most countries are not as strong.
Beware of alcoholic beverages served in the far north states. The locals call it alcohol that does not burn when it is turned on, and it is suspected that it is a mixture of opiates instead of a fermented drink.
There are many nightclubs, including those that are connected to five-star hotels (eg, Grand Plaza), and also local entertainment centers (eg, JJs, Asia Plaza).
Tea houses are important places of social and popular gathering throughout the country. They look like restaurants, but if you look closely you will notice that people drink a lot of Chinese tea (for free), light brown tea and eat mostly snacks. Some teahouses also offer simple dishes such as fried rice or noodles.
Once they are seated, they will wait for you to order coffee, but that is not what you should look for, since it is almost always instant coffee. Order tea, a type of black tea with milk that differs in strength and sweetness:
- bone mahn: balanced
- cho seh: sweet
- kyaw p'daung: sweeter
- pan brown: bitter and sweet
- jah hseent: light, with milk, not strong
- pancho: strong
- bow hseent: less strong
- noe hseent dee: milk tea without sugar
Keep in mind that you will pronounce the names of tea completely wrong (the second and sixth are relatively easy) and people may not get what they want since it is rare for foreigners to apply for these teas. Therefore, it is best to ask your hotel or anyone who speaks English to write the names in Burmese.
Since you are a foreigner, they will assume that you want your sheh tea, special, which means that it will come with condensed milk. It is also possible to order a tankie and the tea will come in a large pot. A simple cup of tea costs between MMK200-400. Small sandwiches such as samosas, cakes or sweet balls are available at the table. If not, question In the end, you will only pay for the amount of pieces you have eaten. Food lovers should check the type of snacks before deciding on a tea house. It is not rude to bring your own food whenever you order at least something.