When travelling to another country, it is advisable that visitors try local food, and Myanmar is no exception. Food, which tells the story of Myanmar’s tradition, best represents the country. However humble, classic or extravagant the food is, just one spoonful of it will give an eater a sensation of Myanmar.
1. Pickled Tea Leaves Salad (Laphat Tote)
Pickled tea leaves salad is a quintessential Myanmar food. Known for its long tradition, pickled tea leaves are ubiquitous across Myanmar because almost every home enjoys pickled tea leaves not only as a light snack but also as a side dish, which will complement the dinner dishes or lunch ones. The main ingredient people indulge in this dish is seasoned pickled tea leaves. After tea leaves are harvested in Shan hill, a region in the eastern part of Myanmar, a process of fermentation, in which harvested tea leaves are grounded, and dried as necessary, takes place. The taste of pickled tea leaves is sour, savory, and a bit tingling. Fried shallots, fried shrimp, sliced chili, slices of tomato, fried peanuts, fried chickpeas, and other fried nuts are used for garnishing. Basically, all ingredients are mixed up with pickled tea leaves right before eating. Otherwise, other fried nuts will turn soft. Not only it is easy to prepare but also it is supposedly used as a make up meal after the trial. Pickled tea leaves salad also changes the mood of a hungry child if you feed him with a plate of warm rice. Overall, it is a delightful snack for all.
Mohinga is reportedly called an unofficial national dish. It basically consists of rice noodle in fish broth topped with vegetable fritters and/or a hard boiled duck egg. Mohinga is available all over Myanmar with different styles of fish broth whose tastes and thickness can be changed according to the region. It is celebrated throughout Myanmar due to its inexpensiveness, its availability, and its refreshing taste, which will make eaters smile and feel satisfied. Despite it being a favorite food of Myanmar for breakfast, nowadays people consume Mohinga day and night. The magic in Mohinga lies in its fish broth, and its various toppings, which are chickpea fritter, onion fritter, black bean fritter, gourd fritter, etc., and boiled egg soaked in fish broth to make it tastier. However, people with hypertension and diabetes should take precaution when they eat Mohinga. Since it uses ingredients with sodium, which thickens the blood, it is not healthy for those with such medical conditions.
Located between India and Thailand, Myanmar boasts its unique style of curry, which is not too strong or spicy like Indian curry and not too milky as Thai one. A set of curry and rice humbly symbolizes Myanmar in such a way that people eat rice and curry every day for their daily nutrition. Shops, which sell curry and rice, can be see all over Myanmar, even in highway express stops, where travelers can take a rest and fill their stomachs. Ranging from chicken curry to eggplant curry, the versatility is awestruck. Myanmar curry is basically oily and contains a great amount of diced onions. Basically, onions, oil, chili powder, garlics, turmeric powder, tamarind paste, etc., are used to make curry paste. It is heavenly for Myanmar people to eat rice with hands, mix it with gravy from the curry, and wash down the throat with a soup. Even though Myanmar curry is a bit infamous for its oiliness for Westerners, the taste is sublime and its mixture with the rice will take you to the paradise.
Nangyithote is analogous to Italian spaghetti. It is a thick rice noodle mixed altogether with chicken gravy, chickpeas powder, chili sauce, fish sauce, bean sprouts, and coriander leaves. After you mix all of them well, you will get the most satisfying taste of Nangyithote. It is often served with a hot chicken bone soup, and some onion pickled. It is a kind of dish which many young people with good appetite can have two or three servings. Despite its oiliness, it is considered a favorite food of many tourists visiting Myanmar. However, it is more expensive than Mohinga, but worth the price when you consider its deliciousness.
Aforementioned four Myanmar dishes are what makes Myanmar unique, but they are not all. Each region in Myanmar has its own cuisine, which defines the culture of that region. Visitors and locals take pride of these food because such food tell the story of Myanmar.
By Paul Lu HAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar