BURMESE CUISINE AND FOOD IN MYANMAR

BURMESE CUISINE AND FOOD IN MYANMAR

Burmese typically dine at home where they eat rice, fish, chicken and vegetables flavored with ngapi (a pungent, dry, fermented fish or shrimp paste described by Rudyard Kipling as "fish pickled when it ought to have been buried long ago").

According to Countries and Their Cultures: The food in Myanmar has its own special identity. Although it draws on its’ neighbors, it is neither as hot as Thai, as spicy as Indian nor does it resemble Chinese cooking much except in the stir-fry vegetables. Nowadays various kinds of Myanmar food and snacks are available in the street stalls, market stalls and local restaurants. Also most of hotels in different destinations offer Myanmar set menus, which allows visitors to try the taste of the Myanmar cuisine. [Source:Countries and Their Cultures everyculture.com <>]

“Rice is the staple food except among those in highland areas where rice is difficult to grow. In those areas, rice, millet, sorghum, and corn are the staples. Rice is accompanied by a raw salad of leaves, fruit, or vegetables; a soup; and curries of fish, meat, prawns, or eggs. In addition to turmeric and chili, curries are seasoned with fermented fish or shrimp paste. A variety of cultivated vegetables and wild greens are eaten as well as bamboo shoots. Meals often are accompanied by lentils, pickled relishes, and balachaung (made from fried dry prawns). There are a variety of rice-noodle dishes. After a meal, it is common to eat fresh fruit. <>

Food, See Holidays and Festivals

Eating Habits and Customs in Myanmar

In Myanmar, people consume on average 44 lbs of rice per month compared with 35 lbs in Viet Nam, 48.5 lbs in Thailand and 15 lbs in Asia as a whole. The Burmese have traditionally snacked a lot because they have traditionally only had two meals a day—one at around 10:00am and another in the mid afternoon—the same schedule monks eat on.

A traditional meal is served with rice and tea. Breakfast is generally eaten between 6:30am and 7:30am and often consists of rice or soup. Lunch is generally eaten between 12:00noon and 1:00pm. Many people eat out, grabbing a quick meal or snack such as a bowl of noodles or curry and rice. Dinner is generally eaten between 6:00pm and 7:00pm. The main meal of the day, it is generally an informal meal with meat or fish, rice and is similar to lunch except often more dishes are served. Main dishes made at home, include a variety of curries, stir fried dishes and soups.

“Tea shops are found in every city, town, and large village. These establishments are important locales for social gathering. Street stalls sell a variety of foods in the cities and towns. Relatively few restaurants serve Burmese food. The majority serve Indian or Chinese food, and English food is served in many hotels and guest houses. <>

“Feasting and sharing food are an important feature of traditional agricultural and religious rites. Often special foods are prepared for those occasions. Htamane, which is served during the rice harvest festival February, is made of glutinous rice mixed with sesame seeds, peanuts, shredded ginger, and coconut. Alcoholic beverages are drunk during some secular festivities but are not drunk during most religious festivals. In urbanized areas, commercial beer and other forms of alcohol are consumed, while in more remote rural areas, locally made alcohol is more common. Alcoholic drinks are made from fermented palm juice and a distilled rice-based solution. Fermented grain-based alcoholic drinks are more commonly consumed among highland groups. <>

Eating Customs in Myanmar

When eating, it is customary for the elderly to be served first and coughing, sneezing or blowing one's nose at table is not acceptable. Politely excuse yourself if you feel the need. Also do not use tooth-picks without covering with you’re your mouth with your hand or sit at the head of the table unless you are eldest person there. Out of respect, the eldest diners are always served first before the rest join in; even when the elders are absent, the first morsel of rice from the pot is scooped and put aside as an act of respect to one's parents, a custom known as u cha (lit. first serve).

