Thousands of visitors flock to Burma every single year to explore the rich religious heritage the country has. But only a few appreciate the marvels of traditional Burmese food!
The cuisine here is a blend of some amazing flavors, highlighting local produce, especially veggies. So don’t miss out on the Burmese cuisine while you’re visiting the landmarks in Myanmar. There’s no better way to savor local flavors than learning their history bite by bite.
Whether you’re a meat-lover eager to slurp down some famous Burmese fish noodle soup or a vegetarian who can’t wait to dig into a sweet blob of Mont Lone Yay Paw sticky rice pudding, you’re in for a ride!
We’re going to let you in on some of the best traditional Burmese food to try when visiting Myanmar.
What’s Special About The Food Of Burma
Myanmar food is all about gathering around the table and sharing a warm meal. Locals here emphasize eating together and urge guests to join them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But what is Myanmar famous for when it comes to its cuisine?
We quickly noticed the Burmese community is obsessed with rice, and there’s hardly any dish served without a side of it! From sticky rice desserts to fluffy rice accompanying curries, it’s a versatile base for anything!
But what’s even more special about the food of Burma, or rather our personal favorite, is its unique street food culture. You’ll stumble upon tons of food streets filled edge-to-edge with local vendors selling traditional food items.
Similar to many parts of Southeast Asia, noodles are also a big part of Burmese cuisine. There are all sorts of different noodle dishes to cater to every preference. However, traditional egg noodles are the go-to for locals.
Finally, you can tell the massive influence Burma’s neighboring countries have played on its cuisine. We came across many dishes that are inspired by Indian, Pakistani, and other Asian cuisines.
This blend of flavors takes the Burmese cuisine to a whole new level! We were amazed by the variety of flavors in each dish.
Most Famous Traditional Food Of Burma
Mohinga (Fish Noodle Soup)
Mohinga, a truly classic Burmese food, is a big warm hug in the form of fragrant fish soup served alongside chewy noodles. One special fact about these noodles is that they’re made out of fermented thin rice.
Traditionally eaten as breakfast, Mohinga is easily found within the streets of Burma and we often even enjoy it as an evening snack. The broth of these noodles is heavily filled with lemongrass, sauces, and pepper, a combination we just can’t say no to.
Be sure to savor this irresistible food of Burma alongside a cup of sweet tea, we find that it enhances the natural flavors of cilantro and lime juice. Often accompanied by fish cakes and hard-boiled eggs, Mohinga has deservedly earned its place as the national pride.
Traditional Breakfast Items In Burmese Food
Laphet Thohk (Tea Leaf Salad)
Also known as Fermented Tea Leaf Salad, Laphet Thokh finds its origin in Myanmar. Laphet stands for “green tea” while Thokh means “salad”. Previously used as a peace symbol between kingdoms at war, Laphet Thokh is now served to guests as an epitome of hospitality.
This zesty and vibrant salad combines fried legumes, fried garlic, roasted peanuts, chili sliced tomatoes, and pickled tea leaves, all the fun ingredients. When served as a snack, the ingredients of this Myanmar food are presented separately in a tray.
This method is widely used for ceremonies like funerals, weddings, and engagements. You can tell how important this dish is from the emphasis on quality ingredients. When tea leaves are harvested, only the best of the crop is extracted specifically for this dish.
Htamin Jin (Sticky Rice)
Sticky rice, which features a distinctive texture, has been a staple in various South Asian cuisines. A popular Asian dish you might have seen is the Mango Rice in Thailand, which pairs sticky rice with fresh mango and a dose of flavorful coconut milk.
Sticky rice recipe is rather simple; they are either cooked in bamboo tubes or a steamer. Although this is best consumed in moderation, did you know this Myanmar food is also considered to be a must-have within social gatherings?
This is because it also symbolizes togetherness and tradition. Therefore, you will regularly see this dish gracing the food table at important events such as Thingyan.
Mont Hin Gar (Rice Porridge)
Among the many Burmese dishes, the most cherished of all is Mont Hin Gar, enjoyed by families on a daily basis. The key ingredients of this mouthwatering delicacy include fresh herbs, fragrant rice, and your choice of meat or even seafood.
When it comes to the cooking procedure, there’s a reason why this dish is made on a daily basis. It’s super easy to make. But the key to its deliciousness lies in cooking the rice until it’s enriched with creamy goodness.
With a slight taste of sweet and salty, Monte Hin Gar quickly became a comfort food for us in Myanmar. It is also widely distributed at donation ceremonies due to its delicious taste.
Baya Kyaw (Fried Snacks)
A recent specialty of Burmese cuisine, these yellow split pea fritters, are crispy, flavorful, and spicy. Baya Kyaw can be served as either an appetizer or the main course.
Often referred to as Burmese-styled falafels, Baya Kyaw is simply delicious when served up on pita bread alongside a bunch of crunchy veggies and some yogurt sauce.
The main ingredient for this dish is split peas. Besides that, you can pick and choose the vegetables according to your likes and dislikes. All of the ingredients go in a blender, and the final paste is formed into patties and fried.
