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Posts tagged ‘Burmese food’

And a Time for Feasting

One of the great joys of visiting Myanmar, at least in my opinion, is sampling the various types of food. There are plenty of good restaurants serving traditional Burmese fare, such as Aye Myit Tar in Mandalay. You can also find places specializing in dishes from Shan State and other regions from around the country. The sheer variety is amazing.

You can also get very good meals at teashops. Most teashops in Myanmar have a nice variety of noodle and rice dishes, as well as bread and fried snacks. Get there early in the morning to taste some of the scrumptious noodles dishes such as monhinga, mondhi, and ohno kauk swe. Finger licking good indeed!

While I love dining at restaurants and teashops, I can honestly say the absolutely best food I’ve had is at the homes of friends. In Mandalay, I might be invited to Ye Man Oo’s for dinner, or to his uncle, U Nyunt Tun’s house. Incredible food! If I’m in Nyaung Shwe I have to juggle invitations, enjoying home-cooked treats at Mar Mar Aye’s house or a feast at Ma Pu Sue’s place. When in doubt; just say “yes” to them all … and prepare to eat a lot!



Mandalay Dining: Good Friends & Good Food at Aye Myit Tar


No trip to Mandalay would be complete without a visit to Aye Myit Tar restaurant. Located on 81st Street, between 37th and 38th Street, the long-running restaurant has expanded to a 5-floor building and serves traditional Myanmar (Burmese) food from late morning until 9:30 pm each day.




While the food is always tasty, and served in very generous portions, the outstanding service is what makes each visit to Aye Myit Tar so special. The young waiters are a friendly, cheerful and observant bunch, quick to refill drinks or ensure that you have extra helpings of rice or any of the soup and vegetable dishes that accompany each meal. Personable waiters such as Hein  Yar Zar and Soe Min Maung will help to ensure that your dining experience is a memorable one —-and memorable in a very good way!




While the majority of customers at Aye Myit Tar are locals, you will always find a few foreigners and tourists dining there too. I was with a group of friends from Mandalay’s 90th Street neighborhood recently when we struck up a conversation with a couple sitting at a nearby table. They told us that they were visiting from Chile.





“They speak Spanish in Chile,” I mentioned to my friend Ye Man Oo, who was sitting next to me. His eyes lit up. Ye Man Oo has visited me three times in Bangkok this past year and is not only a keen student of English but other languages too. When we weren’t practicing English, Thai, or even Cambodian, I would drill him on some occasional Spanish phrases. Thus, he was able to ask the young lady from Chile: “Como se llama usted?”




The woman squealed with delight, clapping her hands. “This Burmese boy can speak Spanish!” That sealed the friendship, and after more conversation and a round of photos we finally said our goodbyes and headed home, leaving Hein Yar Zar and his friends the unenviable task of cleaning up the restaurant, a chore that needed to be done before they could finally sit down and have dinner themselves.


It was another fine night of good food and good times with good friends — both old and new — at one of Mandalay’s most enjoyable restaurants. If you are in town don’t miss it! And if you finish your meal early enough, there is time to see the Moustache Brothers show just two blocks down the street.




Second Helpings


No trip to Myanmar — hell, no trip anywhere! — would be complete without sampling the local cuisine. Myanmar cuisine, or Burmese food, sometimes gets a bad rap from visitors who complain about oily curries and greasy fried food. But if you steer away from that common crap and pay attention to what’s available, and are willing to sample more than curries and fried rice, you’ll find that there is an amazingly diverse variety of food served in Myanmar.




Honestly, Myanmar cuisine is among my favorite eating experiences in all of Asia. You can find tasty dishes at restaurants and teashops, or the “rice shops” known as tamin sain where you sometimes have dozens of different dishes to choose from on your table. Yeah, it’s a feast!





But my favorite meals are normally at the homes of friends, or even at places such as the Tat Ein school kitchen. Man, these people know how to cook! The various salads and savory soups are especially creative. It’s all good, but I think the best dishes of all are found in Shan State. Don’t delay any further; take that second helping and enjoy!










Burmese Roadside Scenes & Snacks


Here is an odd, but hopefully interesting mix of photos that I took in Myanmar earlier this year. Not your typical tourist hotspots, but scenes from the roadside and beyond. Normal, everyday things and places, and of course some tasty treats to eat!



















