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Visiting Myanmar soon and wish to find out where the locals go for authentic Burmese food? Let Singaporean expat Tianhao, who’s been living in Myanmar for the past three years, take you on a gastronomical journey.
With Myanmar sitting at the crossroads between China, Thailand, and India, it is no wonder Burmese cuisine is heavily influenced by its neighbours. For example, pai xi (Chinese bun) is a common breakfast dish, curry is a popular dish for lunch, while pineapple fried rice can be found on the menus of most restaurants. Internally, the popular cuisines are inspired from the diverse ethnic groups in the country. Below, some of my favourite restaurants in Myanmar.
Shan Yoe Yar
War Tan Street, Lanmadaw township, Yangon
Shan is one of the largest ethnic groups in Myanmar and their cuisine is common across the country. By infusing a colonial style two-storey house with a touch of Shan element, Shan Yoe Yar prides themselves as a “the first Shan-style fine dining restaurant in Myanmar”. The wide variety of authentic and tasty Shan dishes, combined with availability of private room and excellent customer service, makes this venue a top choice to host foreign guests. Remember to order their Shan-styled special egg – a “blown up” egg – which makes for a perfect photo opportunity. Personally, I love their herb stuffed catfish grilled on banana leaves. To complete your Shan experience, try the Shan sticky rice, which is served in a bamboo cup!
Aung Mingalar Shan Noodle
No. 34, Boyarnyunt Street & Corner of Nawaday Street, Yawingyi Quarter, Yangon, Myanmar
Shan noodles is among the top breakfast dishes of the locals, and few places serve it better than Aung Mingalar Shan Noodle. Although available in two variants, my preference is the more popular dry version (thoke) rather than the soup option. As the name suggests, this dish has its roots in the Shan ethnic group. It consists of Shan rice noodles with minced chicken or pork, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chili, and crushed peanuts. Unlike Shan Yoe Yar, the setting at this restaurant is casual but clean, and the prices are definitely more affordable.
124 Pyi Htaung Su Yeikthar Steet, Yangon, Myanmar
Think Singapore’s economy rice or nasi padang … on steroids. Here, there are over 100 different Burmese dishes to choose from! Included in this selection is a wide variety of curry dishes, such as my favourite Pork Belly Curry and Butter Fish Curry. With a casual and clean environment, this restaurant chain is also a top favourite among the Burmese people. There are about 19 outlets across Myanmar but the most established one is the one in Ahlone township (address above).
In most shopping centers in Yangon
Kyay Oh is as integral to the Burmese culture as pho is to the Vietnamese. The most convenient place to have this dish is undoubtedly YKKO. When you are in Yangon, there is no way to miss out YKKO, which has one outlet in nearly every single township. Kyay Oh consists of thin rice noodles most commonly served in a pork broth with pork balls and intestines. There are also broths made using other meats like fish and chicken. For those who prefer dry noodles, there is a Si Chet version, which serves the broth separately.
Kan Taw Min Garden, U Wisara Road, Dagon Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Golden Duck is a very well-established Chinese restaurant in Myanmar. As their name suggests, they serve one of the best roasted ducks in the country. Other favourite dishes of mine here include steamed fish and cashew nut chicken. Although there are many outlets in Myanmar, their outlet in Kan Taw Min Park offers a view like no other – with the 2, 000-year-old highly revered Shwedagon Pagoda as the backdrop, no less!
Rangoon Tea House
77 Pansodan Rd, (Lower Block), First Floor, Kyauktada Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Myanmar’s rich street food tradition has always been a foodie’s delight. Finding one that strictly adheres to hygiene practices, however, can be a challenge. In 2014, a saviour entered the market – Rangoon Tea House. This venue brings an upmarket twist to the traditional Myanmar street food and, of course, with a considerably higher price tag. Tuck in to the wide range of Burmese salad dishes known as Htoke. This salad sauce usually consists of a mix of chickpea flour, crushed peanuts, onions, spring onions, crushed chili, oil, and fish sauce. My favourite is the Mee Shay Htoke (loosely translated as big noodle salad) and Hta Min (rice) salad. Pay attention to the menu too, which gives a detailed breakdown to the over 30 permutations of La Pey Ye (Myanmar tea) available in the country.
No 1-A, Sel Myaung Street, 8th Mile, Mayangon
For the street food enthusiasts who prefer a more authentic teashop experience than Rangoon Tea House, check out Lucky Seven Teashop. This extremely popular teashop chain has nearly the exact same menu as Rangoon Tea House, but expectedly at a fraction of the price. I am a big fan of their Morhinga, which consists of rice vermicelli in fish broth cooked with onions, garlic, lemon grass and banana-stem. Other ingredients include boiled duck egg (beh – U), fried peas (peh – kyaw), fried fish cake (nga hpe) and fried fritters (ah kyaw). To try them all, just shout out “Morhinga A-Gong-Htet”, which simply means to add everything. While enjoying your Morhinga, keep a lookout for the waiters zooming around in an unorganised yet systematic manner!
Shwe Li Barbecue Restaurant
Corner of Kanyethethar Street and Kabar Aye Pagoda Road, Mayangone township, Yangon
For those familiar with the Malaysian “Lok Lok”, this is the Burmese version. Shwe Li Barbecue is one of the most popular barbecue restaurants in Yangon due to their laidback ambience and wide selection of barbecue dishes. Walk over to the counter area and select from the range of “barbecued sticks” on offer. Pass your selection to the counter staff and they would prepare the sticks using their secret recipe.
Feeling hungry yet? With the wide variety of Burmese food to excite your taste buds, it’s time you make a trip to Myanmar to try out the dishes yourself! For a reliable service to help you book your domestic flights, look no further than Flymya, which allows you to book domestic flights within Myanmar easily and quickly.
A nomad with an insatiable appetite for adventure, Tianhao has been living in “the last frontier” since 2013. He can be contacted at Tianhao.email@example.com.