Myanmar food is an integral part of the Burmese way of life. The people of Myanmar love to indulge in food and spend a great many hours preparing and eating a meal, emphasizing on the cooking procedure rather than ingredients, and therefore paving a way for a variety of dishes with constant improvisation.
Burmese cuisine is an exotic blend of noodles, seafood, and rice, spiced up and enhanced by condiments and salads. Fruits, a feature of the tropical climate, are also an important part of this cuisine. The food has been influenced by the techniques, ingredients and flavors of Myanmar’s neighbors: Thailand, India and China.
Dishes are characterized by the extensive use of fish products, while pork, beef and poultry are more commonly used in landlocked cities like Mandalay. The great Irrawaddy river flows through the country, which means freshwater fish is a mainstay everywhere, and a primary source of protein, used in a variety of ways; fresh, salted, whole or filleted, salted and dried, made into a salty paste, or fermented sour and pressed.
The Burmese enjoy a wide range of salads (thoke), usually dominated by one major ingredient which may include rice, wheat and rice noodles, glass noodles and vermicelli, to potato, ginger, tomato, kaffir lime, lahpet (pickled tea), and the pounded, fermented fish paste known as ngapi. These salads have always been popular as fast foods in Burmese cities.
Every dish has at least three of the five tastes of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and umami, and every meal has a host of accompaniments. Texture is just as important as flavor, even within the same dish – for example, a bowl of Mandalay Meeshay will contain tender rice noodles, crunchy-sour pickles, beansprouts that snap to the bite, and meltingly rich morsels of pork.
Myanmar traditional food is wholesome, nutritious, and filled with the right amount of carbs, proteins, and vitamins. See below for a selection of must-try dishes from the Burmese cuisine.
Also known as Mandalay Mont Di, this is a hearty, warm salad of fat rice noodles, chicken or beef curry, chili oil, toasted chickpea powder, coriander and sliced shallots.
Burmese tofu is made from chickpeas, while Shan tofu is made from split peas – neither type is made from the more standard soya beans. You can enjoy Burmese tofu in the form of fritters, which are crisp outside and fluffy inside (tohu kyaw) and served with a tangy tamarind dip; or sliced up into a salad (tohu thoke) with a piquant dressing; or even served while still warm and molten (tohu nway) over a bowl of spicy noodles.
Mohinga is the national dish of Myanmar. This hearty, herb-based, lemongrass and rice noodle soup, often supplemented with the crunchy pith of the banana tree is usually eaten for breakfast. It is heaped with crispy split-pea fritters, sliced soft boiled duck eggs and bouncy fishcakes, scattered with roasted chili flakes and shredded coriander leaves.
Served with lime or lemon wedges to squeeze on top, this is a perfect, balanced breakfast dish which is now creeping in as a filling snack that can be relished at any time of the day. Few people actually make mohinga at home, as there are countless street vendors and cafés vying for business, and everyone has their favorite.
The samosa thoke is a traditional Burmese street food that resembles the Indian samosa chaat but not entirely because Burmese samosas are smaller than their Indian cousins. They are filled in with potatoes and chickpea powder. These deep-fried pastries are then dunked in a plain Burmese curry and garnished with mint leaves, sliced onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and brown chickpeas. The base dish is not spicy at all so you can choose to add more chili if you wish.
Myanmar has many popular fried foods that are light, crunchy and grease-free, which you can find on the street. In addition to deep-fried samosas and pancakes, you will find gourd fritters, urad dal fritters, prawn fritters, onion fritters, whitebait fritters, tofu fritters, spring rolls, sweets, breads, and noodles topped with deep-fried crispy garnishes.
Different from Thai or Indian curries, high on flavors, medium on spices, and low on broth, a Burmese shrimp curry has its own characteristic flavor and taste. Paired with rice, it can make for a perfect lunch.
Khao Soi is a noodle soup made with chicken broth, shallots, and bean sprouts.
This mouth-watering dish takes the form of thick, round rice noodles with chicken, thin slices of fish cake, par-boiled bean sprouts and slices of hard-boiled egg.
Lahpet Thoke is one of Myanmar’s most iconic dishes. The sour, slightly bitter, pickled tea leaves are mixed by hand with shredded white cabbage, sliced tomatoes, ginger and other fried spices, dried shrimp, crunchy peanuts, lima beans and peas to create a piquant and savory salad, bursting with flavor and textures. The dish can be a snack, an appetizer or coupled with a plate of rice. Lahpet Thoke is widely observed at traditional ceremonies.
This Burmese curried soup contains egg noodles accompanied by coconut cream, vermicelli, and chicken along with spices. Consume with tangy lemon pieces, eggs, and fish sauces.
This famous rice dish is cooked with potatoes, tamarind pulp, and shrimp paste. It is commonly served with fried garlic, while for a spicier taste, dried chilies can be incorporated.
The dish does not include tofu, but a thick sticky yellow porridge made from chickpea flour and turmeric, and served over thin rice noodles, marinated chicken or pork, topped with chili oil and pickled veggies and broth.
Cooked rice with onions, coconut milk, sugar and salt, the taste of this wholesome dish is not at all spicy, but deliciously sweet.
This dip for deep fried items contains mashed fish or ngapi, lemon juice, shrimp powder and garlic.
The dish is a combination of thin, flat rice noodles in a clear, peppery broth with marinated chicken or pork, served with a side of pickled vegetables. Compared with other noodle dishes, it is relatively simple but delicious.
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