MANDALAY, Myanmar – As in most places where poverty is chronic, food in Myanmar is not the primary concern of the Burmese. The diet of the inhabitants is mostly rice.

My Impressions of Myanmar: Eating in Myanmar

The most popular food in Myanmar is mohinga. It is, in fact, their national dish.

It’s a thick soup of a mysterious broth (is it chicken? Pigeon?) And rice vermicelli with a strong aroma of lemon and parsley. It’s accompanied by half a hard-boiled egg and decorated with a cornmeal cracker which can be broken into the soup to give it crunch and texture.  Slices of fake pork made of tofu is added. It’s then seasoned at the table with condiments of fermented shrimp paste, lime and dehydrated chili flakes.

Otherwise, the majority of food in Myanmar are flooded in a vinaigrette of garlic, ginger, French shallots, dried chili peppers and tomato paste. Often this dressing covers the taste of vegetables and meat with which they are served. This “salad” of meat is invariably served with a big bowl of rice. Eating in Myanmar is eating what’s available.

Fried rice and fried noodles are also ubiquitous.

Stay in Yangon and the small tea rooms, in the finest English tradition, offer instant coffee and tea with or without condensed milk which are served with cupcakes, cakes and milk puddings. Most of the tea rooms also offer steamed stuffed breads Chinese-style, filled with ground beef and cabbage, among others. The servers of these institutions are inevitably adolescents aged 10 to 15 who spend their time playing tricks, bickering and laughing, running around the café.

There are also many Chinese restaurants – and Chinese people, by the way – everywhere in the city, which directly affects the picture of the food in Myanmar.

My Impressions of Myanmar: They Drink, Too

Most of the fun places to visit, as a tourist, have interesting native brews. All but perhaps Myanmar.

Being a former British colony, Burma has good beer. One’s called Myanmar – rather ordinary lager, but refreshing – and the other, ABC – a thick sweet stout – are actually part of the best in Southeast Asia, along the Saigon (Vietnam) and Beer Lao (Laos) .

But what probably surprises the average tourist the most is the presence of local whiskey and rum.

“But,” some will say, “there is no grain, and oak trees don’t grow in Burma so they can’t use oak barrels! How can they make Burmese whiskey? “This is indeed a very insightful comment.

On the bottle of a local whiskey called Grand Royal, it is written, in English: “Produced from imported whiskey concentrate and high-quality drinking alcohol.” And believe me, this short text should be a warning to anyone who would want to drink it freely. The consequences can be unpleasant.

My Impressions of Myanmar: Not for Everyone

Of course, just like eating in Myanmar, this country is not a holiday destination for all. I would like to think that this is not a place for beginner travelers – and even less adequate for the regulars of all-inclusive resorts in Cancun. For example, travelers can expect to be treated differently than the locals, and receive a different invoice in restaurants.

But this is a country that seems immune time. And for the moment, it’s a destination that’s not yet been flooded with tourist traps and scammers.

Also, tourists who prefer to visit monuments might be disappointed by Myanmar: apart from the thousands of pagodas across the country, but most notably in Bagan, the country will not meet these needs.

Its beauty lies in its people.

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