Myanmar dining tables are round and low. Family members sit on the mats around the table when eating. Food is not served in courses. Dishes are served simultaneously with different items are spread out on the table, and people help themselves and put food on their plates. Myanmar food tables are usually small and rounded. The atmosphere desired is not one of elegance or polish. What is desired is convivial closeness of those who gather to eat. Dishes should be small but deep, unlike the large serving dishes of the West. For relishes, pickles and dips Burmese use 3-4 inch diameter bowls. For normal curries, fried vegetables and salads they use 5-7 inch diameter bowls. Suitable serving spoons of metal or even Chinaware are put into curries and bowls. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

When serving a meal, servers may hover about but only the big rice bowl is taken around by them. There are too many dishes to serve quickly enough from the side. Each person needs to help themself to get the dish he or she wants. People tend to concentrate on eating rather than chatting. The hostess constantly dishes rice for guests who insist they have had plenty. When finished. each guest may rise and go to the basin and wash with soap. =

Dishes are served simultaneously. A typical meal includes steamed rice as the main dish and accompanying dishes called hin, including a curried freshwater fish or dried/salted fish dish, a curried meat or poultry dish instead, a light soup called hin gyo, called chinyay hin) if sour, and fresh or boiled vegetables to go with a salty dish, almost invariably a curried sauce of pickled fish (ngapi yayjo) in Lower Burma. Fritters such as gourd or onions in batter as well as fish or dried tofu crackers are extra. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Many people eat with their hands. If that is the case food is eaten with the fingers of the right hand. Eating with fingers must not look messy. Burmese use all the five fingers to eat. Homes and restaurants in cities and towns have dining tables and chairs, some people eat with fork and spoon. Chopsticks and Chinese-style spoons are used for noodle dishes, although noodle salads are more likely to be eaten with just a spoon.

The Burmese eat with their right hand, forming the rice into a small ball with only the fingertips and mixing this with various morsels before popping it into their mouths. Knives and forks are used rarely in homes but will always be provided for guests and are available in restaurants and hotels. Drinks are not often served with the meal and, instead, the usual liquid accompaniment is in the form of a light broth or consomme served from a communal bowl. Outside of the meal, the Burmese beverage of choice is light green tea, yay nway gyan). +

Hospitality is often based on providing food and often the more people that come the better, with reason of course. Printed invitations are uncommon except for ceremonies at monasteries and for weddings. Locals usually go around and invite close friends, relatives and whoever they want to invite verbally. Since most Burmese are Buddhists many ceremonies are held at monasteries called Ahlu. These events are regarded as “a joyful and peaceful type of donation.” Many curries and rice and served. Nowadays, western style parties are held at hotels. =

Burmese Cuisine

Burmese cuisine includes dishes from various regions of the Southeast Asian country of Burma (now officially known as Myanmar). Owing to the geographic location of Myanmar, Burmese cuisine has been influenced by China, India and Thailand. The diversity of Myanmar's cuisine has also been contributed to by the myriad of local ethnic minorities. Burmese cuisine is characterized by extensive use of fish products like fish sauce and ngapi (fermented seafood). [Source: Wikipedia +]

Seafood is a common ingredient in coastal cities such as Sittwe, Kyaukpyu, Mawlamyaing (formerly Moulmein), Mergui (Myeik) and Dawei, while meat and poultry are more commonly used in landlocked cities like Mandalay. Freshwater fish and shrimp have been incorporated into inland cooking as a primary source of protein and are used in a variety of ways, fresh, salted whole or filleted, salted and dried, made into a salty paste, or fermented sour and pressed. +

Burmese cuisine also includes a variety of salads (a thoke), centered on one major ingredient, ranging from starches like rice, wheat and rice noodles, glass noodles and vermicelli, to potato, ginger, tomato, kaffir lime, lahpet (pickled tea leaves), and ngapi (fish paste). These salads have always been popular as fast foods in Burmese cities. +

The countries that border Myanmar, especially India, China and Thailand, have influenced Burmese cuisine. Indian influences are found in Burmese versions of dishes such as samosas and biryani, and Indian curries, spices and breads such as naan and paratha. Chitti kalaor Chettiar (Southern Indian) cuisine is also popular in cities. Chinese influences in Burmese cuisine are shown in the use of ingredients like bean curd and soya sauce, various noodles as well as in stir frying techniques. As in neighbouring Thailand and Laos, fried insects are eaten as snacks. Southern Myanmar, particularly the area around Mawlamyaing is known for its cuisine, as the Burmese proverb goes: "Mandalay for eloquence, Mawlamyaing for food, Yangon for boasting".

