Burmese food can be shocking.
Here’s a quick guide to calm your palate.
Though influenced by neighbouring culinary mega-cultures of India and China, Burmese food is as distinctive a cuisine as you'll find anywhere between Beijing and Almaty. There are several sorts of Burmese cuisine — Yangon, Shan, Mon and Rakhine among them — but there are some through lines you’ll want to be aware of.
One of the staple ingredients in a great deal of Burmese food is ngapi, a fermented paste made of either fish or shrimp. It’s this that tends to make novices think they may have been served something whose best-before date has passed. But like yoghourt and keffir, Stilton and wine, you just have to send a mental note to your palate that this kind of fermented is good fermented, and get on with it.
Another distinctive taste you’ll find in a lot of dishes comes from the fermented or pickled tea leaves, known as lahpet, served most popularly in a salad called lahpet thoke. The tannins and pickling or fermenting process makes this pretty pungent too, but a similar little mental note can turn a surprising taste experience into a delightful one. Remember not to make a face when trying it for the first time: Lahpet is about as close as a Burmese food comes to being sacred, served at special occasions both secular and religious. If you’re served some, you can count on it being done with pride.
Mohinga is the other iconic burmese dish. Not as challenging as some, this fish-based noodle soup is mostly a breakfast food, though you can eat it any time you like.
The best way to find out if you like Burmese food is to try it! Your taste buds may really enjoy the unique spices and flavours that this Southeast Asian cuisine offers. Part of the travel experience is participating in local dining and Burma offers a wide range of interesting options.
From the GLP Team
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