How The Chinese Have Contributed To Myanmar Food Styles
By Amrita Kundu
No other aspect represents the culture of a country more accurately than the local food. The cuisine of a country speaks volumes about a nation’s history, cultural beliefs, traditions and current circumstances. The same holds true for Myanmar.
Myanmar’s cuisine is an eclectic mix of different ethnicity and cultures. The local ethnic groups as well as neighbouring countries have actively contributed in shaping the cuisine of the country. From salads to desserts, you will find an array of dishes that are interestingly unique and distinctly different from each other.
The Local Eating Customs
The locals follow a range of interesting customs. As a tourist, following some of them is a great thrill and will help you mingle with the people of Myanmar.
Locals usually serve meals on a low table as they sit on a bamboo mat to eat. The eldest person on the table is served first before the rest join in. The first serving of rice is kept aside as an act of respect for the parents who have passed away.
Locals eat with either chopsticks or spoons. Knives and forks are rarely used at home, though you will find them at restaurants. If you are a guest in a Myanmar household, you will also be offered knives and forks as a gesture of respect.
The most common food of the Myanmar people is rice along with curries and non-vegetarian dishes. Usually, drinks are not served with food. Instead, soups of various kinds accompany the main meal.
Chinese Influences on Myanmar’s Cuisine
Myanmar’s cuisine draws influence from several ethnic groups as well as neighbouring countries such as India, Thailand and China. About 3% of Myanmar’s population is Chinese, most of whom come from the Fujian, Guangdong and Yunnan region. Many of these Chinese live and work in Myanmar. Hence, the local cuisine draws strong influence from this mighty food giant. Ingredients such as bean curd and soya sauce are often used in various dishes. Noodles are regularly cooked using the Chinese stir-fry technique and it is not uncommon to find vegetables and meat stir fried to perfection with just the right mix of crunchy and creamy!
Here are some of the dishes that draw inspiration from Chinese cuisine:
Deep Fried Stuffed Tofu
You will surely love this tofu snack, which is deep fried and stuffed with cabbage, chillies and a special sauce. This dish is commonly sold by local street vendors.
Tofu Thoke/Tofu salad
This is a chickpea tofu salad and is a burst of flavours in the mouth. Roasted peanuts, chickpea and tofu are mixed with numerous condiments to create this dish. Definitely a must try when you are in Myanmar.
If you are in Yangon, you have to visit Chinatown to try the grilled fish there. The fish is marinated with a range of spices before being fried and is served piping hot. The ingredients include soy sauce,
star anise, sesame oil and herbs that are commonly found in a Chinese kitchen.
The locals love their vegetables and have them in all forms. One of the most popular are green leaves stir-fried with soy sauce and garlic. Another vegetable dish that is quite popular and shows Chinese influence is Mala Hin, vegetables served with a spicy bean paste.
This is a common dish that is served in many restaurants. Pork and mushroom are marinated in spices and barbecued. If you are a pork lover, you will be blown away by the taste and smell of this freshly barbecued pork dish.
If you crave for some Hakka noodles while you are in Myanmar, you won’t be disappointed. Chinese Hakka noodles are readily available no matter the part of the country you are in.
Braised pork belly
You will find good quality soy-braised pork belly in various restaurants across the country. They make for great side dishes with Hakka noodles to satisfy your deep food cravings.
When it comes to food, tourists are spoilt for choice when they visit Myanmar. One visit to the country is not enough to explore all of the different food varieties as each state has distinct dishes that simply must be tried and tested to be appreciated and devoured over and over again!