Everyone knows China, India, and Thailand. But when you ask them about Myanmar, most often tilt their heads with a puzzled expression. Well, that obscure country borders all the other countries mentioned, and it is shaped somewhat like a kite, as you can see in the map above. Also, Burma is the former name of Myanmar.
Burmese cuisine is understandably as obscure as the country itself, so here’s my attempt to give it the love it deserves.
This post lists the top seven breakfast choices in Myanmar.
Please prepare a handkerchief to wipe your saliva.
Photo: My Favorite Food (A Pen by Barani Myat Tun)
Mohingar is the unofficial national dish of Myanmar. It is most commonly enjoyed as a breakfast dish, however, it is often available all-day in restaurants due to its popularity.
The murky, brown fish broth belies its vibrant flavors. The strong garlic, ginger and onion flavors covers and complements the fishiness from the catfish and fish sauce and paste. The chickpea flour adds heartiness to the broth with the bean flavor (and makes it murky!), while the lemongrass stalk (not eaten) gives the dish a fresh, citrusy fragrance. Thinly sliced banana tree stems lock in all the flavors, releasing the juices with its own sweet-bitter flavors, squishiness and crispness together in each chew.
At its most basic, this broth is poured over thin rice noodles with crispy fried garlic and coriander as garnish. Add a squeeze of lime for extra tanginess, and/or sprinkle some red pepper powder for spiciness. Fried vegetables (pea fritters/gourd) provides the extra crunch and fried Chinese donuts the extra chewiness. Toss in sliced boiled eggs or fried fish cakes for extra protein.
2. Chicken Coconut Noodles (Ohn No Khauk Swe)
While Mohingar is more well-known, the Burmese Chicken Coconut Noodles is arguably the most well-loved breakfast dish by both locals and tourists alike. If you enjoy curry or Thai dishes, you are likely to enjoy this dish as well.
Bite-sized chicken cubes marinated with turmeric powder and fish sauce are sauteed with red pepper powder, garlic, ginger and onions to create a mild, flavorful curry. Coconut milk and chickpea flour thickens, richens and sweetens the broth. The creaminess is then balanced by chicken stock, making it just light enough to be served at breakfast with egg noodles.
The garnishes are similar to Mohingar’s: lime wedges, boiled eggs, coriander, sliced onions, scallions and a few strands of deep fried egg noodles (see crispy white swirly strands in picture).
3. Nan Gyi Thoke
Photo: Food for Life Blog (http://darjapan.blogspot.com/2012/10/noodle-salad-or-nan-gyi-thoke.html#.Wtj6TMgh29Y)
Nan Gyi Thoke is another well-loved noodle dish in Myanmar, perhaps related to the similar taste to Coconut Chicken Noodles. You can think of it as the dry, salad version of Coconut Chicken Noodles.
The cooking method for the chicken curry is the same as for Coconut Chicken Noodles, except
most places don’t add coconut milk for this dish. Yet, without the addition of chicken stock, the curry itself is heavy enough for a standalone lunch menu. Thick, round, white rice noodles are used instead of rice noodles.
Again, the garnishes are similar: lime wedges, boiled eggs, coriander, sliced onions, and a few strands of deep fried egg noodles. We can call it the Burmese garnish at this point.
Shredded chicken, some chickpea flour, and the garnishes are served over the noodles. Mix it well like a salad, till you get a bowl of sexy gleaming orange noodles evenly coated. Slurp the noodles up to taste the different flavors bursting in your mouth. Take a gulp of the accompanying chicken soup to cleanse your palate. Repeat till done.
4. Steamed Glutinous Rice (Kaung Nyin Paung)
Kaung Nyin Paung is the typical breakfast snack in Myanmar. Most families buy packets of kaung nyin paung from street vendors for a quick and easy meal.
Kaung Nyin Paung is steamed glutinous rice, seasoned with sesame salt. The sticky rice is often topped by coconut shavings for a sweeter twist, or paired with dried fish and/or brown beans for a more savory taste.
Kaung Nyin Paung is similar to Thai Mango Sticky Rice, except that it’s salty instead of sweet.
5. Dim Sum
Photo: Oriental House Dim Sum Restaurant in Myanmar (https://www.myanmore.com/yangon/restaurant-directory/listing/oriental-house-dim-sum-restaurant-shinsawpu-branch)
The influences of bordering China are not lost on Myanmar. Dim sum remains one of the most popular breakfast choices, as evidenced by the many, bustling dim sum restaurants in town.
Just like anywhere else, an assortment of steamed dim sum dishes are served in twos and threes, along with traditional Chinese tea. Popular items include: steamed pork buns, savory chicken feet, siew mai, rice noodle rolls and dumplings.
6. Paratha (Plata)
Photo: Seth Lui Food Blog (https://sethlui.com/foods-eat-myanmar/)
India has a similarly strong influence on Burmese cuisine. Plata, the Burmese Roti Paratha, is one of the most common breakfast menu items in Myanmar for its taste and versatility.
If you’re looking for something simple, a plain plata tastes amazing enough alone. Paper-thin layers of dough are baked then fried to a crisp, which means you’ll taste a wonderful combination of chewiness and crispiness in the subtle fragrance of oil. It’s absolutely delicious.
If you want something sweet, you may enjoy your plata sprinkled with sugar, or smeared with butter, or dunked in condensed milk.
If you want something savory, you may enjoy your plata filled with eggs or brown Burmese beans, or together with any type of meat curry (chicken, beef, mutton) or potato curry.
The keema plata is especially notable. Stir-fried onions, garlic, ginger, chillies, tomatoes, and eggs/meat are enveloped in a variety of spices–cumin, masala, chilli powder, and coriander powder… Try this dish if you’d like a visit to Heaven.
Photo: Golden City Chetty Restaurant in Myanmar (http://www.foodspotting.com/places/108001-golden-city-chetty-restaurant-yangon/items/136100-vegetarian-thali-with-puri)
Poori is another Indian breakfast dish popular in Myanmar. It is mostly served in Indian restaurants (surprise!), in steel divided plates like the one in the picture above.
The poori, deep-fried puffy bread, is actually as versatile as the plata. However, the most common way to enjoy it is the vegetarian way–with potato curry, tomato curry, and a unique poori sauce made with tamarind and mint.