Myanmar is not known for its cuisine. I doubt I’ve ever seen a Burmese restaurant (although a Google search shows me California has at least two). They are a developing country and so, foodstuffs are not too complicated or exciting. I certainly wasn’t expecting much when I headed there from Thailand.
But, lo and behold, I found myself sincerely enjoying all the meals I had there.
Not only enjoying; savoring.
The food was fresh, it was simple, and farm to fork is so in right now. Myanmar may not be Michelin star worthy, but I’m still dreaming of their effortless tomato salad accompanied by a parmesan pancake.
This doesn’t sound too tantalizing, does it? Tomato. Salad. Two fairly boring foods combined. Yet, when I stopped into a local restaurant in Bagan and was served sliced tomatoes and onions tossed in a peanut dressing, I ate every last bite, completely ignoring my main vegetable curry dish.
I was hooked.
Later, at Inle Lake, I had The French Touch‘s tomato salad (a more fancy version with the pancake) and fell even more in love.
Healthy, filling, and cheap: what more can you ask of a salad?!
What’s up with all these salads, Myanmar? It’s like they think they are California or something. Myanmar was a delectable haven for veggie lovers/vegetarians and since I was trying to avoid suspicious meats (traveler’s stomach awaits me at every corner), this worked for me.
Avocado salad is guacamole under a different guise and without any spice. Large chunks of avocado, tomato, onion, and cilantro- if you’re lucky. I’ll admit, I found it strange to order a plate of “guacamole” for a meal, but AVOCADOS IN ASIA THAT AREN’T OVERPRICED?! Sign me up.
Tamarind, a sticky sweet/sour pulp that grows in brown pods, is all the rage in Myanmar. This fruit has loads of antioxidants, iron, and is used to help with stomach issues, fevers, and sore throats. I’d only had it as a jam in Thailand, so I was interested to try it in a more tangy and savory nuance.
The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant in Bagan is where I ordered the tamarind leaf curry and it was another dish where I scraped every last bit down. It was mild, but full of flavor, vegetables, and topped with chopped spring onion.
A curry with some tang is a definite rarity and it was completely unlike all the Thai and Indian curries I’ve tasted over the years. A must-try for curious foodies.
*For MORE tamarind, try tamarind flakes (given out as an after-dinner dessert for free in many Burmese restaurants) and tamarind beer. One Owl Grill in Inle Lake is where I had my first tamarind beer and they have lots of other strange, but wonderful flavors as well.
I got to try many different types of Burmese snacks on my trek to Inle Lake and most of them are sold in the tiny shops in every village and city. They are sometimes given with meals in restaurants, which can be a problem, as I scarfed down far too much before my actual meal.
There are sugar cane cubes, which are nice to suck on while drinking green tea and are not as horribly sweet as you’d imagine. Fried green peas are crunchy and make you feel healthy. My favorite are these orange, fried beans that are mixed with flour and end up looking like anorexic, dust-free Cheetos. This might be the worst description of a snack ever, but believe me, these crunchy sticks are addictive.
Last but not least, you gots to get your drink on whilst you chow down and Mandalay beer is the best and a cheap choice. Myanmar beer is usually cheaper and more present, but Mandalay has a higher alcohol percentage and just tastes better.
Know that when you order a bottle, it won’t be the 12 oz beer you are used to. More like double that 😀
Photo by CCFoodTravel.com
Cheers and get your grub on! Let me know if I missed any of your favorite Burmese foods in the comment section below. I obviously didn’t eat lots of meat, so I’d like to know what other things people tried 🙂