Eating out in Myanmar

It’s always a hit and miss when you want some authentic good local food. Unlike it’s culinary neighbour Thailand, in Myanmar it’s not possible to waltz into any restaurant or cafe and expect the food to be great. As a huge foodie, I’ve always just eaten anything new that looks appealing on the streets. During my stay in Myanmar I’ve come to realise that there is a 50% chance of actually getting a really bad dining eperience. As much as I try not to follow the LP Guide’s recommendation too much, I hate to admit that my top few meals in Myanmar were listed from the guides. Big cities like Yangon has everything, food from different races in Myanmar (Burmese, Chinese, Indian) and even food from the different states and tribes across Myanmar. There can easily be 100 stores selling the famous noodle dish mohinga or shan noodles.

Here are some tips on how to avoid making a bad choice while eating out:

1. The best meals are freshly made in local’s homes.
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People in Myanmar are often very generous, giving and hospitable. If you’re ever invited into a local’s home, accept the invitation. It may be the best meal and experience of your trip. The food prepared in bulk outside in stores will never taste as yummy as the fresh homemade ones prepared for guests . I’m quite sure it’s prepared with love.

2. Observe the locals.
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You’d want to pick a teashop or a prata store based on the crowd inside the eatery. If a street store is crowded with locals, there must be a reason why. I’ve had the best papaya salad from a small street cart, which I wouldnot have noticed if it weren’t for the crowd of women eagerly poking their heads around the vendor. In a restaurant, observe what majority of the locals order.

3. Always ask for less sweet/oily/salty if you’re fussy.
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Most, if not all of the food in Myanmar has way too much flavours, but they seem to like over seasoning it too. If it doesn’t suit your tastebuds, ask for less salt, sugar or oil and you’ll enjoy it more.

4. Note what type of food the restaurant specializes in.
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Even if it’s a Burmese/Chinese restaurant, sometimes they have western dishes like fries, juice or smoothies. If they specialize in Chinese food, don’t order pancakes or it’s going to end up tasting like a 4 year old prepared it. I walked into an eatery serving a whole lot of dishes but everyone around seemed to be having mohinga, thus I ordered a bowl and it was pure heaven for my taste buds.

5. Head for your meals earlier than you intend to, especially when dining in a big group.
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Burmese dishes with curry are usually cooked beforehand and left warm in pots. However, if you find yourself going to a freshly prepared restaurant for dinner, be prepared to wait. A few of the places I’ve eaten in have taken more than 2 hours to prepare a meal for a group of 10. Even though we ordered the same dishes, I’ve noticed how some kitchens cook these dishes one at a time! But usually we go to a really good and highly recommended restaurant, so far the food has been well worth the wait !

6. Refer to the guidebooks on good dining spots.
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Of course you might want to discover something new and good. But I’ve tried and failed too many times now and so far it seems for Myanmar food, guidebooks specifically state what’s the signature dish in these restaurants. As a lot of places recommended doesn’t come with an english menu, referring to the guides can be very helpful in making a choice. I had a glorious bowl of Shan noodles salad at 999 Shan Noodle store, which I wouldn’t have found if it weren’t for the guide books!

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Hope this helps anyone who’s traveling to/in Myanmar, and eat to your heart’s content! Because they have some seriously humble & delicious food that seems to be unappreciated by many. ကံကောင်းပါစေ! (good luck) !

Dara

Wanderer of lands, searcher of souls. Last seen tree hugging and running wild into the mountains. Might have eaten all the ice cream in the tub.

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