What’s Cooking in Nyaungshwe?


As usual when I was in Nyaungshwe last month I dropped by to see my friends Sue and Lesley at their house. It’s always fun to catch up on things, and of course to see what’s cooking. And I mean that literally: there is always something delicious being cooked at their home.


Part of the reason for the constant cooking is that Sue and Lesly operate the Bamboo Delight Cooking Class out of their home in Nyaungshwe, offering tourists a chance to learn more about the wide array of cuisine in Myanmar, and Shan State in particular. I’ll guarantee you this: not only will you be charmed by Sue and Lesly and their gracious hospitality, but you will be VERY impressed by the tasty dishes they create. If you thought Myanmar cuisine, or Burmese food, was nothing more than oily curries and greasy snacks, prepare to be enlightened! The variety of soups, salads, noodles, and other fresh dishes that Sue and Lesly whip up in their kitchen is truly scrumptious.  The classes have become so popular with tourists that their home is sometimes too small to accommodate bigger groups, so they will occasionally hold classes and meals a little further down the road, at a scenic spot overlooking my beloved Tat Ein village.



On my last day in town — the day of my mysterious concussion! — I invited two other travelers staying at my hotel — Arnaub from India and Katarina from Los Angeles — to drop by Sue and Lesly’s house for some coffee and snacks, In addition to the cooking classes, they also offer fresh-brewed coffee, tea, and fruit juices for travelers. When we arrived, another familiar face was at the house; Pascale from France, a friend of mine who is also a frequent visitor and donor to projects around Myanmar. We had a wonderful time at Sue and Lesly’s house; friends on the road enjoying good conversation and local culinary delights!




Bigger & Better: Mandalay’s Aye Myit Tar


My favorite restaurant in Mandalay, Aye Myit Tar, recently moved back to their original location on 81st Street, between 36th and 37th Streets —- but with a twist. The restaurant is now a towering six-floor operation, complete with an elevator, private dining rooms, and an entire floor devoted to wedding receptions. It’s bigger, taller, shinier, and dare I say, even better.




No matter what the place looks like, the bottom line is the food, and Aye Myit Tar still serves up a gut-busting array of tasty curries, vegetables and other treats for both lunch and dinner. And, in another continuation of their long-standing tradition, the service at Aye Myit Tar remains ridiculously attentive and friendly. These guys — and now a few young ladies too — go out of their way to provide outstanding service.





On this trip I discovered the good service at Aye Myit Tar is not limited to food and beverage. I cycled by the restaurant one morning and stopped for a chat when I saw some of the waiters hanging out outside the building. A strap on my shoulder bag was torn, so I asked them if there was tailor nearby where I could get the bag mended. Ko Ko Oo, one of the waiters who I’ve known for several years, asked to see bag and inspected the damage. He told me to wait for about ten minutes and then ran off with the bag, only to return within the specified time frame, the bag now completely mended. I asked him how much for the repair and he waved me off, saying there was no charge. Another example of just how amazing Burmese hospitality can be. That was sweet of Ko Ko Oo not to ask for any money, but I made sure to tip him extra at dinner that night!






In recent trips I’ve been joined for dinner by friends from 90th Street, such as Zin Ko, Baw Ga, and Ko Min. Two other kids from the neighborhood, Khant Kaing Kyaw and Ye Win Zaw, expressed an interest in joining the dinner festivities, so I invited them to join us too. Even with a gang that large, the prices at Aye Myit Tar are low enough that it didn’t dent my budget too badly.











Nyaungshwe’s Unique Superb Food House


For me, it’s no contest: the best restaurant in the Shan State town of Nyaungshwe (which is where most tourists who visit nearby Inle Lake stay) is the Unique Superb Food House. With a name as bold as that, the meals had better be close to wonderful, and thankfully this place doesn’t disappoint.


I’ve been a customer at the restaurant for almost ten years now and I don’t recollect a single meal that was even close to mediocre; they have all been delicious. The only blip I can remember was one night after the power had been out for several hours and the beer didn’t have much time to chill and wasn’t as cold as usual, but that’s the only negative thing about the restaurant that I can summon from my memory banks. And it certainly wasn’t their fault that the power went out for so long.


