One of my favorite things to do when I’m in the Shan State town of Nyaungshwe is visiting the morning market. Actually, it’s open in the afternoon too, but mornings are when the market is truly alive and bustling. I love the sights and sounds and smells of the market, not to mention the vibrant colors, contrasts, and textures of the vegetables and spices. And of course none of it would be as interesting without the variety of local people — many of them from neighboring villages and hill tribes — who come to shop or sell items here.
Due to the fact that the market is a popular shopping destination — particularly on the weekly “market day” when the market volume surges with the presence of additional vendors — and is now a lure for camera-toting tourists too, it can get rather cramped and crowded in the narrow aisles most days. But hey, the tight squeeze is all part of the unique charm and atmosphere, right? If some of the food looks tasty, don’t be shy; many of the vendors will let you sample their wares!
Going to the market in the morning is also part of Ma Pu Sue’s schedule when she holds sessions at her Bamboo Delight Cooking Class. Sue will bring her clients to the market and explain how various fruits, vegetables, and spices are used in preparing local dishes. After the shopping is complete, Sue brings the crew back to her home where they cook up a full meal, and last but not least, enjoy eating the fruits of their labor by consuming the cooked dishes. And it all starts here, at Nyaungshwe’s colorful market. If you’re in town, don’t miss it!
While I was in Nyaungshwe recently I was invited by my friend Ma Pa Sue for dinner at her house one night. She’d also invited the group I brought from Mandalay, but seeing as how that crew numbered close to twenty people, I thought it would be better to wait until they returned to Mandalay before I barged into Sue’s home. It’s always a treat to see Sue again, but doubly so when I get the opportunity to eat one of her special meals.
In the past year she’s transformed the place, turning her house and the grounds around it into the location of the Bamboo Delight Cooking Class. Not only is she teaching classes on how to cook Burmese food, including local Shan and Intha specialties, she is offering snacks and drinks (coffee, tea, juices) to passing tourists. I’m really impressed with how she has decorated the area in and around her home, located on a quiet street only a couple of blocks from Yon Gyi Road (where you will find the main market and Golden Bowl Bookshop).
Anyway, back to that meal at Sue’s house; it was delicious beyond words once again. Sue has a flair for cooking and presentation, so the meal was a feast for both the eyes and the stomach. Bernard, a mutual friend from Switzerland, was also in town and he joined us for the meal. It was nice to see him again and catch up on the many charitable activities that he’s been doing, most of them in conjunction with Win Thuya of Myanmar Mosaic Travel, a new agency based on Yangon. I’ll try and write more about their projects in the near future. They’re good people and doing good things for underprivileged villages and schools around Myanmar.
Meanwhile, if you get the itch to try a bit of cooking — and eating — the local cuisine while in the Inle Lake area of Shan State, drop Sue a line and visit her. It will be one of the highlights of your trip!