Baya Kyaw is a savory treat, with an addictive crunch we just could not resist. It is one of our regular go-to choices for a quick evening snack.
Traditional Meat Dishes In Burmese Food
Shan-Style Fish Curry (Fish Curry)
Burmese fish curry consists of well-cooked fish covered in rich tomato sauce. Burmese people have always loved fish and cooked it in various ways including fried fish curry, steamed fish etc.
But by far, fish on tomato curry is a favorite within Burmese cuisine. Besides the use of meaty fish, we’ve got pantry-friendly ingredients like coriander, garlic cloves, and turmeric powder.
For an umami flavor, you’ve got to use a liquid condiment made out of fish, squid, or even shrimp. And when it comes to fish sauce, nothing beats the good old Shan fish sauce.
To make the curry more flavorful, grab a bowl full of rice and further sprinkle the curry with green chilies for maximum heat. That is the best way to take advantage of all that delicious, mouth-watering goodness.
Mandalay Meeshay (Noodle Dish With Meat)
Starring tender meat and a medley of fresh ingredients, Mandalay Meeshay is a popular Burmese rice noodle served with meat sauce. This Burma cuisine comes from the region of Mandalay, and is heavily influenced by Shan ethnic culture.
The noodle meal features a thicker and oilier meat sauce along with rice jelly. Mandalay Meeshay comes with a dressing of fried peanut oil, chili oil, Mohnyin-chin, and fermented tofu.
If you are not concerned about calories and want to really elevate the taste, we highly recommend savoring it alongside some crispy fried pork. Actually, you know what, even if you are watching your calories, this combination is worth the try. It’s enjoyed by locals on special occasions.
Burmese Curry (Spiced Meat Stew)
This traditional Burmese food has spiced meat, every sort of aromatic herb, and fresh ginger. Cook the meat until tender, fry it with other ingredients, and voila! You’ve got yourself a steaming pot of appetizing curry.
Spiced meat stew is mostly eaten as dinner, each bite filled with culinary richness. For us, we like to load it up during lunch as well; no judgment! There’s no bad time for good food!
And if you love to have that extra dash of spice, like us, don’t shy away and top it up with some of those finely chopped fresh chilies.
Kyet Thar Hin (Burmese Fried Chicken)
Every chicken lover out there needs to try Kyet Thar Hin. A crispy delight featuring succulent chicken covered in aromatic spices, Burmese fried chicken lives up to the hype.
The secret of this food lies in the curry, which is filled with fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, cinnamon sticks, cloves, etc. Kyet Har min, a traditional food of Myanmar, is widely eaten at picnics and dinners. And each crispy bite certainly brings a smile to everyone’s faces.
Traditional Vegan/ Vegetarian Food In Burmese Food
Kya-Zan Hin (Burmese-style Porridge)
A combination of creamy rice and flavor-rich ingredients, Kya-Zin Hin is a comforting local favorite. We like to add sesame seeds, nuts, and even almonds to make this simple dish more delicious; they give that extra hint of nutty taste.
And for that extra creaminess, this Burma food can be dipped and covered in thick coconut broth, making it the perfect snack for a rainy day. Some vendors will even serve this creamy version alongside shaved coconuts and other condiments of your own choice.
Htamin Kyaw (Burmese Fried Rice)
Have you ever found yourself with a bunch of leftover rice and don’t know what to do with it? The Burmese have an easy solution in the form of Htamin Kyaw. This dish is all about leftover rice stirred to perfection, combined with veggies or meat, garlic, onions, and even eggs.
Often eaten as dinner and a famous Burmese street food, Htamin Kyaw is nothing but culinary magic. All you need is leftover plain rice, and with a few pantry-friendly ingredients you’ve got yourself a plate full of something extraordinary.
The simple yet bold flavors of Htamin Kyaw made it one of our favorite Burmese discoveries. Don’t let simplicity fool you.
For many this dish is the reflection of Burmese life, where creativity meets humbleness. It is an easy go-to option when we don’t have particular cravings, and each stall has its own unique version since it’s such an open canvas.
Atho (Burmese Style Cold Noodle Salad)
Noodle salad chock full of veggies and flavorful peanut sauce, Atho is nothing but a fresh delight. What makes this Burmese food unique is the crispy fritters or tempura served on top.
While soupy noodle dishes are hearty and fulfilling for a cold evening, Atho was the perfect choice to beat the Myanmar heat.
If you want to have a healthy fusion, feel free to add cabbage, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, and fried shallots to the rice noodles.
For that extra spice kick, add chili oil. For years, Atho has been considered a Burmese street food sensation, and rightly so.
Pe Byouk (Fried Taro)
Crispy Burmese fried taro is a delightful and, fair warning, hard to resist snack. If you’ve ever eaten one, you would know that Pe Byouk is made out of taro slices covered with a special batter and then deep fried until golden.
A favorite among the tea stalls, you can never say no to this Burmese street food. We always end up getting them.
