The Myanmar cuisine is somewhere between Southeast Asian and Indian dishes, but still with a subtle difference. Many of the items on the menu are rich in spices, with greater emphasis on a salty, bitter and sour flavour, but less chilli than in India and Thailand.
Dishes that are very popular in the local region include tofu, salads and noodle soups. A delicacy includes preserved vegetables, such as pickled tea leaves and pickled bamboo shoots. Plus, there are plenty of dishes that make use of ngapi (fish sauce), which is fermented paste made of ground shrimp.
Most of the towns in Myanmar have one or two decent Chinese restaurants with a varied menu that includes the unique to traditional dishes, such as sweet and sour chicken. The cost for a vegetable based dish is about $0.75, while a meat dish is slightly more at $1.25.
Other popular restaurants include those serving Indian cuisine, which is mostly noticed in Yangon because of the past British colonial era that lead a very large Indian population. In the major districts on the Myanmar customized tour that attract the tourists, there are plenty of high-quality restaurants serving Western and Thai dishes.
A great tourist attraction and a local tradition to experience on the Myanmar holidays are to visit one of the teahouses. A teahouse is a popular place to meet up with business associates, family or friends and serves a varied range of affordable snacks (Chinese steamed buns, Muslim samosas, Burmese noodles, etc.) and tea. The teahouses can be opened first thing in the morning for breakfast, while others are kept open until late in the night.
The local Burmese food is similar to the cuisine in other Southeast Asian countries with its blend of salty, bitter, spicy and sour flavours. For instance a mild curry can be served with a salty condiment like a fish paste, dried chilli, or bitter leaves.
A typical breakfast in Myanmar is likely to be noodle soup with a popular choice, including the national dish known as mohingar. Mohingar is prepared using catfish soup with lime, chilli, garlic, lemongrass, onions, and rice vermicelli. Other extras like fried bean crackers, courgette fritters and boiled egg can be included, but this is down to the particular chef.
Alternative breakfast choices consist of pèh byouq which is fried, boiled beans and accompanied with naan bread or sticky rice, while oùn-nó k’auq-s’wèh (chicken coconut soup with chilli, coriander, raw onions and noodles) is a further popular dish to start the day. Most of these dishes are widely available in the local markets and teahouses.
Lunchtime is a great time to try the local Burmese curry (prawn, fish or meat) which is accompanied by fried vegetables, a watery soup and rice (t’amìn). A lot of the street cafes use a lot of oil when cooking the curries which is said to help keep bacteria out – but like the local people it is relatively easy to skim the oil off.
Eating at the finest restaurants in the major cities makes it possible to benefit from a variety of small side-dishes, as well as fresh herbs and vegetables with a watery fish sauce (ngapí-ye). Green tea is often served up for free in the restaurants. Also, to finish the meal is a dessert like lahpet which is fermented tea leaves with dried shrimp, toasted sesame, peanuts and fried garlic.
A further common dish on the lunchtime menu is noodles, which is easy to buy at most of the local food courts, teahouses, or street cafes. There are plenty of variations of noodle soup with mì-she (meat sauce, rice noodles, and pickle) a popular choice. Other dishes include nàn-gyì thouq, which is made with spaghetti like thick rice noodles, while cold dishes are common with athouq (translating to “salad”) and includes noodles, coriander, chilli, gram flour, raw onions and served with a bone or a watery vegetable soup.
While travelling across the country on the Myanmar family tour there are a variety of regional variations to be discovered on the travels. For instance, a trip to Rakhine State will present food much spicier and include plenty of dishes with pulses and beans because of the regions closer proximity to Bangladesh.
For the vegetarian on the Myanmar travel tour there are plenty of opportunities to find suitable food in the cities and towns throughout the country. A particular reason for this is the Buddhists that are quite restrained when it comes to eating meat.
Similar to other counties in South East Asia it is advisable to avoid drinking the local tap water. So, it is practical to carry bottled water while travelling around the country, and costs in the region of $0.25.
Tea and coffee
Most of the restaurants serve green tea (ye-nwè-gyàn) for free and is entirely safe to drink. It is usually served in a jug and left on the table for customers to help themselves. A visit to the teahouses gives plenty of opportunities to try the local teas and coffees. Black tea is served with plenty of sugar and milk, while the coffee served is mostly instant, unless visiting one of the western-style cafes.
Mandalay and Yangon are likely to be the only places with the western style of pubs and bars – although most of the small towns will have a simple beer station that appears much like a restaurant but serving alcoholic drinks.
Most of these establishments serve draught beer at about $0.55 for a glass or a bottle (640ml) costs $1.25. The most popular brew served in the country is the local Myanmar Beer which is created as a joint venture with the government. Other drink options include several beers from Singapore and Thailand such as ABC Stout, Singha and Tiger.
Most of the mid-range to high-end eateries will have a menu listing a variety of imported wines. However, there are a few local vineyards in Shan State that makes a quite pleasant wine (Aythaya and Red Mountain) and worth a visit on a Myanmar travel packages. Plus, the local region of Pyin Oo Lwin produces a fruity wine, while other spirits include the palm wine (t’an-ye).