What I like about the menu at Unique Superb is the balance of Myanmar cuisine and Western dishes. They serve local Shan and Intha dishes such as braised chicken with mint and green pepper, tofu salad, pumpkin soup, and various fish dishes and vegetable curries. They also offer western favorites such as fried chicken, pasta, filet mignon, and French fries if you get those cravings too. There is also a selection of tasty soups, flavorful local salads, and a lot more. Honestly, I never get tired of eating here and sampling new dishes.


Besides superb food, the service is always friendly and efficient. It’s a family-run business and Daw Ni Ni and U Okka, with the help of their children and other relatives, do everything from waiting on tables to preparing and cooking the food. Admittedly, the service can be slow when large groups of tourists descend upon the place. It’s a small restaurant with the proverbial one-wok kitchen, so they can get overwhelmed when too many customers arrive at the same time. But even when that happens, it’s still service with a smile and they will try their hardest to accommodate each diner. You’ll often see one of the little kids trotting out to bring you a complimentary plate of fresh fruit after your meal. A nice touch from nice people at a nice place.


Unique Superb Food House is located on Myawaddy Road, just a few doors down from the Golden Kite Restaurant (which is on the corner of Myawaddy and the main drag, Yone Gyi Road). If you walk down Myawaddy Road you’ll see a sign for Win Nyunt Traditional Massage on your right side. Walk another 50 feet down the narrow lane and you’ll see Unique Superb Food House on the left. The open-air restaurant may not look like much from the outside, and you won’t be dazzled by the décor, but I guarantee you the food will impress your taste buds. And for me, that’s all that counts!


Bamboo Delight for Shan & Myanmar Cuisine


In the Shan State town of Nyaungshwe, within rowing distance of famous Inle Lake, Ma Pu Sue continues to offer her acclaimed Bamboo Delight Cooking Class. Assisted by her husband Lesly, Sue takes her clients through all the steps needed to cook the food, not only traditional Myanmar and Burmese cuisine, but also local Shan and Intha dishes. And those local treats, my friends, are some of the tastiest ones you will eat in the entire country.


The Bamboo Delight experience starts with a trip to the local market in the morning. While guiding you around the colorful market, Sue will buy all the ingredients needed for that day’s meal (your choice: lunch or dinner) and explain their uses. Next it’s back to her cozy home where she and her visitors will prepare and cook the meal. And then the best part comes: eating the lesson!


I’ve known Sue and Lesly for several years. They are very personable and always helpful. Both are fluent in English also. Honestly, you couldn’t ask for two nicer hosts. I always make it a point to drop by their house for a visit when I’m in town, and they will invariably invite me over for a meal, time permitting. During my last visit, Lesly cooked up a big pot of monhinga. In many parts of Myanmar this popular dish is eaten in the mornings for breakfast, but really it’s a treat that is delicious any time of the day or night.


Nowadays, the cooking classes are so popular with tourists, that it’s rare that Sue has an entire free day to relax or spend time with her two school-age daughters. But even when she has “kitchen duty” you can tell that it’s not a hardship at all: Sue loves what she is doing and it shows in her vibrant personality and delicious recipes. If you are visiting Nyaungshwe or Inle Lake, think about adding a Bamboo Delight class to your schedule for a truly unforgettable experience. A guaranteed highlight on any trip to Myanmar!





Mandalay’s Curry Nirvana!


A trip to Mandalay would not be complete with a meal — or a dozen — at the world’s greatest restaurant, Aye Myit Tar. Okay, it may not boast the most mouth-watering dishes on the planet, but it’s certainly one of my very favorite spots to dine and soak up genial atmosphere. This venerable culinary institution serves satisfying meals from late morning until nine o’clock, or later, each and every night. The food is very tasty — assuming that you have a craving for Myanmar cuisine — especially those trademark oily Burmese curries — but what makes the place so special is the amazingly attentive service by the crew of friendly young waters. In a word, it’s outstanding!



I sometimes will joke with friends about the service at Aye Myit Tar, likening it to a Monty Python skit; a team of three or four — or six — waiters hovering over your table; filling up the water glasses, pouring more beer, dishing out more rice, running back to the kitchen and getting you extra orders of the side dishes. By the time you have finished your meal, you are full to bursting. Once again, images of a Monty Python film surface: “Would you like a wafer-thin mint with that, sir?” Uh, maybe not!