The crispy exterior and creamy interior are just perfect complements to a warm cup of tea. Once you’ve had it, it almost feels like a waste to just have tea alone.
Pe Byouk perfectly encapsulates the essence of Burma’s street food. If you ever visit the streets of Burma, don’t forget to try out fried taro.
Traditional Pastries In Burmese Food
Htou Moun Kyaw (Fried Pumpkin Pastries)
There are not many better desserts to satisfy a sweet tooth than Htou Moun Kyaw. Whether deep-fried or pan-fried, these crispy pumpkin pastries never fail to hit the right spot. We recommend trying both versions.
For the children out there, these golden pastries are little pockets of happiness made out of flour, sugar, and sweet pumpkin. This traditional food of Myanmar is a hit in the local streets, enjoyed alongside a nice cup of tea.
If you’re looking for a sweet pick-me-up, these crispy delights are the perfect fit. They really take advantage of the natural sweetness of pumpkins and bring it up a notch.
Myay Oh (Burmese-style Waffles)
Standing out with its aromatic smell, Myay Oh is a convenient delicacy to order when out with friends. And if you want to make these Burmese-style waffles at home, grab a bunch of rice flour, coconut milk, and palm sugar.
Once combined, you’ll have for yourself a distinctive sweet and caramelized dessert. Sounds delicious, right? As you can imagine, Myay oh is commonly found within the bustling streets of Myanmar, cooked upon iron griddles.
Among the various Myanmar foods, Myay oh has earned its place on top of the list as the most well-liked snack. We attribute their popularity to the crispy edges along with the sweet and chewy center, because there is no better way to have your waffle!
Sanwin Makin (Burmese Semolina Cake)
Hovering delicately between cake and confectionery, Sanwin Makin is nothing less than a delightful dessert. This Burmese sweet treat is made from semolina, condensed milk, and coconut milk. For many, baking this golden cake is a therapeutic and pleasurable process.
They begin by slowly heating up the semolina with sugar, topped with butter, syrup, condensed milk, and coconut milk. Such a fusion of ingredients leads to the creation of a soft dough which is transferred to a tray and cooked for about 10 minutes.
This Burmese dessert is said to be inspired by the Indian pudding known as sooji halwa. That makes it all the more special and unique.
Burmese Desserts In Traditional Burmese Food
Shwe Yin Aye (Golden Threads)
Mostly referred to as golden threads, Shwe Yin Aye is a luscious Burmese dessert. It is a cold dessert with a refreshing nature.
A fusion of sweetness, creaminess, and richness, this dessert is made with the help of steamed sticky rice, tapioca pearls, cendol jelly noodles, sugar syrup, and much more.
To further elevate it, you can even have it alongside plain white bread or crushed ice. Besides being eaten as a refreshing summertime dessert, Shwe Yin Aye is also popular during the Thingyan season.
Mont Lone Yay Paw (Stuffed Coconut Pancakes)
Mont Lone Yay Paw is especially eaten during the Burmese New Year. Stuffed coconut pancakes are to Thingyan what plum pudding is to Christmas day. Mont Lone Yay Paw means “round snack on water” as they’re made from balls of rice and dipped in bubbling hot water.
These rice balls are stuffed with palm jaggery and served on a square of banana leaves. If you’re serving this delicacy in front of guests, go all out and scatter grated coconuts over the dessert for some crazy visuals.
For many, this traditional Burmese food holds childhood memories, where they would roll around the balls in a large group, chatting in unison. We felt like kids again making these stuffed pancakes with our host.
Shwe Yin Aye (Fruit And Gelatin Dessert)
A blend of fresh fruits, colorful jellies, and creamy coconut milk, Shwe Yin Aye is a delightful Burmese delicacy. This Burmese dessert tends to stand out due to the combination of textures and flavors it brings to the table.
Considered to be a traditional food in Myanmar, this dessert holds a special place in the culinary culture of the region. Shwe Yin Aye is usually eaten during family celebrations and gatherings, hinting at the themes of unity and togetherness.
Hsaba Ywet (Burmese-Style Ice Cream)
Often sold from colorful street carts in Myanmar, nothing tastes better than an old-school Burmese-style ice cream. A delightful frozen treat made from coconut milk, palm sugar, and tamarind, Hsaba Ywet is an icy escape on a hot summer day.
It’s the perfect fusion of sweetness, and creaminess, and has a unique flavor reflecting the special nature of Burma cuisine. We almost also grabbed one whenever we came across it.
Discovering The Traditional Food Of Burma
If you’ve had all sorts of Asian cuisines and are looking for something new, the food of Burma will fill that void for you! Burmese cuisine is unique even though the country has adopted a lot of cooking techniques from South Asia.
You may even spot some of your favorite Asian dishes here, just in Burmese style. From dumplings to noodles, rice pudding to fried prawns, you’ll find a local twist on each food item.
We can say Burmese food should be on every foodie’s bucket list. Visiting locals and sharing the traditional food of Burma with them is by far the most superior, experience you can get on your trip.