A popular Burmese rhyme sums up the traditional favourites: "A thee ma, thayet; a thar ma, wet; a ywet ma, lahpet"), translated as "Of all the fruit, the mango's the best; of all the meat, the pork's the best; and of all the leaves, lahpet's the best". +

Ideas About Food in Myanmar

In traditional Burmese medicine, foods are divided into two classes: heating (apu za) or cooling (a-aye za), based on their effects on one's body system, similar to the Chinese classification of food. Examples of heating foods include: chicken, bitter elon, durian, mango, chocolate, ice cream. Cooling foods:, pork, eggplant, dairy products, cucumbers, radish. The Burmese also hold several taboos and superstitions regarding consumption during various occasions in one's life, especially pregnancy. For instance, pregnant women are not supposed to eat chili (for the belief that it causes children to have sparse scalp hairs). [Source: Wikipedia +]

The country's diverse religious makeup influences its cuisine, as Buddhists avoid beef and Muslims pork. Beef is considered taboo by devout Buddhists because the cow is highly regarded as a beast of burden.Vegetarian dishes are only common during the Buddhist Lent (Wa-dwin), a three-month Rains Retreat, as well as Uposatha sabbath days. During this time, only two meals (i.e. breakfast and lunch) are consumed before midday to observe the fasting rules (u bohk saunk) and abstinence from meat (thek that lut, literally 'free of killing') is observed by devout Buddhists. Throughout the rest of the year, many foods can be prepared vegetarian on request, but the bulk of Burmese food is prepared with fish or meat broth bases. Also, many of the several ethnic groups prepare at least one inherently vegetarian dish (notably cuisine from the Shan people).

Burmese that are serious about the worship of nats abstain from pork. Some serious Buddhists avoid eating animals with four legs. During Buddhist Lent many abstain from eating eggs, meat and fish and eat a vegetarian diet.

Preparation and Cooking of Burmese Food

Burmese dishes are not cooked with precise recipes. The use and portion of ingredients used may vary, but the precision of timing is of utmost importance. One of the few remaining pre-colonial cookbooks is the “Sadawset Kyan,” (lit. Treatise on Royal Foods), written on palm leaves in 1866 during the Konbaung dynasty. [Source: Wikipedia +]

There is a set of kitchen equipment which the Myanmar housewife can not do without. It is the set of pestle and mortar for the pounding of food. The pestle and mortar come made of three different materials. The basic set used in heavy work when the ingredient has to be thoroughly pounded is the granite pestle and mortar. The set used when heavy force need not be applied is made of clay. An alternate set is made of wood. The pestle and mortar is used to treat various types of ingredients which go into main dishes and side dishes. But there are also dedicated dishes where the activity of pounding is carried in the name of the dishes. These pounded dishes add zest to a meal and often a meal is enjoyed heartily because of them.[Source: Myanmar Travel Information]

Depending on the dish at hand, it may be roasted, stewed, boiled, fried, steamed, baked or grilled, or any combination of the said techniques. Burmese curries use only a handful of spices (in comparison to Indian ones) and use more garlic and ginger. Dishes are prepared with plenty of oil in the case of curries and soups, and the level of spices and herbs varies depending on the region; Kachin and Shan curries will often use more fresh herbs. +

Ingredients used in Burmese dishes are often fresh. Many fruits are used in conjunction with vegetables in many dishes. The Burmese eat a great variety of vegetables and fruits, and all kinds of meat. A very popular vegetable is the danyin thi, which is usually boiled or roasted and dipped in salt, oil and sometimes, cooked coconut fat. +

