With a cuisine that draws influence from Thailand, India, China, and various ethnic minorities, Burmese is incredibly diverse. It uses a repertoire of flavors and ingredients from South and Southeast Asia, giving birth to unique dishes that are wonderful to taste and experience. If you haven’t tasted Myanmar food yet or are looking for more delicious meals to satisfy your palate, don’t fret! Here are the most popular foods in Myanmar, so you won’t miss out on the culinary gems from this compelling country.
Laphet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad)
Laphet Thoke or Tea Leaf Salads is arguably Myanmar’s most popular food. This dish is a staple in religious events and social gatherings across the country. It’s little wonder as it’s so versatile that locals eat it as an appetizer, a snack, or a side dish, or partner with a plate of hot rice. To make Laphet Thoke, the sour, subtly bitter leaves, sliced tomatoes, shredded cabbage, deep-fried beans, peas, and nuts are mixed by hand. Afterward, slices of garlic and chili, and garlic oil are added to elevate the taste. Expect to see this dish usually served at people’s homes or at the many tea shops scattered in Myanmar.
Dan Bauk is a Burmese rice dish, resembling the Indian Biryani. Its ingredients include long-grain rice, added with Indian spices, such as cumin, star anise, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, and garam masala. It also consists of curried chicken, lamb, and mutton, plus nuts and raisins atop the aromatic rice. Burmese cuisine’s spin can be seen in the addition of peas, carrots, and beans to this Indian classic dish. A fresh salad, fresh mint, pickle, mango chutney, or a green dipping sauce usually accompany this tasty rice dish.
Considered as Myanmar’s unofficial national dish, mohinga is a hearty rice noodle soup, which depending on the region varies in ingredients added directly into the soup or used as a garnish. Typically, it uses fish-and shallot-based broth, topped by crispy fried vegetables, sliced hard-boiled egg, lentils, and dried chili flakes, and seasoned with lime juice. It’s a popular breakfast meal, but it’s also fun to enjoy as a snack any time of the day with many mobile vendors and street hawkers selling the dish.
Moun (Burmese sweet snacks)
While people from the West enjoy sweet dishes as a dessert, they are rather enjoyed as snacks in Myanmar, usually in the morning or afternoon, taken along with a cup of tea. Collectively known as “moun,” Burmese sweet snacks don’t also possess the same sweetness West dishes have. That’s because it draws its sweet ingredients from alternative ingredients like coconut milk, grated coconut, rice flour, tapioca, sticky rice, and fruits. Some sweet snacks you should try include sanwin makin, bein mont, and mont pyar thalet.
Ohn No Khao Swè
Another popular dish in Myanmar you should try is Ohn No Khao Swè (Coconut Chicken Noodle Soup), believed to have been inspired by Thailand’s Khao Sai. This soup consists of wheat noodles, curried chicken, coconut milk, added with sliced onions, bean, chickpea fritters, hard-boiled egg, chili powder, fresh cilantro, crisp noodles, fish sauce, and lemon juice. Enjoyed as much as mohinga, you can find this dish nearly everywhere, from tea shops to street hawkers in town.
See-Pyan (Burmese Curry)
See-pyan or Burmese curry is a traditional stew with curry as its central element. It’s made of chicken pieces marinated in curry powder, garam masala, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, and fenugreek. It’s then simmered for about 30 minutes in curry paste, lemongrass paste, tomatoes, and fish sauce. Burmese curry goes along well with hot rice but is also served with a wide array of side dishes in Burmese restaurants. Eating see-pyan won’t just fulfill your appetite, but provide a memorable culinary experience, with the dish’s mix of Burmese, Indian, and Thai influences.
Htamanè is a traditional Burmese snack, made of glutinous rice, coconut shavings, peanuts, white and black sesame seeds, ginger, and groundnut oil. Preparation of htamanè is usually done during the rice harvest festival, occurring during the eleventh month of the Burmese calendar, falling between January to February. The savory snack is a communal activity and is prepared in large quantities. Part of which is offered to Buddha in pagodas and monasteries, while the remaining parts are distributed among family members, neighbors, and friends. There are also htamanè-making competitions done across the country as part of the celebration.
Nan Gyi Thoke
Nan Gyi Thoke is a famous breakfast dish in Myanmar, which most people deem as Burmese counterpart of spaghetti. It’s made of thick and round “dry” rice noodles, with chicken, boiled bean sprouts, hard-boiled egg slices, and fish cake slices. The sauce is made of chili and turmeric oil, garlic, and roasted chickpeas flour. Restaurants usually serve it with a small bowl of broth. It’s tasty and complements nan gyi thoke well – don’t hesitate to ask in case you want more.
Myanmar has a huge obsession with deep-fried foods, and eating in the country won’t be possible without trying these crispy fritters. Most of the snacks you can find in tea shops and on the streets are deep-fried, which includes spring rolls, samosa, bread, and sweets. One deep-fried food item to try is buthi kyaws, gourd sliced in finger-sizes, battered, and golden-fried. Other notable snacks include mat pe kyaw (mung bean fritter), tohu kyaw (tofu fritters), and mandalay pe kyaw (red bean fritter).
Nga Htamin (Shan Rice)
Nga Htamin is another popular rice dish in the country, coming from the Shan people, one of Myanmar’s main Buddhist ethnic groups. It’s typically rice cooked in turmeric, rounded, and topped with freshwater fish flakes, roasted peanuts, and vegetables. Savory and oily, nga htamin also tastes great with raw garlic cloves, leek roots, and fried pork rinds. It’s a perfect snack, with flavors ranging from mild, pungent to spicy.
Myanmar is emerging as a new, exotic tourist destination. Of course, part of enjoying a country and its culture is tasting the variety of foods it offers. So, be sure to enjoy these popular foods in Myanmar to make your stay even more rewarding. Don’t be afraid to try other delectable dishes as well, as Burmese cruising will certainly delight your palate.