Myanmar – Eating

I enjoy eating. I enjoying trying new foods in different countries. Personally, find eating the local food and chatting with locals some of the best parts of traveling. I reckon if I travel to another country and only want to eat foods I am familiar with, why travel?

Prior to leaving for Myanmar, I made a list of the foods I wanted to eat as well as a list of restaurants I wanted to try. I did my research checking out different websites such as CNN Travel and various travel blogs, specifically their segments on food such as Live Less Ordinary (all-out great travel blog).  Also, I learned key phrases pertaining to dietary restrictions.

To get straight to it, I wanted to at least try:

  • Laphet Thohk – Pickled tea leaf salad (as well as all the other salads)
  • Mohinga – The famous dish of Mohinga, a bowl of rice noodles covered in a fish based soup and sprinkled with deep fried fritters.
  • Burmese Fish Curry
  • Burmese Biryani
  • Falooda  – A sweet drink with all sorts of things. If you are familiar with the Filipino halo-halo, you might think of this as the Burmese version.

I was completely open to trying anything else. Especially as I knew there would be a lot of Chinese and Indian influences at play.  Fortunately, our kids are a bit more seasoned in trying different foods. Don’t get me wrong, they can be picky, but they will at least try something once.

First off, the breakfasts we had at all our hotels were the breakfasts that were included with our stay; therefore, they were generally a bit lackluster. I do realize that we didn’t go the 5-star route and I am not even complaining. All of the hotels had decent selections of items for Asian and Western palates, kept the buffet area clean and orderly and the facilities overall were very clean.  Just don’t expect anything decadent or to be amazed.

Yangon

Day 1 – Arrival

We arrived in the evening and were very tired and hungry. The lady at the front desk could see this and suggested we go to a restaurant called House of Memories, which is actually the old office of General Aung San and was also on my list of good eats. We were delighted to find out it was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel. So off we went.

The house itself is very cool and it was fascinating the General’s old desk and  to just be surrounded by the decor. We were seated on the top floor balcony area. It was warm, not too hot, but there were mosquitos so I was glad I had some spray handy. The staff was attentive and it didn’t take long for us to have our cold beverages, laphet thohk, gyin thohk, rice and lentil soup. The food was good, although I wouldn’t quite rave about it; however, the atmosphere and experience itself was really cool (I sound so dated writing “cool”) . How many folks can say they dined in a place where a historical figure worked and historical moments happened (Europeans put your hands down)? The meal cost us around 25,000 Kyat (around $21 USD).  Note that they do accept credit cards which was handy as we hadn’t exchanged our money yet, well we actually had, but only a small amount.

Day 2

When I reviewed the restaurant list with our tour guide Aung San Khaw in Yangon, I had a list of restaurants I found on a travel website and he said “oh, these are okay. A lot of tourists like to go there.” I saw that as a red flag and said, we are flexible if you have any suggestions.  I knew that it could go one of two ways: he takes us to some “meh” place at which he would get a commission for taking us OR we discover some real gems and eat happy. Fortunately it was  case of the latter. For lunch we went to Khaing Khaing Khaw Food House. When we arrived the first thing I noticed were there were only a couple of Westerners and loads of locals. I took this as a good sign. We were taken to the back to sit, but first Aung San called me to the buffet area. We had to select what we wanted and the would cook it  or heat it up for us and then bring to our table. Having him there of course made it a lot easier. We ordered fish curry, pumpkin curry, rice, bbq fish, laphet thohk, tofu thohk and a tomato thohk (I don’t know the Burmese word for tomato) and of course, rice. OMG it was all so delicious! We got so full and yet I kept grazing. They were flavors like I hadn’t had before. The whole meal came to about 21,000 Kyat (roughly $18 USD). Oh something to bear in mind, you are also responsible for paying for your meal and your guide will eat with you, which is loads of fun because you can pepper them with questions during the mean and learn more about the country as well as them. I’d also like to note that the restaurant was clean and they had clean toilets in the back.