Myanmar Spices and Seasoning

Myanmar lies in a zone of the world historically famous for the spices and seasoning which add so much zest and flavor to the food. Other countries may use these fragrant and aromatic leaves. roots and barks as condiments. but here. in their place of origin they are used tactically for their medicinal properties. In fact. science is now recognizing spices are bactericidal. they kill bacteria which may infect the food. They also keep bacteria from infecting the food. Myanmar people have been aware of this from historical times. and of other medicinal properties. so that a whole pharmacopoeia has been collected. There is a Myanmar saying: "food is medicine. medicine is food." [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Some spices commonly used in Myanmar dishes. 1) Basil: Ocimum. (pin zein:) The leaves are expectorant and carminative. 2) Caraway: Carum Casui: Used in meat dishes and to flavor pea rice. 3) Chili: The small green chillies known by the names of "sky-gazing or waiting for rain." "golden needle." "Indian yell." have the sharpest taste and hotness which spreads rapidly throughout the body. The larger ripe chilies are dried and pounded to make chili powder or are first roasted before pounding. 4) Cinnamon: (thi’ gja bo:) It is the bark of young shoots of cinnamon cassia and is used to flavor meat dishes and pea rice. It is tonic. carminative. astringent and antispasmodic. It is given in the form of a powder for flatulence. 5) Coriander: (nan nan bin) The leaves serve as a garnish for the popular Myanmar snack. mohinga. and is also used to garnish athoke (salads). It is carminative.

6) Curry leaf: (pjin: do thein) Eaten with curry. If eaten in large quantities it acts as a gentle purgative. 7) Garlic: Widely used in curries. soups. salads and with ngapi. Garlic is prescribed in fevers. coughs. flatulence and affections of the nervous system. It is a reputed remedy for dyspepsia. 8) Galangal: alpinia conchgera (ba de: go:) Essential to the broth in mohinga of the Rakhine nationals. The rhizome is aromatic. tonic. carminative. 9) Ginger: Used in curries. soups. and to overwhelm fishy smell. It is a grateful stimulant. expectorant and valuable for dyspepsia and throat troubles. 10) Pepper: Peppercorn may be added whole to dishes or in ground form. It is digestive. tonic and used with benefit in debility. flatulence. diarrhoea and coughs. 11) Tamarind: The pulp of tamarind pods is dried and used to add a fruity sourness to many dishes. Tender leaves and flowers are used for soups and salads. Tamarind is cooling and antibilious. 12) Turmeric: Adds color and flavor to dishes. The rhizome is a household remedy used both internally and externally. Internally it is used as an anthelonintic.

Ngapi (Fermented Fish or Shrimp Paste)

Ngapi—a paste made from salted, fermented fish or shrimp—is considered the cornerstone of any Burmese meal. It is used in a versatile manner in that it is used in soup base, in salads, in main dishes and also in condiments. Popular varieties depend on the region.The ngapi of Rakhine State contains no or little salt, and uses marine fish. It is used as a soup base for the Rakhine 'national' cuisine (mont di). It is also used widely in cooking vegetables, fish and even meat. In the coastal Ayeyarwady and Tanintharyi divisions, the majority of ngapi is instead based on freshwater fish, with a lot of salt.Ngapi is also used as a condiment such as ngapi yay,an essential part of Karen cuisine, which includes runny ngapi, spices and boiled fresh vegetables. In Shan State, ngapi is made instead from fermented beans, and is used as both a flavoring and also condiment in Shan cuisine. [Source: Wikipedia]

To make Ngapi-daung (pounded fish paste): Place half a cup of shrimp paste or fish paste on to a wooden ladle or inside the lid of a clay pot. The paste will stick to the ladle or lid. Make a few holes in the paste by poking with the forefinger. This is to provide regular application of heat. Roast the paste on moderate heat. Pound into powder dried prawns to get 1/8 cup of smooth dried prawns powder. Pound 5-7 cloves of garlic till it becomes smooth. Take green chili. roast slightly and pound. Also pound roasted dry chili and add. This is optional. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Sprinkle some sesamum oil on the paste. Squeeze a lemon on the paste. Make it into a ball. This will last for a long time. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

