Myanmar is a country nestled between India, Thailand and China. It is at a cross roads of culinary delight. The textures, flavors and the spices (both from a flavor and a heat standpoint) of these three countries make them home to some of my favorite cuisines. I knew nothing of Burmese food before we started planning this trip. I had never been to a Burmese restaurant and come to think of it, I don’t believe I had even seen a Burmese restaurant in the United States. I chocked that up to the isolationism of the totalitarian regime. There were few refugees from Myanmar making it to the United States – the influx of Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s spurred the growth of Little Vietnams in various cities as well as expanding the American palate to embrace these non-American flavors including Vietnamese Fish Sauce, which you’d be hard pressed to find before the refugee influx.
Despite never eating Burmese food, I was extremely excited to have 10 days of basking in the culinary bliss that I just assumed would be an amalgamation of Indian, Thai and Chinese. I was looking forward to trying curries filled with various types of protein (beef, pork, chicken…I wasn’t expecting the Burmese to have anything too exotic like dog or snake in their curries). I figured we would switch between eating these great curry dishes to eating noodle soups, each with a varying level of spicy and flavor.
I was mistaken.
Well, that’s not 100% true. We did eat curries with more traditional proteins (beef, pork and chicken). We did get noodles from time to time. The food was not the heavenly blend of food from the three neighboring cultures. It really was a relatively bland effort. We tried different preparations of the food as we moved around the country and as we did, we would find a slightly different take on the same beef or fish curry. Nothing I had wowed me. I didn’t create an ever lengthening list of things to try again or to track down back in the US.
That being said, we did have one dish that I really enjoyed and would order it again in a heartbeat, if I could find it again. Shan Noodle is a dish from the Shan province in Myanmar.
While we only had one meal that was bad (I think the beef had turned, but the hotel restaurant at the Pristine Lotus cooked with it anyway), most meals were bland, yet perfectly sustainable. We weren’t able to find the flavorful food the locals eat. Our guide, who was a local, said that we were indeed eating the local food, which was disappointing. I was hoping we could find the Myanmar equivalent of the delicious peasant food of France or Germany or the wonderfully nuanced noodles the Vietnamese people eat.
One of the main goals for me, when traveling, is to explore the local cuisine. One of the main things I look for when planning a trip is the food. I was disappointed in that aspect of our trip to Myanmar.
What is your favorite dish from Myanmar? Do you have a Burmese restaurant back home you like to visit? Other than Shan 999 or Myat That Kavng where should I have eaten on my trip to Myanmar?