I just got back from the trip of a lifetime to Myanmar in Southeast Asia. Along with three other friends looking for adventure, we chose Myanmar (previously called Burma) because, due to a recent change in governmental control, the country is open to tourism for the first time in decades. In a two week period, we traveled from the capitol, Yangon, to the second largest city further north, Mandalay. After that, we headed to the ancient city of Bagan to see beautiful temples and pagodas in a dry dessert region. We ended our trip by first going East to Inlay Lake, a cooler region where indigenous people still live their entire lives IN the lake, and then stopping on the Southwest coast in Ngapali to see the lives of fisherman on the Bay of Bengal. I hope to blog more about this amazing trip but I wanted to start by talking about the FOOD.
The food in Myanmar was absolutely delicious – noodle and rice based, they have an emphasis on vegetables including different greens, cabbage, broccoli and hot peppers and serve egg in almost every dish. There are a lot of seafood dishes including fish-based soups and have the most amazing firm tofu which is made from chickpeas instead of soybeans. Another fun thing about Myanmar is the sides and sauces. With almost any meal, they will bring out tiny dishes of savory and sweet sauces. Ginger and garlic take center stage, but they also use cilantro, tomato paste, crushed red peppers, cumin and small hot Thai peppers.
There is a state in Myanmar called Shan State in the East and the people there are Thai decedents. Shan noodles are a staple dish served with tomato sauce, crushed peanuts and lots of garlic. The noodles are thin and long, similar to spaghetti. The dish is spicy and served with broth on the side, and even though the daily temperatures reach into the 90’s and above, eating hot soup for lunch and dinner is strangely satisfying. I hope to learn how to make Shan noodles at home if I can. The best way to eat Shan noodles is definitely at a street restaurant, meaning there is someone cooking on an open flame outside and you sit at these short plastic tables on small plastic stools next to other diners. For some of our dinners, we could get a meal for four, plus a couple large Myanmar lager beers, for around $6.