“Ngapi” means pressed fish. Fish paste and shrimp paste are the two kinds of Ngapi. In shrimp paste the shrimps are crushed with salt into fairly dry paste. It is used in dishes like rosella soup. A common side dish, fried Ngapi (Balachaung), is fried shrimp paste with pounded dried shrimp, crushed garlic and onions and chilies. Another shrimp paste dish is roasted shrimp paste with peanut oil and a squeezed lemon. =

Ngapi yae kyo is a popular Myanmar side dish, which can be made from a kind of fish paste including big pieces of fish. The fish paste is boiled with saffron until it becomes thick. Pounded dried shrimp or crushed cooked fish, pounded garlic, roasted crushed tomatoes and chilies are combined with it. It is eaten with a variety of vegetables either raw or boiled (called toh-sayar).

Dips and Sauces in Myanmar

Burmese cuisine is full of condiments, from sweet, sour to savory. The most popular are pickled mango, balachaung (shrimp and ngapi floss) and ngapi gyaw (fried ngapi) and preserved vegetables in rice wine (from Shan State). Ngapi plays a major part in condiments, as a dip for fresh vegetables.Fermented beans, called pè ngapi, from the Shan State plays a major role in Shan cuisine. Dried bean ngapi chips are used as condiments for various Shan dishes. Another bean based condiment popular amongst the Bamar and the central dry region is Pone Yay Gyi - a thick salty black paste made from fermented soy beans. It is used in cooking, especially pork, and as a salad, with ground nut oil, chopped onions and red chili. Pagan is an important producer of Pone Yay Gyi. [Source: Wikipedia]

Magyi-thee daung (Pounded tamarind): Take 10-12 pods of fresh. green tamarind. peel. remove seeds. cut into small pieces and pound. Take roasted shrimp paste and pound to make 1/8 cup. Pound 7 cloves of garlic. Put all into a bowl. and sprinkle sesamum oil. If dried shrimps pounded to powder to make 1/8 cup is added. the whole tastes better. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Zeebjuthee daung (Pounded myrobalam): Take 10 myrobalan fruits. remove seeds and pound. Add seven cloves garlic pounded. Add 5 green chilies roasted and pounded. Add shrimp paste. roasted and pounded. Salt may be used in place of shrimp paste. Sprinkle sesamum oil. =

Ngayoke thee daung (Pounded chili): Take dried chili. roasted and pounded to make 3 tsp. Add garlic pounded to make 3 tsp. Add pounded onions to make 3 tsp. Sprinkle 1 tablespoons sesamum oil. Add salt to taste. Mix thoroughly. Optional: add pounded green chili (not roasted). =

Preparing Popular Burmese Dips and Relishes

Tomato Shrimp Paste Dip: Ingredients: 1/2 cup chopped onion; 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder; 2 teaspoons minced garlic; Large pinch turmeric; 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes; 4 green chilies; 2 teaspoons or less shrimp paste; Salt to taste; 1/3 cup oil; 1 small bunch coriander leaves. How to cook: Chop onion and garlic finely. Skin and chop tomatoes. Soak shrimp paste in 1/2 cup water. Heat oil. put in onion. garlic. and chili with turmeric. and fry till fragrant. Add chopped tomato. stir. cover. and simmer till well cooked together. Add shrimp paste liquid and whole green chilies. Continue cooking till water is absorbed and oil appears. Add salt if needed. Chop coriand leaves and sprinkle on top after dishing up. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Fish Sauce Dip: Ingredients: 1 tablespoon oil; 2 teaspoons shrimp powder; Large pinch turmeric; 3 tablespoons fish sauce; 1 tablespoon coarse chili powder. How to cook: Heat oil. lower heat slightly. add turmeric and chili. and fry till it darkens. Add shrimp powder and stir. When mixed. add shrimp sauce and cook for a minute after it boils. =

Crisp Shrimp Relish: Ingredients: 2 cups dried shrimps; 1 ½ teaspoons shrimp paste; 2 medium onions; 1 cup oil; 10 garlic cloves; 1/4 teaspoon turmeric; 1 teaspoon tamarind paste; 1 teaspoon or more chili. =

