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Food

 

 

Burmese cuisine is greatly influenced by foods from China, India, Thailand and the different ethnic groups of Myanmar. Burmese food is very rich and flavorful, often making use of a lot of fish sauce and spices. Every morning the street markets bustle with people gathering and buying ingredients for cooking. Some vendors travel long distances every day to sell their goods at these markets. More recently, supermarkets have emerged as an alternative for food shopping. These supermarkets are like mini versions of Wal-Mart, offering convenience and a nice shopping atmosphere. The foods and products sold at these supermarkets are pricier and often consist of imports from outside the country.

The two most common traditional dishes from Myanmar are called mohinga and ohn-no-khao-swe. Mohinga is a rice noodle soup made with fish broth. Ohn-no-khao-swe is a type of coconut chicken noodle soup. These two dishes are eaten with many condiments and can be customized to the taste of each individual. Some condiments used are eggs, coriander, onions, banana tree stems, fried split chickpea fritters (pe gyaw), fried dough sticks, fried gourds and fishcakes. The flavor of the dishes can be customized with pepper flakes and lemons, depending on how spicy or sour a person prefers. Mohinga and ohn-no-khao-swe are sold on almost every street corner. Both dishes can be eaten at any time of day, whether it is breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.   

Burmese people eat a lot of ngapi, which is a type of salted fermented fish paste made either from fish, shrimp or beans. Ngapi has an overwhelmingly strong flavor and smell.  It is often eaten with a bowl of rice and side vegetables called toe-sa-yar. These side vegetables are either uncooked or boiled. Vegetables used in toe-sa-yar are cucumbers, cabbage, sprouts, mint leaves, and string beans, among many others. Toe-sa-yar is used to balance ngapi's potent flavor.

Burmese people also love various types of salads called a-thoke. These salads are centered on one main ingredient such as rice, noodle, ginger, tea leaves, potato, lime, ngapi, etc. One of the most popular types of salad is laphet-thoke, a salad centered on tea-leaves. Other ingredients such as beans, peanuts, sesame seed, tomato, onion, cabbage and lime are added to the salad. An example of a laphet-thoke container is available for check-out from our Burma explorer box.  Laphet-thoke is often eaten after dinnertime while sitting outside on straw mats, gossiping with neighbors and sipping tea.

People in Myanmar also eat a lot of delicious tropical fruits such as durian, guava, coconut, mango, banana, jackfruit, plum, lychee, papaya, pineapple, pomelo, water melon, mangosteen and rambutan. In terms of desserts, one of the most popular dishes is called shwe-yin-aye. The name literally means “golden heart cooler” because after eating this cool dessert on a hot day, your insides and your heart will feel refreshed. This dessert consists of agar jelly, tapioca and sago in coconut milk. Pieces of taro and bread are added to this dessert to tone down the sweetness.

A traditional Burmese meal is eaten on a round table that is fairly low to the ground. Burmese people sit on the floor or on bamboo mats and eat together as a family. All the food is placed at the center of the table and each individual has their own bowl of rice. It is customary for the elders to eat before the younger family members. In the past, Burmese people traditonally ate meals with their fingers. Nowadays, most people use utensils. They also sit on higher tables with chairs, identical to the Western style of eating.

Burmese cuisine is very diverse and full of different textures and flavors. Sometimes, it is just a matter of getting over the not-so-pleasant smell of some Burmese dishes, to experience a whole new world of flavors not traditionally found in Western cuisine. For anyone adventurous enough to try their hand at cooking some Burmese food, a few recipes are provided in the food subsections. If interested, Burmese recipe books can be checked from our lending library. Additional Burmese recipes are available through outside websites listed below. 

 

Useful websites for other Burmese recipes:

Hsaba

Wikia Recipes

SBS Recipes

Easy Burmese Recipe

Wutyee Food House

Asian Online Recipes

Wuzzle Recipes

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