But seriously, it’s no exaggeration; the diligent waiters seem like they are in constant motion, bouncing from table to table, darting into the kitchen, and back again, smiling the entire time. Of course there are those lulls when the customer flow temporarily eases and they get the opportunity to sit down and rest for a spell, or pose for the camera (as these photos will illustrate), but for the most part these guys work hard all day — starting with vegetable cutting detail early in the morning — and into the night. Most of these guys come from a village near Monywa and they live upstairs at the restaurant.



Admittedly, the menu at Aye Myit Tar is limited. There is curry, curry, and more curry. Hey, at least it’s not like yet another Monty Python flashback and you are facing a dozen varieties of spam! At Aye Myit Tar you have the choice of beef, pork, chicken, goat, fish, or even lobster curry. Plus there a few fried dishes on the menu. But if you are vegetarian or not in the mood for a curry of some sort you will find the selection a bit lacking. Each main dish, however, is accompanied by a staggering amount of side dishes, including vegetables, salads, and soup. Let’s just say, your table will be overflowing with dishes!



While the food is indeed good, there is an energy and positive vibe in the restaurant that I find addictive, which is why I keep going back and back, even when I’ve had my fill of curry. Some nights, if I don’t feel like a huge meal I’ll just drop by for a beer or two. I’ve become friends with several of the waiters over the years and make sure to tip them well, and they always reciprocate and give me gifts of some sort before I leave town. On this last trip, Ko Ko Oo bought me dinner one night and threw in a platter of fresh fruit, Kyaw Myu Htun gave me a six-pack of Myanmar Beer, and the newest kid on the block, Myint Kyaw, bought me a new longyi. These guys are gold!



Aye Myit Tar is currently located on 81st Street, between 29th and 30th Streets, right in the heart of Mandalay. But before the end of this year, most likely sometime in November, they will be moving back to their old location, also on 81st Street, but a few blocks further south, between 36th and 37 Streets. At the refurbished new digs they will have a total of six floors and even an elevator! And don’t forget those curries!



Monhinga in Malaysia

klbur03While I was In Kuala Lumpur last month I was able to satisfy my cravings for monhinga, the savory Burmese noodle soup that is a breakfast staple throughout Myanmar, at a local restaurant. In the past, while visiting Kuala Lumpur, I have dined at another place specializing in Burmese food, the Gandawin Restaurant on Lebu Pudu Street. But due to construction work it was closed the first day I ventured out. Luckily, I found another place nearby, the Zay Yar Restaurant.


klbur07Actually, it wasn’t so much luck that I found this place. There are several restaurants and grocery stores in the same neighborhood that cater to the large number of Myanmar nationals who work in the greater Kuala Lumpur area. Zay Yar is much more of a basic operation than Gandawin, offering self-serve meals where you walk up the counter and place your order, similar to a fast food joint. But Zay Yar turned out to be a very friendly and very inexpensive place that offered very tasty bowls of monhinga along with a few other Burmese noodle and rice dishes. A pleasing cup of hot Burmese tea is the perfect accompaniment to any meal.



Zay Yar Restaurant is located on the corner of Jalan Tun Perak, on the second floor of a large building that houses other restaurants and businesses. It’s directly across the street from the Maybank Tower.


But all is not blissful for those people from Myanmar working in Malaysia. I frequently read accounts of Burmese being robbed, injured, or murdered in Malaysia. Whether this is Burmese-on-Burmese crime, or something else, I can only speculate. This week I read a report on the Irrawaddy’s online site about four Myanmar workers in Malaysia who were brutally murdered this past week. One theory is that these murders were somehow linked to the Buddhist-Muslim riots in Mandalay last week. Hmm … that sounds a bit far-fetched, but the article said that whenever such sectarian violence erupts in Myanmar, attacks on Burmese working in Malaysia invariably occur soon afterwards.


 Whatever the cause, it highlights the dangers and uncertainty that awaits anyone from Myanmar who decides to seek work overseas. The wages for unskilled Burmese workers are much better in countries such as Malaysia, but adjusting to life in a different culture and country is not always easy, nor is it always safe.



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