Even if most people don’t quite know what to expect from Burmese food and even if Myanmar is not really known for its cuisine, the meals were tasty, plentiful and, best of all, vegetarian friendly. Perched between such great food nations like India, Thailand and China, their influences could be noticed in the local dishes, but Myanmar still had its very own taste and flavors. Especially the whole range of hand mixed noodle salads, fermented tea leaf dishes and liquid tofu noodles seem not only distinctive but actually unparalleled in the food world.
The meals were, particularly in Shan style restaurants, simply ordered as vegetable dishes with rice, but they were usually served with other complementary sides like fresh greens, soup, sauce and even tea. Also very common were local restaurants serving pre-cooked meals in buffet style, making it very convenient for vegetarians to choose four vegetable dishes that were normally included in one order of rice. All these meal options of Burmese food were supplemented by the many tasty noodle dishes that Myanmar has to offer. Some of them were ordered wet with soup, some were completely dry, while others came with soup on the side, to be added according to preference.
But the entire cuisine of Myanmar seemed to be summed up by the unofficial national dish that seemed to unite the entire country in a culinary sense, Mohinga. This rice noodle dish in fish broth was, technically speaking, not truly vegetarian, but it certainly was the most popular breakfast dish throughout the nation and a very tasty way to start the day in proper Myanmar style.
Tip: All restaurants and even street stalls offer complimentary green tea with every meal. Since the tea is boiled, it’s not only safe to drink, but it’s also providing a great way to save money and spare the environment of more plastic bottles!
Burmese Vegetarian Meals
Shan Style Restaurants
A simple rice and vegetable order in a local restaurant in Pyin Oo Lwin translated into this feast of four different vegetables with soup, sauce, rice and a whole tray of fresh greens. But best of all, this entire meal had cost about a dollar and change, making this delicious meal choice a really great value.
This big meal in Shwebo included different types of vegetables, scrambled egg with tomato, a huge bowl of vegetable soup, white rice, roasted peanuts, some fresh greens and the optional fermented fish paste.
Home Cooked Meals
After hiking to the Palaung Village Pankam we were served a really delicious home cooked vegetarian meal by our host mother. It included a potato dish, vegetables, greens in a soup, white rice, crisps and some freshly made spicy salsa.
After accepting a kind lunch invitation by a local family in Shwebo, we had a really tasty vegetarian meal that included sautéed mushrooms, fried tofu, scrambled egg, different vegetable dishes, white rice and fresh fruits for desert.
Restaurants with a Buffet
The restaurants in the small village of Katha served buffet style meals where two vegetable dishes could be chosen and they were served with a plate of rice, complementary soup, different sauces and some greens.
Rice plate meal with four different vegetables from a buffet style restaurant in Mandalay. Three of the vegetables were cooked, while one was a tasty pickled green vegetable salad. The meal was served with soup, sauce and tea.
A different rice plate meal with two green vegetables, cooked bamboo and a very firm yellow tofu. Everything was served with a vegetable soup at a buffet style restaurant in Mandalay.
Tip: Shan style vegetarian meals provided by far the best value for the money. If they were offered as buffet or served at the table, they always came with many complementary side dishes, turning every single meal into a culinary feast.
Different Noodle Dishes
Noodles in Flavored Broth
The national breakfast dish called Mohinga came in many different varieties, but it was usually cooked in fish sauce with ginger, garlic, banana stem, lemon grass, whole onions and served over skinny rice noodles. While this otherwise vegetarian dish was cooked in fish broth, it didn’t contain any fish and it actually didn’t even taste fishy. The title photo shows a slightly different interpretation of Mohinga.
Shan noodles with delicious liquid yellow tofu. The tofu was made out of yellow split-peas instead of soybeans and this unusual dish was served with peanuts, fried toppings and pickled vegetables. Interpretations of this dish varied by region.
Clear Broth Noodles
This big stone pot of Shan noodle soup in Kalaw was cooked with different types of noodles, many chopped vegetables, some firm white tofu and fried toppings.
A very simple yet delicious vegetarian Shan noodle soup from a small local shack in Hsipaw. It was served in a clear broth with fresh lemon and fiery chili paste.
This bowl of dry Shan noodles came with a clear soup on the side, pickled veggies, different herbs and crushed peanuts, It was garnished with leafy greens and served while waiting for the Nyaungshwe bus.
Hand mixed noodle salad from the streets of Yangon. It was prepared with four types of different noodles, two types of tofu, chick pea powder, fried onions and a hint of fish sauce.
Tip: Noodle salads and the wide range of tea leaf or other salads are very popular in Myanmar, but a word of caution needs to be said. As tasty as these salads look, they are raw food and mixed with bare hands. If you really want to try them, do so at the end the end of your trip to Myanmar, not at the beginning!
Have you tasted Burmese food before? Which dish would you like to try?