Pictures of Burma

I first fell in love with the food of Burma (now called Myanmar) in the summer of 2007 in San Francisco. It was at Burma Superstar, a restaurant in the Sunset District where I had my first taste of the explosively flavorful cuisine, a mash up of what I had come to know of Thai, Indian, and Chinese tastes. Light, brothy curries dotted with fried samosas, succulent salads with fermented tea leaves, garlicky noodle dishes more refined than their Chinese cousins and a rich, citrusy fish stew called Mohinga. It’s impossible to tell where Burmese food starts and where it ends—as if the borders have been removed from every Asian country and the best dishes from each country were remixed and refined and served at the same dinner. I’ve been lucky to visit the country twice, once in 2015 and again this February.

Eating in Burma can be a risky endeavor for a precious western stomach. The taps on the streets of Yangon, where many street vendors wash their dishes, run with contaminated water. Still, the samosa salad sold by the lady with the pink umbrella on the southwest corner of Mahabandula Square is so delicious, it’s worth getting sick for. I wrote about her samosa salad and other unforgettable street food vendor in Yangon for Saveur last year if you’re curious. For better or worse, European tourists are forcing hygienic standards on the restaurants and hotels in the major cities. Bottled water is ubiquitous, as is a pleasing light lager simply called Myanmar beer.

My recent trip was quite unique in that I didn’t need a single guidebook because I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Burma with the very person who introduced me to the cuisine more than 10 years ago: Burma Superstar’s owner Desmond Tan. He took me and my travel companions to the ancient plain of Bagan, strewn with crumbling and still majestic stone pagodas, the bustling maze of Yangon, the relaxed and regal Mandalay, and finally the breathtaking peaks and valleys of the Shan state where we drove hours to meet the tea farmers supplying most of Burma and soon the rest of the world with fermented Burmese tea leaves (read more on that here). Here are some of the things we ate along the way and some of my favorite dishes in the country.

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Shan noodles for breakfast in the village of Hsipaw in Shan state.

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Can someone please help me identify these purple and green fruits?

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The best thing I ate in Burma: fried sticky black rice cakes with sugar.

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Eating Mohinga in the absurdly shiny Yangon Airport at 7am.

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Lunch feast in Mandalay.

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Palaung stew of hearty vegetables in Mandalay.

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A man climbs up a palm tree to harvest the fermented sweet and slightly alcoholic toddy palm juice in Bagan.

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The infamous “Nahmsan Salad” of beef jerky (or is it goat?) and onions. The recipe is available in the Burma Superstar cookbook.

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The floating Pagoda, Yangon.

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It’s just like kombucha—toddy palm juice harvested in the morning before the liquid turns sour.

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Concoctions.

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A packet of tea leaves at rest stop near Bagan.

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Betel nut. It will turn your teeth red.

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Great haircuts, Yangon.

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Holy motorist.

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Terrifying statues outside a military training complex in Shan state.

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Milky sweet Myanmar tea.

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Young monks in an orphanage.

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Too cool.

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Young boys play chinlone near the Golden Rock.

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Portable noodle shop outside the terrifying military complex.

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Platha with egg, Mandalay.

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Banana!

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Young nuns counting money.

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Noodles.

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Happy nun/ dirty water.

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A wizard is never late.

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He arrives precisely when he means to.

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Light and pungent mohinga at Rakhine fish restaurant in Yangon.

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Burmese tea leaf salad.

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More tea leaf salad.

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Shan noodles in Hsipaw.

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Gas station, somewhere.

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Green tea in Namhsan.

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Milky tea in Mandalay.

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Tea shop snacks.

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Bamboo worms. Tasted like dirty frying oil.

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Fried snacks.

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Fish curry.

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Jade bok choy.

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Shan feast.

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Mixing fermented tea leaves.

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Dishwasher, Namhsan.

fermented tea in burlap sacks

Bags of tea.

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Tea leaf salad, Namhsan.

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A tea picker’s hands.

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Noodles drying in the sun.

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The tea leaf factory.

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Noodles drying in the sun.

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More noodles, sun.

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The local bus.

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Yangon’s colonial remnants.

A colorful motorist in Namhsan

Motorist in Namhsan.

clock tower

The clock tower on the court building in downtown Yangon. 

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Fish monger.

family with phone

Smart phone. 

dramtic light on the water in inle

Inle Lake.

crumbling colonial

Colonial ruins. 

crickets

Crickets. 

life at the tea shop

Busy morning at the tea shop.

mohinga glory

Mohinga

mohinga shop sign

The best Mohinga in Yangon can be found near Shwedagon Pagoda at Myaung Mya Daw Cho.

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Husband and Wife Cakes

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An older building in Inle Lake. 
golden boy tea shop
One of Yangon’s many tea shops. 
myanmar beer

Myanmar Beer

platha in yangon

Shredded platha. 

no admittance glass

The glass factory destroyed in cyclone Nargis. 

lamps in the forest

Globe lamps in the wreckage. 

glass vases

You break it, you buy it. 

forest of broken glass

Forest of broken glass. 

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Samusa salad. 

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Young street vendor. 

rice pancakes

Rice pancake for breakfast. 

roadsign for namhsan

All roads lead to Namhsan and none of them are easy. 

samosa lady

The samusa lady. 

samosa salad

Samusa Salad. 

shan noodles aung mingalar

Shan noodles, the world’s most perfect dish.

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Street snacks. 

so many noodles

So many noodles. 

shan tofu

The only sighting of Shan tofu, made with chickpea flour. 

Shan Shwe Taung factory

The Shan Shwe Taung tea leaf factory.

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Silky sweet Burmese tea and fried snacks. 

tea drying in the sun in Namhsan

Tea drying in the sun, Namhsan.

tea pickers in Namhsan

Tea pickers, Namhsan. 

telegraph office

Colonialism! 

the strand interior

The recently restored Strand Hotel bar in downtown Yangon. 

Workers mix tea at Shan Shwe Taung

Mixing fermented tea leaves.

wife cakes

Street snacks, Yangon. 

what are these better

Can someone please tell me what this is? Cheese?

 

 

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