Many travelers are drawn to Myanmar for its beautiful temples, ancient history, and unique culture. Yet the local Burmese cuisine isn’t nearly as talked about, or internationally known as it’s Southeast Asian neighbors. We found the food in Myanmar to be flavorful, and completely different than anything we’ve tried in nearby countries like Vietnam or Thailand. Each province has their own special dishes with the fresh ingredients of the land and sea. In this article we’ll share our favorite traditional Myanmar food which is only a small representation of the countries vast food scene. If you have any dishes we didn’t mention for what to eat in Myanmar let us know in the comments!
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Salads of Myanmar
With an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in Burmese Cuisine it’s no surprise that there are so many delicious salads here. With that being said, they’re completely different from your traditional green leafy mixture or even globally recognized ones such as a Greek or Cobb salad. So without further ado, let’s dive right into these healthy starters!
You probably haven’t heard about tea leaf salad before looking for what to eat in Myanmar. However, upon visiting you’ll quickly find out this is a staple of Burmese cuisine. The name isn’t a twist on anything, but is in fact made from pickled tea leaves mixed with a bunch of other delicious ingredients.
Tea leaf salad typically includes tomatoes, lettuce, spices, and sesame seeds. Each time we ordered this treat it was prepared with different ratios of oil, vinegar, and other crunchy toppings.
A massive mound of ripe avocado chunks are mixed with thinly sliced onions, and topped with lemon, salt, and pepper. Honestly, we couldn’t believe how many pieces of fruit they cut up onto one plate to make this dish! Avocado salads are served up throughout the country in different ways, and it might remind you of the famous Mexican guacamole.
For the adventurous Myanmar food lovers traveling the coast, clam salad is both a tasty and filling appetizer. Much like the avocado salad we couldn’t believe how many clams they gave us! The juices and texture are similar to a ceviche, and this plate is a must try for seafood fans.
Best Food in Myanmar
So what are the go-to classics when looking for the best traditional food in Myanmar? Burmese Cuisine offers a mix of noodle dishes as well as some hearty snacks. By now I’m sure you’re wondering what to eat in Myanmar when you hit the street food scene.
It’s good to know before your visit that street food is extremely popular in the country, and as a whole gaining a reputation throughout Asia. The food listed in this section we found at restaurants as well as countless street stands.
Considered to be the countries national dish, Mohinga fish soup is one of the first things to try when looking for what to eat in Myanmar. It’s made from a thick seafood broth and is seasoned with flavors such as lemongrass, ginger, and paprika. Fortunately, this yummy soup can be eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Similarly to Mohinga, this popular noodle dish from the Shan region of Myanmar is served any time of the day. We first experienced Shan noodles visiting the big city of Yangon, and have been hooked ever since! This traditional Myanmar food is made of thin noodles which are cooked in a semi-spicy sauce then topped with a small portion of pork or chicken.
The fist thing that makes Nangyi Thoke stand out is its thick round noodles that are different from any other that we’ve had in Asia. The one of a kind noodles are cooked in a hearty gravy made from liver or chicken curry. This is definitely one of the most filling bowls of food in Myanmar we had!
Shan Style Rice
This traditional Myanmar food is made up of rice cooked with flavorful turmeric to give it a bright yellow color. On top of the rice is a flaked fish, fried garlic, and pork rinds. Shan-style rice can be eaten as a snack, or you can grab a larger serving and make it a full meal.
A Kyaw Sone
Next we have another popular street food snack served throughout the country. Fried Burmese tempura can be created with a range of different tastes and flavors. From veggies to shrimp, A Kyaw Sone is typically served with a chili dipping sauce. The tempura is light and flaky, and was one of the best fried Myanmar foods we tasted.
Fried Tofu & Chickpea Fritters
Often eaten in the main cities, fried tofu and chickpea fritters are both tasty starters. Fried tofu is hard on the outside, but soft and melty on the inside. Usually this is best served with a spicy fish and rice wine dipping sauce. We also enjoyed the chickpea fritters as well!
Walking down an alleyway on our first day in Yangon we decided to get our first taste of street food in Myanmar. Before we knew it, a thin curry sauce was poured over crispy tofu, cabbage, and chickpeas. On the side it was served with a veggie spring roll, and with that our meal was complete! This bowl was healthy, delicious, and cost us less than $1 USD.
If you have the opportunity to travel the coast of Myanmar know that you’ll be in for a seafood feast. Fresh fish, lobster, squid, octopus, shrimp, and crab are just some of the freshly caught local specialties.
