the myanmar food trip

When we were doing the research on what food to try in Myanmar, we found less than a handful of tips online. That gave us the pre-conceived notion that not a lot of people raved about the food and we better set our expectations low.

After 24 hours in transit en route to Yangon, we were filled with the mediocre airline food and the psychological anticipation of another long trip to Bagan. The impending overland transit made me decide not to eat too much to prevent vomitus fireworks and unscheduled trip to the public toilet. But it seemed like our van operator, Mr. Moe Hitler, wanted us to pig out and be filled of stuffings for a probable… errr… sacrificial offering.

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Oiliness is next to everything

It turned out that a typical Burmese table means overflowing feast fatale! Before we even hit the tables, mounds of rice were already waiting and the waiters served all sorts of fresh green condiments of what looked like a bouquet of vegetable garden.  It was served with Ngapi, a fermented fish with chili, a hybrid of the Filipino Bagoong and Buro placed somewhere in the plethora of plates on the table. In no time, the table was completely covered with various dishes of fish, mutton, corn and whatnot. All with a common theme–DRENCHED IN OIL.

Surprisingly we all loved it. The dishes are actually comparable to a slow cook Kapampangan adobo, only the Burmese preparation consist of 50% actual ingredients and the rest is oil, you can actually just take home the left-over lard and smother it all over Channing Tatum.

Cheap, dirty and delicious

What Burmese consider their National breakfast is the humble Mohinga. Basically it is a hodgepodge of chickpea flour or crushed toasted rice, garlic, onions, lemongrass, banana tree stem, ginger, fish paste, fish sauce and catfish, saggy looking rice vermicelli, lime, crispfried onions, coriander, spring onions, crushed dried chilli and crispy fried fritters… like something that was invented by a psychopath who went berserk in his kitchen and randomly dumped everything in his pantry into a casserole of rich broth with amniotic fluid consistency.

Again, it was surprisingly delicious! And it will only costs you half a dollar for a bowl.

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Because tea drinking is too mainstream

While the rest of the world fancy tea time on posh china wares, the Burmese people came up with a hipster idea: Why not EAT THE FUCKIN TEA LEAVES?

Lahpet is a salad of fermented tea leaves served with nuts, palm sugar, ginger salad, lime and fried shrimps. Just be careful though, make sure to ask the ingredients prior to ordering, because we got the one with fried Eretes sticticus. Sounds kinky eh? NO! It’s a beetle larvae.

Neutralize

If you got too tired of the cerebro vascular accident inducing greasy dishes, you can break the ice  lard by trying out some western treats. Our top pick is the buffet lunch from the Hotel @ The Tharabar Gate where we stayed. The eat-all-you-can lunch is served as ala carte plates and offers a selection pasta and noodles (USD10-ish) and dinner with grilled mains for (USD16-ish) serve with a bread basket, butter, hummus and baba ghanoush (I love saying that: “Another serving of hummus and baba ghanoush please. Thank you, you may leave now!“). I must say this, we felt proud when we found out that the chef of the hotel is a Filipina.

Chef Jana became our good friend and on our last day in Bagan, she treated us to The Moon, a local vegetarian restaurant popular among tourists because of the international selections and superb service.

Wash it all down

What is travel without beer? The local brew is undeniably measuring up and a strong contender against the neighboring country’s bestsellers. But if Myanmar beer isn’t your thing, you can resort to a more wholesome option: The cheap, dirty and luscious sugarcane juice. For some reasons, their version is sweeter, better and with a generous squeeze of lime and God-knows-what-microbes added in to it, this street favorite became my top pick for the “must try if you dare” in Myanmar.

One thing we noticed, whenever we eat in a restaurant, be it first class or some hole in the wall eateries–there will always be an army of waiters the size of a standard football team attending to our table. I bet the local employers go on hiring-frenzy and we felt like we are being served well that if a spoon slips off my hand, someone is dedicatedly ready to catch it for me.

One more tip: Do not freak out if you enter an eatery and mistaken it as a trading market where waiters are shouting constantly like as if someone will get assassinated on the spot. That’s just how they do it to show-off their passion for service.