Crisp Soya Bean Relish: Ingredients: 3 soybean wafers; 1/2 cup oil; 2 medium onions; Large pinch turmeric; 1 bulb garlic; 1 teaspoon chili powder. How to cook: Cut soybean wafers with scissors in match-size strips and again to rrek long strips. As soybean cooks and browns tjuickly. even cutting is important. Slice onions evenly and finely. Slice garlic thick but evenly. Heat oil in a wok. add turmeric. fry garlic a light gold and drain off. Fry onion to light brown and drain off. Lower heat. fry chili. and drain off. Put in soybean strips and stir to prevent burning. As soon as strips are cooked enough to crisp when cooled. turn heat off under pan. Mix in chili and salt. and when cool. mix in fried onion and garlic store in an airtight container and use as required. =

Crisp Saltfish Relish: Ingredients: 4 ounces saltfish; Large pinch turmeric; 1 onion; 1 teaspoon (or less) coarse; 8 cloves garlic; Some chili powder; 1/2 cup oil. How to cook: Wash fish well. Cut in fine. even. small slices. 1/2 to 3/4 inches by 1/8 inch thick. Cut onions and garlic evenly. Heat oil in a wok. add turmeric. fry garlic till golden and drain off. Do the same with onion. Remove all oil except a trace from pan. Over low heat fry chili till dark. Set aside chili and clean pan. Return oil to pan. add sliced fish. and fry over good heat. stirring till it crisps. taking care not to burn. for about 7 minutes. Add chili. turn heat off. and when cool; mix in fried onion and garlic. =

Crisp Fluffy Relish: Ingredients: 4 ounces saltfish (ngayan); 8 cloves garlic; 1/2 teaspoon turmeric; 1/2 cup oil; 1 onion; How to cook: Wash fish and boil in water to cover. with turmeric. till tender. Flake meat off fish. Put into mortar and pound. extracting small bones. till flesh is well shredded. yielding about 1 1/2 cups for given amount of oil. Slice onion and garlic evenly. Heat oil in a wok. fry garlic golden and drain off. Do the same for onion. Put in fish and fry over good heat. stirring constantly. After about 7 minutes. fish should begin to crisp. When crisp enough. no oil should remain. Take off fire and let cool. When fish is cooked. add fried onion and garlic and keep airtight till use. =

Rice and Cooking Rice in Myanmar

As many as 30,000 rice varieties may exist in the northern areas of Burma. More than 2,000 have been identified in the province of Yezin alone. In Myanmar, people consume on average 44 lbs of rice per month compared with 35 lbs in Viet Nam, 48.5 lbs in Thailand and 15 lbs in Asia as a whole.

The most common starch and staple food in Myanmar is white rice (htamin), which is served with accompanying meat dishes called hin . Paw hsan hmwe, fragrant aroma rice is the most popular rice used in Burma and is rated as high as the Thai fragrant rice or Basmati rice. Today, Myanmar is the world's sixth largest producer of rice, though in recent times less is exported and even domestic supplies cannot be guaranteed. [Source: Wikipedia +]

Glutinous rice, called kauk hnyin (from Shan kao niew) is also very popular. A purple variety known as nga cheik,is commonly a breakfast dish. Various noodle types are also used in salads and soups. Typically, vermicelli noodles and rice noodles are often used in soups, while thick rice and wheat noodles are used in salads. Palata), a flaky fried flatbread related to Indian paratha, is often eaten with curried meats while nan bya,a baked flatbread is eaten with any Indian dishes. Another favourite is aloo poori), puffed-up fried breads eaten with potato curry. +

