Deciding that we really wanted to sample true Burmese food, we consulted several sources to find the most authentic restaurants to visit on our trip. The first night, we put ourselves in the hands of the locals and ended up at a little neighborhood place down the street from our hotel, at the hotelier’s recommendation. Thanks, Ocean Pearl!
We had an excellent introduction to the country through our fried noodles with chicken and vegetables- only about 2,000 kyat (“chat”). The exchange rate is $1 = 840 kyat. And there was no menu- the host/owner just walked up and politely told us in English that we could get fried noodles with chicken, or chicken noodle soup, or vegetables.
Someone brought us a free little table starter of (wet or oily?) peanuts with a separate dish of salt. Tasty. And the table very much enjoyed their Myanmar beers. They went well with the chewy savoury noodles.
The people who worked at the restaurant were really friendly and helpful. I got the impression that they don’t see a lot of Westerners, though they were certainly able to handle us, and thankfully spoke far more English than we spoke Burmese.
The next night, we hunted around the city for the restaurant that Kim ably researched- a highly recommended local place- Danubyu Daw Saw Yee. It was a plain, cafeteria-like place on 29th street, where we also had no menu, but a helpful waiter walked us in and showed us over to the pans of delectable food sitting out at the edge of the kitchen.
He explained what each dish was, and tried to answer our questions about the level of spice in each option.
We ended up choosing a very tasty chicken curry which tasted 100% differently from the other curry we ordered- a langoustine-looking “lobster” curry. It was easily one of the top 15 things I’ve every tasted. The meal came with bowls of a spicy soup (that tasted like collard greens to me), plates of rice, and a shared plate of assorted veggies, including something leafy, some cucumber, some variety of mango, and some things I couldn’t possibly identify.
What a unique meal!
My lemon juice was a little on the savoury side, but very refreshing. We were the only Westerners in the place when we arrived, but word must have gotten out to others, because two girls showed up (one from Florida, and one from Columbia) later into our dining experience, and they got to enjoy the feast, as well. But they live in Bangkok, so I’d almost consider them insiders.
The next dinner was equally wonderful, and the atmosphere was even better.
Kim found a place called “Feel Myanmar Food” which was on a random road (Pyidaunysu Yeikth street) with nothing else around it but about six other restaurants (including Mexican!) that were all lined up together on the same side of the street, with seating spilling over between them like a gigantic outdoor food court.
We sat inside in the cozy, lodge-feeling wooden interior and enjoyed another visual tour by a helpful waiter who pointed out and explained each pre-made dish sitting out in pans on warmers.
We chose the chicken curry, a lamb curry, a sweet corn dish- almost a pudding, and when a girl walked past carrying a tray of toasted golden buns, we quickly asked what they contained and ordered them. They turned out to not be buns at all, but a sort of smooth mashed potato casing surrounding yummy chicken, with a sweet, slightly tomato-ish sauce on the side. And, again, we had a spicy soup, plenty of rice, and a plate of greens. And free tea.
The cucumbers were a nice counterpoint to and relief from the curry, while the colorful green almost-lettuce was very herbal in flavor. Kim said the mango-looking thing tasted like soap, and there were other vegetable-like things which baffled me, yet again.
Still, excellent food all around, and so much variety! It’s so nice to get to try so many authentic Myanmar dishes, (like Yangon tapas) though I couldn’t tell you the real names of any of them, since we only ordered by pointing.
Which left us with only 1 known dish for our food goal in Myanmar- the elusive ohn no khao swe.