As many of you know, last month I traveled to Burma seeking the rich broths of mohinga and the pungent flavors of tea leaf salads. I wrote about what I ate for Saveur.
“In downtown Yangon, “street food” takes on a whole other meaning, as makeshift restaurants spill from sidewalks onto the roads. With more than 135 ethnic groups and borders shared with Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, and Thailand, it’s safe to say that the cuisine of Myanmar (also known as Burma) is diverse and eclectic.
It’s also safe to call it a delicious mash-up of the spicy rich curries of India, the garlicky sweet sauces of China, and the bright herb-filled salads and soups of Thailand. There’s nothing quite like it, and Yangon is a city built for snacking. The best street food in Yangon can be found at temporary carts set up by vendors each morning, and the stews and snacks sold throughout the day represent a wide cross-section of different cultures and ethnicities.”
The unofficial national dish of Burma. A hearty, pungent fish broth is flavored with lemongrass, turmeric and pepper, which swirls around slippery thin glass noodles. The fish is not immediately recognizable; it’s ground with chickpea flour to make a lusciously thick stew usually served for breakfast.
The assault of flavors so early in the morning is the perfect way to start your day of Pagoda viewing. Five minutes up the road is the astounding Shwedagon pagoda, and most of the diners at Myaung Maw Daw Cho have traveled there to worship. This famous mini-chain of mohinga shops has several locations in Yangon, and for about $3 U.S. you can take home a powdered mix of the soup base.
Street vendors sell mohinga all over Yangon, but here the broth is thicker, brighter, and pungent with ginger. From a food safety perspective, worth keeping in mind in Burma, it’s comforting to know your fish broth was at least made in a kitchen with walls. Garnish your soup with fresh cilantro and chili flakes on the table, and don’t skip out on the deep-fried crackers and scallions, which make this bowl unforgettable. You’ll have to get up at the crack of dawn for a bowl, though; mohinga usually sells out by 9 a.m.
Myaung May Daw Cho
118A Yay Tar Shay Old Street, Bahan
Mont Lin Ma Yar
Roughly translated as “husband and wife snacks,” these tiny bites are a visual delight. Dollops of rice flour batter are added to a large sizzling cast iron pan that resembles a muffin tin. Toppings such as quail eggs, scallions, or roasted chickpeas are added to half of the dollops, and then, like a husband and wife, the two halves are joined to make a little round cake.
The quail egg versions are the perfect breakfast food, like eating half a dozen mini egg McMuffins. While there are no McDonald’s in Burma (yet), the best mont lin ma yarvendor is located in the shadow of Yangon’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken, which opened earlier this year. Mont lin ma yar vendors are found all over the downtown area, but a particularly picturesque cart can be found on Anwaratha between 29th and 30th. Here the fried bites are extra crisp, and the quail eggs are cooked perfectly, not dry and oily like at other vendors.
Nameless Street Vendor
Anawrahta between 29th and 30th Streets, near Bogyoke Market, Dagon
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