Apologies for the silence (and Austin Powers reference above) and here’s to a new year of gorging myself day in and day out! Quentin and I spent the last two and a half weeks on a whirlwind trip through Burma (Myanmar) and India. Needless to say, much Asian food consumption ensued. First, I’ll regale you with tales of the fascinating adventures in Myanmar.
We stayed in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the acting (though no longer official) capital of Myanmar. Quentin’s sister lives there at the moment, and showed us an absolutely fabulous time. I fell in love with Yangon—the calming Buddhist sensibilities, fascinating street life, and magnificent (and plentiful!) gold pagodas—I vowed to return and explore more of the country as soon as possible.
Burmese food is an interesting mix of South East and South Asian food (think rice noodles side by side with spiced curries.) Street food is ubiquitous, with communal cauldrons of bubbling soup, meat both grilled and freshly butchered, fresh sugarcane juice presses, and immaculately peeled fruits sold on seemingly every corner downtown.
We were also lucky enough to visit a local grocery store—one of my favorite things to do anywhere—where we came upon many very colorfully-named products: [I just want to make it clear, the spicy lobster pringles were nothing short of amazing and should be exported here immediately]
Due to some pretty wild food poisoning in Yangon, I didn’t get to experience as much of the local culinary scene as I would have liked—and was chiefly disappointed not to visit Port Autonomy, a super-hip pop up restaurant, part of a group of happenings in Yangon. I was, however, largely cured by a delicious homemade rice porridge made by Nwe Nwe, Quentin’s sister’s lovely housekeeper. She cooked the rice until soupy, and served it with cilantro, lime, and flash fried shallots. I accessorized with a bit of soy sauce, and behold: the ultimate panacea.
I did, however, still get to try some fabulous local delicacies at a cool new spot called Rangoon Tea House which serves traditional foods in a chic, modern atmosphere.Mohinga, a classic Burmese dish, is a brothy fish soup with rice noodles, most often consumed as a breakfast dish. It has a pleasantly sour taste, reminding me of pho, and I particularly enjoyed the accoutrements—especially the crunchy corn fritter seen at left.
This is a chicken curry, served with a variety of pickled and preserved condiments. The top part of the tray had an exceedingly pungent preserved fish which was a bit intense, even for seasoned and adventurous eaters like me and Quentin.
We got two salads: Tea Leaf and Pennywort (a soft leaf). Tea Leaf salad is also very common in Burma and I really loved the freshness of the cuisine—something that is often sadly lacking in Indian eats. And also…fresh coconut water AND a tea matrix on the back of the menu!
Myanmar, Burma, no matter your old or new name, I’m coming back for you as soon as I can!
Places to Visit
1. The Shwedagon Pagoda This enormous gold temple/collection of temples in Yangon is an absolute must-see. It was built to store 6 hairs from Buddha’s head, and is absolutely magnificent and impossible to miss. Go at dusk when it’s not too hot, or else your feet will burn (you have to be barefoot to step inside.) 2. Bogyoke Aun Sang Market This indoor stalled market is a wonderful place to buy gifts and the like. Unfortunately, the jade is procured in horrifying work conditions, but it is plentiful here. Longyis (the traditional Burmese garment) are also available here in a multitude of colors. Go upstairs and visit the Naga Shop for amazing textiles. 3. The Secretariat and surrounding area The old colonial buildings are wonderful to stroll around and look at.
Places To Eat
37th Street, Yangon, Myanmar
This pan-Asian restaurant in a historic downtown building has a lot of delicious izakaya (skewered) offerings. The spicy Korean beef noodles and octopus salad are particularly tasty. Get a table upstairs if you can.
2. Port Autonomy
Lanthit Jetty, Oo Pa st, Seik Khan Tsp
Helmed by famed Bangkok Chef Kevin Ching, this pop up restaurant serves uber-satisfying fusion cuisine (think Soft-Shell Crab Melts and Hot Fried Chicken with “Burmese Buffalo Sauce”) in an iron bunker-style space right on the water. I couldn’t have been more disappointed to miss this one.
3. Rangoon Tea House
77 Pansodan Rd, (Lower Block), First Floor, Kyauktada Township Yangon,Myanmar
This new fun restaurant features traditional Burmese dishes served in a lovely, light atmosphere. Definitely try the Mohinga, a traditional brothy fish soup, with a fresh coconut juice on the side!