Myanmar knows the way to a foodie’s heart: not only does local Burmese cuisine offer great regional diversity, but it also harmonizes numerous flavors and textures at each meal.
Burmese cuisine borrows from Chinese, Indian, and Thai flavors, as well as domestic regional influences that pride themselves on distinct flavors and ingredients. ‘Bhamar’ cuisine is the most common fare found throughout the country—the curries are delicious but watch out if you plan to eat light, as Bhamar curries tend to be quite oily. If you want a want an eating holiday of Myanmar, seek out Rakhine, Shan, or Kachin cuisine (which we think are woefully underrated in Asia) for surprising and satisfying flavors. Shat jam, a Kachin rice dish steamed with chicken, veggies, and regional herbs, is a guaranteed favorite, even for picky eaters, and has to be tried, at least once.
Without a doubt, Lahpet thoke (tealeaf salad) is the most iconic Burmese dish. Hailing from Shan State, this medley of fermented tealeaf, tomatoes, and crunchy nuts or beans makes a delicious side. For another phenomenal Shan dish, try Shan noodles. They come in different noodle and soup options but always feature a hearty tomato-and-meat sauce.
Salads come in a dizzying array of ingredients and styles in Burma. Depending on the region, anything from potatoes and tofu to cauliflower and pennywort can feature as the main ingredient. The tomato salads of Inle Lake, grown on floating gardens, are exquisite.
The southern and western coastal areas such as Rakhine State tend to eat a lot of seafood, while pork or chicken feature prominently in the cuisine of central and northern land-locked areas, such as Mandalay. But no matter where you are, stop by a local teashop, which are a Myanmar institution in any town. In this rustic and family-run setting, sample the mohinga (noodles in fish broth), or a samosa with milky tea. But for those who tend to be less adventurous, the pungent odors of mohinga—Myanmar’s favorite breakfast food—may not be palatable first thing in the morning!
Burmese desserts also span a spectrum of regional influences—while mangos and sticky rice in Mon State echo Thai flavors, Indian-inspired fritters and coconut-based sweets can be found throughout the country.