While we were at Bogyoke Market they were handing our free falooda so despite still being full, I felt like it was my duty to give it a try as it was on my list. It was surprisingly refreshing and not too sweet. Bear in mind not all faloodas are alike so what I had there may vary at another place. Of course I now realize my picture is absolutely crap. It looks horrible, but I swear it was delicious.

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As we were walking through Chinatown in the evening, we decided to have dinner on 19th Street, which is chock full of places to eat at. Aung San said we were really okay to eat at any of the places as they were all really busy and full of locals with a smattering of tourists alike. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of the restaurant! It was a place where you chose what you wanted to eat and they would barbecue it for you. It was crowded and there was no a/c, but by golly the food was good. We had a barbecue fish with rice and grilled vegetables there were so perfect with a cold Myanmar beer. Aung San ordered noodles and note that the portion was huge. Even he seemed a bit shocked when they brought the food to us. Our bill came to about 25,000 Kyat (about $21 USD). It was a bit more because we had a few beers with the meal, they were about 1,500 Kyat (about $1.30 USD) for a large bottle. Note that the restaurant was not as clean as our lunch place and the toilets certainly could have been cleaner.

Day 3

After our 3 hour train ride on the Circular Railway we decided to spend a bit more to dine-in at The Taj restaurant. Word to the wise, if you are leaving from the Yangon Central Railway station, if the sky is clear – you can walk there. DO NOT TAKE A TAXI! In our hot and weary state we decided to take a taxi only to see it was so bloody close to the station!

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From the reviews I had read, I knew this meal would cost a bit more and that was fine.  I ordered a vegetable curry and my husband ordered the paneer Manchurian and both dishes were delicious and were not swimming in oil as we sometimes experience. Unfortunately our youngest found the food a bit too spicy for her taste and this was a daal dish we ordered which the staff said was not spicy (I didn’t think it was spicy either, but I who knows the taste buds of a six-year old?). While we weren’t amazed or blown away, we thought the food was solidly good and the restaurant had a lovely slightly upscale atmosphere without being intimidating and very clean with very courteous and attentive staff. For the four of us to eat 3 mains, 2 rice, 4 breads and beverages, it was about 35,000 Kyat (an estimated $30 USD). It was certainly a welcome break after 3+ hours without a/c in the Yangon heat.

Regrettably, we didn’t make it to a tea house nor 999 Shan Noodle Shop (they were closed for the holiday), but we will try to next time because we will return.

Bagan

Day 1

The first restaurant we went to at Bagan was for lunch at Queen Restaurant which is almost literally across the street from the Everstand Lacquerware Workshop. My husband and I ordered the lunch specials which were served on lovely lacquerware serving dishes. I had the shrimp dish and my husband had the vegetable one. Our kids had the lentil soup and rice. It was damn good and despite the heat, there was a lovely breeze in the shade so sitting outside wasn’t so bad at all. The lunch special had various vegetable side items to go with your “main” and all were tasty.  I also had the avocado juice which was so yummy. It was sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. Admittedly, we were taken out to lunch by a friend so I am not sure how much the bill came to, but I believe the lunch sets (see below) averaged between 10,000-15,000 Kyat (roughly $8-$12 USD).

 That night for dinner we went to Naratheinkha French and Asian Restaurant. Word of warning, the actual menu isn’t quite French; however, the food was really good. We had the tomato salad, pennywort salad, fried fish and rice and all were really, really delicious. Our kids wanted the pasta on the menu and ordered the spaghetti with tomato sauce. I am always cautious when ordering western food in Asian countries and always warn my kids “it’s most likely not going to be what you are used to” and sometimes I am right and what they think will be a pizza is a round piece of bread with a melted square of cheese; however, it seems the restaurant was spot on with this. The kids even went so far to say that it was the best spaghetti they have had in a while. I did give it a try and I have to say, the flavor was yummy and the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente. For two salads, one fish, rice and two pastas it came to around 21,000 Kyat (around $18 USD). The owner came out and chatted with us and we would have liked to have a beer with him, but our kids were on the verge of meltdown so we had to leave, which sucked because he seemed like a cool guy to sit and have a beer with.

Day 2

We ate absolute junk for lunch. We had the e-bikes and had to rush back because we had only booked a half day slot. For lunch we ate an assortment of crisps, leftover pasta (from the night before – the portions were huge) and fruits – okay so not total junk.

