Myanmar people celebrate the New Year of the Burmese lunar calendar by participating in the water festival. The New Year is in mid-April, and usually four days, but five days in leap year. Despite that people are having fun, throwing water to each other for the purpose of cleaning the bad luck for the New Year, the water festival is also a well-known event where people make donations in the forms of free food, and free drink. This is where a so-called water festival culinary event becomes alive. Throughout all four days, not only Myanmar traditional desserts such as floating rice ball, sago cakes, but also Myanmar curry and rice are offered all over the country as a donation.
First of all, traditional desserts are mainly home made and distributed to neighbors to show friendliness, which is commonplace in Myanmar. Floating rice balls are arguably the most celebrated dessert in water festival. It is made of rice flour, with a palm sweet fillings inside, and boiled until the rice ball floats on the water, which shows the signal of that it is cooked. When friends want to joke around, they put chili as the fillings inside the rice ball, and trick each other to eat that spicy rice ball.
The other famous Myanmar dessert enjoyed throughout the festival is called “Shweyinaye”, which in literal sense means “To cool down your ches”. It is a concoction of coconut milk, different types of jelly, sago, sugar syrup, bread, sticky rice, cubes of ice and green dough pieces (the main ingredient). It is a comfort food enjoyed by all ages during the festival.
Apart from these two desserts, so many different types of desserts and curries are served all over the city. When people go out and enjoy the festival, they are likely to find at least one family donating free food to passers-by. The generosity Myanmar people show each other that is impressive and virtuous can be seen in the water festival. Donation in any kind in Myanmar is well respected by people since they, who are mostly Buddhists, believe in reincarnation, and doing good deeds in this life will make them have a better life in another existence.
Despite that it is a new year festival, it symbolizes Myanmar desserts, and calls out the immense making of them during the festival. Though it is not officially considered a culinary event, it is the water festival that can be best manifested as a culinary festival.
By Paul Lu HAN, ASEAN Correspondent from Myanmar