Teashops: The best place for food, friends and a nice cuppa!
The first time I visited Myanmar I found the food absolutely awful. I remember getting cold, unappealing curries and underwhelming ‘Chinese’ noodles which lacked flavour. It was only on this trip that we discovered what I had been doing wrong…
One of the most important places for socialising in Myanmar is the teahouse. Every town, no matter how small, has at least one. The teahouse is a place to drink tea, meet friends and neighbours and to while away the hours when the sun is at its most ferocious. Teahouses also provide one of the few forums for political discussion and have traditionally one of the few places where the more daring in Burmese society exchange their opinions on the regime, albeit in the knowledge that spies lurk within. The teahouse is also one of the best places to find delicious, cheap snacks which are far more satisfying than many restaurants.
In Mandalay, we had breakfast at the city’s most popular teahouse. The curried noodles, steamed mushroom and meat filled buns and Shan noodles were accompanied by the lovely sweet milky tea which is popular throughout Myanmar. The portions were huge, the people watching opportunities endless, and the meal itself was a mere 2.5 Euros! In fact, it was so satisfying that we returned later in the day for tea and were fortunate enough to meet a Burmese couple who were tour guides. It was from them that we learned that teahouses serve as a pressure release valve for those who dare to criticise the military regime.
In Nangshwe, near Inle Lake, street food and teahouses provided the bulk of our sustenance. We feasted on samosas, which are traditionally an Indian snack, as well as eating roti (also Indian), grilled fish and barbecued meat. All of it was tasty and although at first we had some reservations about hygiene, we are happy to report that neither of us got sick.
The most notable restaurant we found in Myanmar was Aroma 2 in Bagan. Following the Lonely Planet recommendation we ate there on our first night and found the delicious Indian curries served on banana leaves (accompanied by mango chutney, mint sauce, ginger, a sort of sweet tomato salsa and dahl), so good that we simply had to return the next evening.
Fresh fruit is also abundant in Myanmar and fruit salads, shakes and lassis are to be found on almost every menu. In summary, the most important things to remember about eating out in Myanmar are: eat street food and stick to the teashops which locals frequent.