 That night for dinner we had access to a driver so we thought we would go to one of the vegetarian restaurants we found on Tripadvisor; however, it’s a national holiday! Gah! It was closed along with the back up restaurants on my list (La Pizza, Wetherspoons, etc.)! Fortunately, A Little Bit of Bagan was open and although we were dubious of there extensive menu which featured Italian, Chinese, vegetarian and charcoal (BBQ), it was pretty good. My husband and I had rice and vegetarian curry dish which was delicious and our kids ordered pizza and were happy with them. The meal for the four of us came out to around 20,000 Kyat (roughly $17 USD) including beverages. It seemed relatively clean and had a good mix of locals and tourists. Something to note, sometimes the electricity goes off when you are outside of Yangon. It did this when we were here, but they had a generator so all was well and the staff at the restaurant kept things going seamlessly.

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Day 3

For lunch we went back to Queen Restaurant and as we were all quite hot from our temple hopping, we opted for the tomato salad and pennywort salad with rice on the side. Their food is so delicious. I know we will go back there if we return to Bagan.  The restaurant is also very clean and the service is great.

For dinner we ate at the hotel as we were leaving early the next morning and didn’t feel like wandering to find an open restaurant near our hotel. Unfortunately the dinner was a bit lack luster – think airplane food. Be it noted that this was the night there was an earthquake. Thankfully we were all okay.

EN ROUTE TO INLE LAKE

We stopped by a roadside restaurant/cafe called Golden Umbrella for some delicious laphet thohk and tomato thohk accompanied with cold beverages. It was by no means fancy (quite the opposite), there were no other westerners, and I didn’t venture to the toilets; however, the food was good, they had homemade wine (for Americans, think Boones) the service we great and none of us got sick. I don’t know where it was, but the Google coordinates are here.

Inle Lake

Okay, while Golden Island Cottages Nampan Hotel is a wonderful hotel located in a beautiful setting, you are pretty much stranded there so your dining options are very limited, very limited – like you have no choice but to eat there once you are back at the hotel. Note that you do pay a bit more (as you generally do at hotels, e.g. 3,000 Kyat for beer vs. 1,500 Kyat at a store) at hotel restaurants as the checks for each of our meals were averaging 25,000-35,000 Kyat (roughly $21 – $30 USD).

We had dinner there every night during our stay. Our eldest took another chance and ordered a pizza on the first night and was sorely disappointed. For the remainder of our stay both kids stuck with the spaghetti with tomato sauce – unfortunately their adventurous spirit was waning. My husband and I would generally go for a fish dish with rice and veggies. The food was okay, just okay and the restaurant was clean and since we were really one of maybe four customers at the most (low season), the staff were really attentive.  If we had other options, we would have jumped at them, but alas! That there were none.

Day 1

Dinner at hotel restaurant – meh.

Day 2

Lunch at a restaurant near the hotel. Our boat driver almost took us back to the hotel for lunch, but through various gestures we asked to be taken somewhere else, which he did. It actually wasn’t too bar from the resort and was clean and full of both Western Tourists and Burmese Tourists. We ordered some fries, fried fish and tomato salad with rice. An interesting fact, the tomato thohk/salad in Inle Lake tends to be made with green tomatoes. Still delicious though. The food wasn’t quite rave-worthy, but it was good and their service was courteous and efficient. Also, my husband and I had a feeling there were two menus, one for the Burmese and one for the Western tourists. Note that our bill was still high, around 25,000 Kyat ($21 USD).

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Dinner at hotel restaurant – meh.

Day 3

If you read our story about how we came to Maing Thouk Image under Stuff We Did, you’ll appreciate the journey finding this place. While the restaurant itself is on the rustic side, the food was good, very reasonably priced (I think it was closer to 15,000 kyat/roughly $13 USD) for two salads, rice, fish and beverages, the service was attentive and no one got sick. It was very busy with locals and Burmese tourists our kids ended up playing with the owners children and their pet cat. It was a great break from our cycling and from hotel food.

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Dinner at hotel restaurant – meh.

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