Food plays a huge role in travel for me; I think how and what a culture eats gives great insight to its people. When I found out I would be guiding some trips in Myanmar last year, I had no idea what to expect from the local Burmese cuisine.
It wasn’t something I had heard anything about, unlike the infamous cuisine of some of Myanmar’s neighbours, Thailand, China and India. To be honest, this was a bit unnerving for a health-conscious, foodie like myself. What was I going to eat for six weeks? I did a bit of research, but all I took away was that the food would be oily.
I am happy to say this was not my experience with Burmese cuisine. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised by all the delicious food I feasted (read: gorged) on. I’ve rounded up a few of what turned out to be my many favourites not to miss.
Burmese Cuisine: Surprisingly Delightful
I was so surprised to find delicious, fresh juices available everywhere in Myanmar. The juices are more like a smoothie, as they are purely fruit blended with water and can be made with or without sugar to suit your level of sweetness. Papaya and banana juice were some of my favourites. They even make avocado juice—I know it sounds a bit strange, but avocados are a fruit, so why not? Avocado juice has a mild creaminess to it and is actually really good! I highly recommend giving it a try.
Another delightful surprise I discovered in Myanmar is that fresh, raw salads are commonplace at Myanmar meals. I’m not talking about boring iceberg lettuce with tomato and cucumber salads, I mean salads of heirloom tomatoes, or crunchy green bean salads mixed with peanuts and fried garlic. Even more exotic salads I loved were lotus root salad, pennywort and citrus leaf salads, and no trip to Myanmar is complete without enjoying the traditional fermented-tea-leaf salad.
A tea-leaf salad consists of fermented green tea leaves, onion, tomato, fried crispy garlic, and crunchy nuts and toasted beans. I think one of the factors that help to make the salads so delicious in Myanmar is that they use local and seasonal produce. As the ingredients are so fresh, you don’t need to add much to get simple salads that are bursting with flavours. I highly recommend sampling as many salads as you can while visiting.
Burmese cuisine offers way too many pleasures to be contained in a single blog post. Click here to learn about my all-time favourite dish in Myanmar—and the country’s favourite sweet treats!