There are few things that compare to the satisfaction you feel after a delicious meal, and as food crazy Singaporeans, that is something we know all too well. While we have the best of most cuisines at an arm’s length back home, Burmese cuisine isn’t that well represented. Aside from the area around Peninsular Plaza, where expats from Myanmar gather, it’s not often that we even see Burmese food stalls or restaurants.
This means that a trip to Myanmar, aside from sightseeing, would also be a good chance to explore and experience some authentic Burmese cuisine. Yangon is a great place to start your crash course in all dishes Burmese. The largest and most ethnically diverse city in Myanmar with a population of nearly 6 million, Yangon brings together the flavours and culinary influences from all over the country.
Set aside fancy fine dining for a bit and get a taste of all the flavourful street food Yangon has to offer. Here’s a list of Yangon’s snacks that you will surely enjoy!
An integral part of Burmese cuisine, mohinga is often considered to be Myanmar’s “unofficial national dish”. Deceptively simple but complex in flavours, mohinga is a type of spicy fish soup with thin rice noodles. Additional toppings might be added, like chick peas, hard boiled duck eggs, or crunchy deep fried fritter bits for added texture. Take a walk through downtown Yangon and you’ll see every other stall offering its own interpretation of mohinga based on the kind of fish they have, each unique in its own right.
Tea is native to Myanmar, with over 700 square kilometres of land dedicated to its cultivation, producing an output of over 60,000 tonnes of tea annually. With tea being such a big part of the Burmese culture, it’s no wonder it manages to find its way into the local cuisine.
You’d think that you could only drink tea, but in Yangon, you’ll discover that it can also be eaten! A very popular Burmese dish, Laphet Thoke is a tea leaf salad. The tea leaves can’t be eaten raw, so they are pickled and stored, and the resulting mixture has a richly sour and tangy taste that lingers on the palate.
Laphet Thoke is usually served in a lahpet ohk, a special dish with compartments. The fermented tea leaves are placed in the middle, and are surrounded by other ingredients like sesame seeds, peanuts, fried garlic, cabbage and chillis. Definitely a different experience for even the matcha lovers among us!
If you’re on the hunt for something vegetarian, look no further than Mala Hin. A stir-fry dish, Mala Hin is prepared using vegetables. Additional ingredients like tofu, beans, peas, carrots, rice noodles and more are added to the mix together with an assortment of spices to create a dish that is light yet filling, and full of saucy flavours.
Let your inner carnivore loose with a Burmese barbeque session. More similar to other Asian barbequed food like satay and yakitori rather than an American or Australian affair, most BBQ joints in Myanmar (a decent one is Super Win) offer a wide array of food on skewers.
The entire experience is a treat – you get to choose your proteins, and then watch as they are freshly barbequed and served to you piping hot. There are so many options that you’ll be spoilt for choice – from fresh corn on the cob, whole fish, squid, okra, to whatever it is that your heart desires!
Wash down the meal with a refreshing ice cold bottle of Myanmar or Mandalay beer (2 of the more popular beers in Yangon), the perfect way to end your barbeque feast on a high note.
Another popular snack, Pepyoke Nanbya is an Indian-inspired dish, found in almost every tea shop. A simple dish perfect for a quick breakfast on the go, Pepyoke Nanbya is basically naanbread paired with beans cooked in a spicy sauce.
The dish is a favourite among locals because it’s affordable and available almost everywhere in the mornings. If you want the true Myanmar experience, head on over to a tea shop, order one of these, and sit down for a cup of tea with the locals.
A sweet dessert drink that will quench your thirst and give that quick recharge while you’re out and about exploring the streets of Yangon. Falooda is a mix of rose syrup, vermicelli, sago pearls, milk, and sometimes even ice cream. Having a hard time visualising Falooda? Imagine a mash up of the most delicious chendol and bandung, and you’ll most likely be on the right track.