Myanmar (also known as Burma) is a country in the heart of Southeast Asia, known for its outstanding temples, scenery and history. In recent times Myanmar has struggled with internal conflict after its relatively recent transition into a democracy.
It may not be possible to travel to Myanmar and experience the rich culture until the civil war settles, and our thoughts go out to the millions of Burmese citizens affected.
Still, we can celebrate the diverse, flavorful dishes of Myanmar from a distance and take a deep dive into Burmese culture.
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Most Popular Burmese Dishes
Burmese cuisine is characterized by its curries, salads, soups, rice and noodle dishes.
Beef is a taboo meat in Myanmar because cattle tend to be slaughtered only when the animal is very old or sick. Beef also tends to be avoided by Buddhist and Hindu citizens, whereas pork is avoided by the Muslim population. As such, chicken and vegetarian dishes tend to be quite popular.
In big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, food vendors line the streets and small restaurants offer affordable local dishes. Visiting Myanmar offers travelers a real opportunity to sample foods from bigger cities as well as smaller settlements such as the famous Inle Lake and Bagan, to get a real flavor of the country’s cuisine.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try dishes of Myanmar along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
The most typical curries that you will eat in Myanmar will be chicken, lamb or shrimp and, of course, vegetables. Like in most of the Southeast Asian countries, they are accompanied by rice, vegetables and different sauces.
Burmese curry is notably different from those made in its neighboring countries. Its flavor is milder and is generally less thick than its Thai counterpart.
Mohinga Soup consists of a fish broth with rice noodles, onion, hard-boiled egg, ginger and different herbs. It is usually accompanied by fried fritters and is often considered to be the national dish of Myanmar.
Mohinga soup is commonly eaten for breakfast.
Shan Buddhists are one of the most prominent ethnic groups in Myanmar, so much so that they even have their own recipe for Noodles.
It is a very simple (but very popular) recipe that consists of a slightly spicy chicken broth with marinated chicken pieces, toasted sesame and garlic oil. It is also served with a garnish of pickled vegetables, chopped peanuts and chives.
Burmese biryani is traditionally made of chicken, but you can also find it with beef, goat, lamb, fish or prawns. The mixture of the different spices makes the flavor quite intense. Turmeric, cumin, coriander, coconut milk or saffron are just some of the spices that make up Burmese Biryani.
It is usually accompanied by rice, vegetables and different sauces. Like the Burmese curry, Biryani is also among the dishes where the influences of other countries (especially India) is very noticable.
Khow Suey is a noodle soup that originates from the mountains of Shan State. The base is curry with coconut milk that is generally accompanied by chicken, egg noodles and different vegetables.
When in Myanmar, you can also find Khow Suey without meat in several places. Nevertheless, it is a cheap and delicious dish.
Kyay Oh consists of pork dumplings served with Vermicelli noodles, hard-boiled eggs, chopped peanuts, and garlic sprouts.
Although its origins are Chinese (where it is traditionally served in a copper container), it is very popular throughout Myanmar. There is also a vegetarian option in which the meatballs are substituted for Tofu.
Be Kin (Roast Duck)
Be kin is a Burmese duck specialty, cooked Chinese style. It is marinated in a mixture of sauces, spices and seasonings.
The duck is then glazed so that the outside is crunchy and the inside is tender and juicy. It is generally accompanied by duck sauce and chili sauce.
Marlar Hin consists of a mix of ingredients such as tofu, beans, rice noodles, peas, kailan, carrots and any other seasonal vegetable.
All of these ingredients are cooked with a sauce of spicy beans and chopped peanuts. Marlar hin is one of the most popular vegetarian dishes in Myanmar.
Mont Lin Maya
Mont Lin Maya (also known as Mont Mg Hnama or Mont Ote kalay) consists of a mixture of rice flour, salt, sugar, water and green onion, fried in wide circle pans. It is also typical to cook quail eggs and beans on the same pan.
Sanwin Makin is a traditional Burmese cake made from coconut cream, semolina, clarified butter, sugar, eggs and a pinch of cardamom. The dish is then cut in the shape of a rhombus before being served.
Yu Char Kueh (Fried Breadstick)
Yu Char Kueh, another Chinese-influenced dish, is a strip of dough that is deep-fried and served alongside either rice congee or milk as a breakfast.
The dish is originally called Youtiao in China, but seeing its ever-growing popularity in Myanmar, it’s safe to say that this dish belongs equally to both countries. Nevertheless, you are likely to come across Yu Char Kueh (or Kway) served in many places in Myanmar.
Bein Mont are crispy, fluffy pancakes coated with walnuts, sesame or poppy seeds and sugar, which makes them sweet but without being cloying.
There are many variations of Bein Mont across Myanmar, you can find them filled with coconut, banana or even eggs.