On the ocean you can order your seafood dishes four different ways. Grilled, fried, in a traditional curry, or coconut curry sauce. On our visit to beautiful Ngapali Beach we found that the curry was our favorite, and the coconut curry was a close second.
Still, this probably isn’t the type of curry that you might be thinking of. The flavor is more subtle and fresh without an overwhelming punch like you might eat in other Asian countries.
Side of Sauce: When ordering any seafood in Myanmar make sure to ask for a side of the green chili sauce!
Amazing Veggie Dishes
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or simply enjoy some veggie based meals while traveling, then you’re in luck when visiting Myanmar! Throughout the country there is an abundance of hearty vegetarian dishes made from the local produce. These traditional Myanmar foods are packed with sweet and spicy sauces that will keep you coming back for more.
As we mentioned before, avocados are popular throughout the country and make for some tasty meals. Easily one of the best vegetarian curries we had was a spicy avocado plate packed with green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, and so much more. Keep an eye out for this on menus!
Jackfruit is just now gaining steam in the western vegan world, but it’s long been a popular ingredient in veggie dishes in Asia. In Myanmar you can order it by the plate mixed with peppers and other flavorful sauces. If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to meat then be sure to try this amazing part of Burmese cuisine.
Spicy Tomato Potatoes
This simple dish of sliced potatoes in a spicy curry is a filling starter to add to your veggie list. In addition to being good on its own, it goes well with a papaya salad or other greens as well. Potatoes are seen frequently in Burmese cuisine paired with both meat and veggie dishes.
If there’s one thing we weren’t expecting to find as traditional food in Myanmar it was eggplant! Yet, when we first sat down at a restaurant in Ngapali Beach we knew we needed to have it. Don’t worry, the slimy texture and strange green color doesn’t take away from the yummy taste of this classic local dish.
Coconuts are a way of life in Southeast Asia, and that’s no different in Myanmar. Some of our favorite meals we had were definitely the coconut rice and curries. These sweet treats are perfect when searching for what to eat in Myanmar for lunch. Also, you can double down and get a fresh coconut water served on the side!
Traditional Vegetable Curry
After three weeks of eating all the delicious food in Myanmar we discovered that sometimes simple is best. Some of our best meals were a massive bowl of mixed vegetables in a tomato curry sauce.
Served with a side of white rice, this curry dish was unlike any other we’ve had before. The tomato based sauce explodes with each bite, and was hands down one of our favorites. Luckily, this same sauce is used to make other awesome dishes like seafood curry.
Drinks of Myanmar
Now that you have a taste of what to eat in Myanmar you’ll need something to wash it all down! Burmese cuisine includes several refreshing drinks from teas and beer to unreal fruit smoothies. Unfortunately, we didn’t find much coffee here besides instant packages, but the other drinks more than made up for that.
Tea shops can be found everywhere in Myanmar, and are perfect for before and after meals. Although there’s not much great coffee in Myanmar the many yummy teas will make it easy to switch over for your daily fix. Also make sure to try the ginger, green, lemon, and honey tea flavors, too!
From our first dinner in Yangon one thing was clear… Myanmar men love their whiskey! We’re still not sure if it’s seen as some sort of status symbol or just the foreign allure, but they seemed to be drawn to the Johnny Walker brand.
Many of the restaurants are BYOB (bring your own) for liquor and we saw men walking in with full bottles of Johnny Walker still in the box! If you’re looking to try the local blend Grand Royal whiskey is from Myanmar, is very cheap, and goes down smooth.
When in Southeast Asia there are few things better then enjoying an ice cold local beer after a long day of exploring. We liked the Myanmar lager beer which is tart, strong, and refreshing.
Want to know a fun tip? Under the bottle cap you can pull back the small white film to see if you won a prize. We’re not sure how long this game will last, but we won a couple free beers over the course of our visit!
We went over what to eat in Myanmar that’s made with coconuts, so it would be impossible to leave this off the drink list. We seriously had so many coconuts at the beach we lost count! This is the most hydrating thing you can have and it’s essential to surviving the hot days in Myanmar. Also, don’t forget to try the other tasty local fruits and smoothies.
Did you know that Myanmar makes its own wine? Close to Inle Lake is Red Mountain Estate where you can sample different wines and sit overlooking the beautiful Myanmar countryside. While this wine might not earn any international awards we would have to say the Sauvignon Blanc was the best we’ve tried in Southeast Asia!
It’s not a drink we ever look for in this region of the world so it was a nice surprise to say the least. You can read all about our trip to the Red Mountain Estate by clicking the link below.
Have any questions about Burmese cuisine, or want to share some of your own favorite traditional food in Myanmar? Leave us a comment!
Brigitte & Jake
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