Before I was an expat living and working abroad for over 9 years I struggled with this question: Will I like the food if I live overseas? I used to be a pretty picky eater. Growing up it was frozen burritos, fish sticks, and pot pies. If it wasn’t Americana and simple, I didn’t eat it. I struggled to enjoy the texture of most veggies and stuck mostly to the boring meats and fried foods that America is so known for. When I first started traveling at the age of 21 (late in age for most developed countries but normal for the U.S.) my fears were sometimes realized, but mostly I was surprised at the delicious tapestry of food offered around the world. Myanmar offers a diversity of food beyond what you might expect. With it’s multi-culturalism of many ethnic groups, Burmese majority, and Chinese/Indian influences seen in the food. Where China meets India is where the best food in the world resides. Delicious sweet and savory street food is found at most corners, creative salads, various kinds of noodle dishes, all finished off with a variety of cakes that would make Willy Wonka lick his lips.
Here are a few places you should check out if you want to try the local fare or have business meetings.
Rangoon Tea House, ground floor, 77 – 79, Pansodan Street (Lower Middle Block), Yangon
It is as it sounds. It is an upscale tea house (for Myanmar Standards but affordable) where you can try the traditional food and the tea! How many types of tea are there? It depends on how much sugar and milk you want. There are around 5 different types and each has its own name.
They also have a Toddy Bar on the second floor that serves happy hour every day from 4-7 p.m. with some creative Myanmar twists to the cocktails.
Burma Bistro, No. 644, First Floor, Corner of Merchant Road & Shwe Bon Thar Road, Yangon.
This restaurant is also upscale but affordable with yummy appetizers and all the Myanmar curry greatest hits. Upstairs that have a really nice bar that’s fully stocked with local and foreign imports. They have a nice balcony that you can sit and enjoy watching the cars and people pass but best to do in the cooler season.
Yangon Food Tours, yangonfoodtour.com
If you want to go super local and are afraid you might upset your stomach then contact Yangon Food Tours. They know all the really local places that are hygienic and delicious. They offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner tours as well as a street food tour and night out tour. On these tours they take you to 5 places to enjoy soups, salads, curries, and desserts. Let these experts fill your need for a safe food adventure. They also have a branch in Mandalay (mandalayfoodtours.com). If you are ever in Mandalay, they can show you the best local food spots.
When visiting Myanmar for business don’t forget that the food is also the culture. Eating Myanmar food with your potential business partner will make them very happy you are trying their food. And I’m sure that the more you eat, the happier you’ll be in Myanmar.
By Ryan Russell