Street food not only tickles the taste buds but also tells the story of the place. Street food is the best way to experience a place. Street food stalls, whole in the wall eateries, open carts and open air barbecue setup let you feel the vibrancy of the place openly and give you chance to interact with locals informally. This is true for Yangon also which has a colorful, pulsating and lively street food scene. Maha Bandoola Road, Maha Bandoola Park, Pansodan Street Market, River front and China Town are some of the thriving street food locations to get authentic Burmese Street Food which is heavily influenced by Inidan Chinese and Thai Cuisine but taste distinct and different.
The variety, flavour and taste of Burmese food reflects how the country evolved and grew under the influence of its powerful neighbors viz. India, China and Thailand. The demographic diversity, formed due to more than 135 ethnic groups and tribes, also contributes to the diversity of Burmese cuisine and make it eclectic balance of salty, sour and sweet flavors. Myanmar food could be best described as a fusion between Chinese and Thai food with heavy Indian influences.
Burmese street food is most underrated and least known globally largely because its been largely a closed society after the military coup of 1962. Country had no or little interaction or exchanges with outside world. The political situation forced the country to live a cocoon for a longer time while the world progressed too fast and local become global. However, all this proved a blessing in disguise for Burmese food which could retain its flavour and style which now, when getting exposed, is its value proposition. Anthony Bourdain and his crew was the first one to be allowed in 2013 to cover Burmese Food and then the world could get first glimpse to the lost and forgotten Burmese food.
During my travel to Myanmar, I stayed for two days in Yangon Downtown and that gave me immense opportunity to see, feel and enjoy the food scene. The blue and red plastic tables and chairs were the ubiquitous feature of street food scene and helped me to locate street food joints easily. These colorful sitting arrangement was uniquely inviting and compellingly warming. This colorful set up achieves its peak as sun sets when many streets turned into open air giant restaurants serving varieties of Burmese Street Food like samosa, Shan Food, Barbecue, Mohinga, Sticky rice, Noodle Salad, Tofu Salad, Tea Salad etc. The street vendors are mostly mobile here and uses portable equipments to create a quick set up. They changes menu every hour of the day to cater timely requirement of the visitors.
Top 5 must try street food in Yangon
Samosa & Samosa Salad
(Samusa or Samusa Thoke)
Samosa had a long Asian story. This dish has its root in Persia and reached India with Moghuls and spread all over Indian Sub-continent. Mynamar might be the farthest it could travel. Samosa is the widest available street food.
Burmese tea leaf Salad (Lahpet Thoke)
Lahpet means Tea Leaf and Lahpet Thoke is one of the most cherished dish in Yangon. Myanmar is probably the only country where Tea is eaten as well as drunk.
Mohinga is a rice noodle based dish mixed with fish broth and is considered as national breakfast of Myanmar.
Shan based dishes are gaining popularity in Burma and beyond. A typical Shan Noodle or Shan Khauk Swe is rice noodle with chicken or mutton broth prepared with garlic and onion.
Mote Lin Ma Yar
This is most exciting of all street foods in Yangon. Its a delight to see them being prepared which is an art indeed. Mote Lin Ma Yar actually means couple’s snack or husband and wife snack because two halves are grilled separately on a sizzling cast iron pan topped with egg or roasted chickpeas and then joined together.
Days are not far when Burmese cuisine will be as ubiquitous as India, Chinese or Thais are in western world just as its illustrious neighbors. Its the new Pandora box that chefs have found and they are experimenting with Burmese food to customize it to suit the taste bud of western world.
Comment with your best and memorable street food spree from anywhere in the world.
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PC for Header image – By magical-world – https://www.flickr.com/photos/magical-world/2345046922/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4429082