The Evolution of Cuisine in Myanmar
By Jaycee Jung
Myanmar food is a wondrous mix of distinct cultures and traditions of various ethnic groups. With more than 130 ethnic groups in the country, you can easily find dishes of diverse origins and handmade snacks in one region. You will also discover foreign influences such as Chinese and Indian food in Myanmar delicacies as the country’s borders touch. This pairing has given birth to an experiential cuisine that can only be found in the Golden Land.
In a fusion of Indian and Myanmar food, you will no doubt find infusions of chapati and curry in Myanmar. Popular Indian ingredients such as spices and lentils are also present in some of Myanmar’s dishes. One of them includes Danbauk, a biryani rice dish with mutton and chicken coupled with pickled mango, chilli and mint. These ingredients add an uncommon taste to the already delectable meal. The rich taste of curry is a sweet caress for foodies craving a spicy kick in their food.
Another dish that borrows Indian influence is spicy lentil soup which comprises of lentils, curry powder and dried chillies. There is also butter and lentil rice, where ghee and lentils are mainly used. It is very easy to prepare, which makes it a fabulous alternative to plain rice.
As the staple food of Myanmar, you will find that rice is often served with curry, making a hearty combination both appetizing and satisfying. In terms of snacks, Halawa is a sweet titbit with obvious Indian influence consisting of coconut milk, butter and sticky rice. It has two delicious versions for you to try — a loose texture akin to mashed potato and a firmer one.
A Chinese Presence
Don’t be surprised if you find dumplings and grilled vegetables similar the ones found in Chinese restaurants. Since China is also one of the neighbouring countries bordering Myanmar, it is not uncommon at all to find hints of Chinese cuisine in Myanmar food.
A famous Chinese-Myanmar meal that identifies with this distinct fusion is Sigyer Khawo Swe. It’s a dish of wheat noodles served with pork and duck meat, accompanied with garlic oil, spring onions and soy sauce. There is also Hpet htohk, or wanton, a small pouch made of pastry wrap and meat, ginger, pepper and salt. You will usually find them as light bites in soup or noodles. Aside from the ones above, there is also San Byohk or rice congee that is served with chicken or fish.
How Do Myanmar People Eat Their Food?
Most of the people of Myanmar, if not all, have a tradition of taking their before dining with their family at home. Dining tables are mainly round and short as the local people usually have their meals sitting on the floor. The table is small, for the convenience of each person to be able to reach their food.
The people of Myanmar value the importance of togetherness, especially when it comes to eating. Thus it is important that all the family members sit down together as they break to eat. The locals also have a habit of inviting anyone that passes by their house to join in their meal. Any inedible decorations are prohibited from the table, allowing the Myanmar people to focus on their food and bond better with the people that share their table.
During festivals, it is an unparalleled sight to see as villagers get together to prepare sticky rice and offer it to monks, people, and even the spirits. Their sense of togetherness in preparing food creates a rare trait that makes them unique in the eyes of the world. Cultures and traditions are very much alive and thriving here.
Myanmar cuisine is making itself known and heard among international tourists. It plays a huge role in the country’s tourism industry as word of mouth and positive feedback from travellers who have already been to Myanmar reach the ears of potential tourists to the country. Myanmar’s food is growing to become a trademark of its own in the tourism industry, and its diverse mix of Southeast Asian influences makes it all the more appealing.