There are two main ways to cook plain rice: 1) in a pot, and 2) in a rice cooker. The latter is increasingly becoming the norm among urban, middle class families. To make rice a rice cooker first read the instructions on the rice cooker. Generally, you wash rice and then put the rice and water together in the rice cooker. You need to be careful about the amount of the water in the cooker. Once that is worked just press on the cook button or set the timer and let the rice cooker do the rest of the work. When the cooker has finished its cooking. the rice is ready to serve and will stay heated for some time. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Cooking rice by hand with a pot is a daily way of life in many urban and rural parts of Myanmar. First decide the amount of rice to cook for how many persons. Wash rice thoroughly. After washing, put water until the top of the pot, but not so full. Switch on the stove and let the water boil. Be careful when the rice boils: some boiling water and rice may overflow. To avoid this use a wooden spoon to stir the rice when it starts to boil. While stirring. take a look at the rice and squeeze some rice grains. If the rice grains are fully cooked they will not contain the hard rice grain inside and the grain will be flat. Now, take the pot away from the stove and pour off all the boiled water from the rice by using a cover on the pot. This takes some skill to do properly. After all the water has been drained off, put the pot back again on the stove and heat up the rice for a while. Shake the pot occasionally and don’t let the rice burn inside. Move the pot on the stove very frequently and after about 5-7 minutes the rice is finally cooked. =

Typical Burmese Meal

A typical Burmese meal is arranged around rice with accompanying curry as main dish with a side dish and soup. A traditional Burmese meal includes a bowl of soup, rice, several meat curries, and ngapi yay with tozaya (vegetables for dipping).

According to Countries and Their Cultures: Burmese traditionally eat a morning meal and an evening meal that is taken before dark. The meals are served in a large platter or on a low table, with members of the household sitting on mats. Food is eaten with the fingers, although sometimes utensils are used. It is common to drink water and eat fruit after the main meal. Throughout the day people eat betel and smoke tobacco. Burmese not only drink tea made from dried tea leaves but also eat pickled tea as a snack. Other snacks include chappatis, fried insects, and Chinese pastries. [Source:Countries and Their Cultures everyculture.com <>]

The main dish features pork, beef, mutton, chicken, duck, fish or prawn, eggs cooked in onions, and a gravy that is based on garlic, ginger, saffron powder, shrimp sauce or soy sauce, salt and a little bit of chilly powder. The meat can be fried, stewed, steamed or roasted. Side dishes are usually a salad or fried vegetables. A salad is normally made with vegetables combined with onion slices, pounded peanuts, pounded dried-shrimp, salt or shrimp sauce and oil. Pickled tealeaf or ginger salads are eaten often after meals or as afternoon snacks. Soups may be clear, refreshingly tart or creamy. They are mostly with vegetables, sometimes with meat, fish or prawns create different tastes. Sour soup made with roselle-leaves, bamboo shoot and fish is a popular and common soup of the Myanmar cuisine. Fresh fruits are served after the meals. Myanmar is very rich on tasty tropical fruits in their many varieties, pineapple, papaya, mango, melons, banana, orange, etc. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Traditional Myanmar Breakfasts

Most Myanmar families have fried rice and peas for breakfast. A pot of plain tea is a must on the dining table. Also Mohingar, Nangyi thoat, Ohn No Kauk Swe, noodle and vermicelli salad with sauce, steamed sticky rice and deep-fried vegetables with creamy rice powder are breakfast items. Some people have Myanmar traditional snacks such as bain mont and mont sein baung. All Myanmar snacks are made of rice or sticky rice powder. Some snacks of rice powder are mixed with jaggery and baked, steamed or fried. [Source: Myanmar Travel Information =]

Bain mont is baked creamy rice powder mixing with jaggery liquid. Sliced peanuts, coconut and poppy seeds are spread over it during baking. It looks like a pan cake and the taste is sweet. Mont sein baung is steamed creamy rice-powder with jaggery liquid. It includes two layers: the upper white one is just steamed creamy rice-powder; the lower brown part is steamed rice powder mixed with liquid jaggery. Thin sliced coconut and pounded sesame seeds are added when served. =

Mont hin gar is well known in Myanmar and arguably Yangon’s favorite breakfast. It is a mixture of the thick fish soup and thin rice noodles. Roasted Chilly powder, a squeezed lemon, fish sauce and coriander are sometimes added. Ohn nok kauk swe is noodles with chicken and coconut soup. Slices of onion, yellowish fried rice crackers, a squeeze of lemon and roasted chilly powder are added for more taste. =

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Travel Information Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, burmalibrary.org, burmanet.org, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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