Myanmar is becoming a hot destination for many travelers – not so much for families yet but I have no doubt that will change soon.
For most people, the food is going to be a totally unknown factor. It was for us. Myanmar food doesn’t have the same reputation as its South East Asian neighbors. One would expect that sandwiched between India, China and Thailand, the food would be a fantastic combination of all three of these fabulous cuisines, but that is not the case. Bamar food ( the dominant food in Myanmar /Burma) is based on curries that have very few spices added – so they are pretty bland. Rice is the staple food which will suit many families, but our experience with the local curries was disappointing. We had some excellent Bamar food in Yangon – there are some really great restaurants there – but elsewhere we quickly switched to other foods. Our greatest discovery was Shan food. Shan state is one of the largest and most important in Myanmar, and its food is based on the kinds of stir fries that anyone who enjoys Thai or Chinese food will be familiar with. Noodles, rice, stir fried meats and vegetables – we quickly learned that this was far superior to the average Burmese curry. In fact, the kids felt that the Shan sweet and sour chicken is the best they have ever tasted!
We had some unforgettable eating experiences – like eating with a tribal family in their hut on a mountain near Kengtung, and enjoying samosas in the local markets. The fruit was excellent – mangoes, rambutans and other tropical South East Asian fruits, which we love. One cannot forget the tea houses that exist everywhere in Myanmar – you sit down at a small table and you are immediately served a pot of tea and some glasses, as well as a selection of (usually fried) snacks. Delicious.
Other foods of note: We had unforgettable Indian Biryani in Yangon. A speciality of a few simple and very popular restaurants downtown, this was a cheap and incredibly tasty dish. In Nyaung Shwe (Inle) we had fantastic home-made pasta at a Burmese owned Italian restaurant. In fact, service was really slow as they made the past and gnocchi on the spot after it was ordered. As we understand it, an Italian chef passing through some years ago stopped for a while and taught some locals to make real Italian food. Memorable!
“Western” style food was poor – we ate some terrible sandwiches, and outside of Yangon we struggled to find any decent coffee/pastry shops. There is a well known one on the main street of Pyin oo Lwin but we were disappointed with it.
We also enjoyed chapatis at the very local and authentic chapati street side stands in Mandalay city center. If you are looking for a very local eating experience – this is the way to do it.
To summarise – one can eat well in Myanmar, but it takes a while to figure out what you really like.
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