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Burma Basics 1: Street Food With Naomi Duguid


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Karyn Nyberg



When it comes to exploring a new culture, there is no better way to immerse yourself than by exploring its street food scene. In Burma, also known as Myanmar, the street food culture is a vibrant and integral part of daily life. From bustling night markets to roadside stalls, the aromas and flavors of Burmese street food will transport you to a culinary paradise.


Burma is a country rich in history, tradition, and diverse cultures, and its street food reflects this richness. Influences from neighboring countries such as India, China, and Thailand can be found in the delectable dishes that line the streets. The combination of bold spices, fresh ingredients, and unique cooking techniques result in a culinary experience that is both satisfying and memorable.


One of the best ways to truly understand the heart of a country is through its food, and Burma is no exception. Street food not only offers a glimpse into the local food culture, but it also provides an opportunity to interact with friendly vendors and fellow food enthusiasts. Whether you’re a devoted foodie or simply looking for a quick and tasty meal, exploring the street food in Burma will undoubtedly be an unforgettable adventure.


This article will take you on a journey through the vibrant street food culture in Burma, highlighting some of the most popular and delicious dishes that you must try. From the national dish of Mohinga to the flavorful Shan noodles and the fiery grilled skewers, there is something to satisfy every palate.


So grab your appetite and dive into the tantalizing world of Burmese street food. Get ready to savor the flavors, discover new culinary delights, and create lasting memories as you indulge in the vibrant street food scene of Burma.


Exploring the Street Food Culture in Burma

When it comes to experiencing the essence of a country’s food culture, street food is often the best place to start. In Burma, the street food scene is a reflection of the country’s diverse culinary heritage and vibrant cultural traditions. From the bustling streets of Yangon to the serene neighborhoods of Mandalay, street food stalls can be found on every corner, offering a tantalizing array of flavors and aromas.


What sets Burmese street food apart is not just the delectable dishes but also the lively atmosphere that surrounds it. Exploring the street food scene in Burma is an adventure in itself, as you navigate through crowded markets and interact with friendly vendors who take immense pride in their culinary creations. It is a vibrant sensory experience as you watch ingredients being chopped, stir-fried, and grilled right in front of your eyes.


One of the most fascinating aspects of Burmese street food culture is its ability to bring people from all walks of life together. You’ll find locals and tourists alike gathered around tiny plastic tables, sharing a meal and engaging in spirited conversations. Whether you’re a solo traveler or part of a group, Burma’s street food stalls offer an inviting and communal atmosphere where you can connect with both locals and fellow food enthusiasts.


Another unique aspect of Burmese street food culture is the variety of dishes available. From savory snacks and noodle dishes to sweet treats and refreshing beverages, there is something to please every palate. You can start your culinary journey with a piping hot bowl of Mohinga, the national dish of Burma, or tantalize your taste buds with the tangy and spicy flavors of Laphet Thoke, a fermented tea leaf salad.


As you wander through the streets, you’ll also come across vendors selling aromatic samosas, influenced by the Indian culinary heritage, and grilled skewers laden with succulent meats and spices. And let’s not forget about the refreshing fruit juices and unique concoctions like sugar cane juice or bubble tea, perfect for quenching your thirst on a warm day.


Exploring the street food culture in Burma is not just about satisfying your hunger; it’s about immersing yourself in the local way of life and discovering the heart and soul of the country through its flavors. So don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten path, follow the enticing aromas, and embrace the vibrant chaos of Burma’s street food scene. You’ll be rewarded with unforgettable culinary experiences and the chance to create lasting memories.


Popular Burmese Street Food Dishes

When it comes to Burmese street food, the options are endless. From savory snacks to hearty meals, the streets of Burma offer a plethora of delectable dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Here are some of the most popular Burmese street food dishes that you must try:

  1. Mohinga: Known as the national dish of Burma, Mohinga is a flavorful fish and rice noodle soup. It is made with a rich broth infused with lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce, served over rice noodles and topped with crispy fritters, boiled eggs, and fresh herbs. This hearty and aromatic dish is a staple for breakfast or as a quick snack.
  2. Shan Noodles: Originating from the Shan State in Burma, Shan noodles are a favorite among locals and tourists alike. These noodles are made from thick rice noodles stir-fried with a savory sauce made from soybean paste, garlic, and chili flakes. Topped with shredded chicken, toasted peanuts, and fresh lime juice, Shan noodles are a burst of flavors and textures.
  3. Laphet Thoke: Laphet Thoke, or Burmese fermented tea leaf salad, is a unique and flavorful dish that is a must-try. Fermented tea leaves are mixed with a variety of ingredients such as tomatoes, cabbage, nuts, and sesame seeds. The combination of tangy, earthy, and crunchy elements creates a refreshing salad that is both healthy and delicious.
  4. Samosas: Influenced by Indian cuisine, samosas have become a popular street food snack in Burma. These deep-fried pastries are filled with a savory mixture of spiced potatoes, peas, and sometimes minced meat. Served with a tangy tamarind chutney, samosas are a crispy and flavorful treat that will satisfy your cravings.
  5. Battered Fried Foods: Burma is famous for its variety of battered and fried street food delights. From crispy tofu to crunchy vegetables, these deep-fried treats are a popular choice for snacking. Whether you prefer the classic fried spring rolls, known as “pwe kyaung” in Burmese, or the stuffed fried bread called “emporium pauk,” you’ll find an array of crispy, golden delights to choose from.
  6. Grilled Skewers: If you’re a meat lover, the grilled skewers found in Burmese street food stalls will be a treat for your taste buds. From marinated chicken and beef to succulent pork and lamb, these skewers are grilled to perfection and served with a variety of dipping sauces. The smoky flavors and tender meats make them a must-try for any carnivorous food enthusiast.
  7. Nangyi Thoke: Nangyi Thoke is a popular Burmese rice noodle salad that is bursting with flavors. Rice noodles are tossed with a tangy dressing made from tamarind, fish sauce, and lime juice, along with a variety of ingredients such as shredded chicken, crispy bean fritters, and crunchy vegetables. This refreshing salad is a perfect light meal or snack on a hot day.

These are just a few examples of the many delicious street food dishes you can find in Burma. Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Yangon or wandering through the markets of Mandalay, be sure to indulge in the vibrant and diverse world of Burmese street food. From the rich flavors of Mohinga to the satisfying crunch of samosas, each dish tells a story and offers a unique glimpse into the culinary traditions of this beautiful country.


Mohinga: The National Dish of Burma

When it comes to Burmese cuisine, no dish represents the country’s culinary identity better than Mohinga. Considered the national dish of Burma, Mohinga is a flavorful and comforting fish and rice noodle soup that is a staple in the local street food scene.


The base of Mohinga is a rich and aromatic fish broth infused with an array of traditional herbs and spices. Lemongrass, ginger, shallots, and garlic lend their distinct flavors to the broth, creating a fragrant and flavorful base. The broth is simmered for hours to develop its depth of flavor and is then combined with rice noodles to create a hearty and satisfying bowl of soup.


What sets Mohinga apart is the combination of textures and toppings that accompany the soup. Crispy fritters made from chickpea flour, known as “gyaw” in Burmese, are a common addition to Mohinga. These fritters add a delightful crunch and depth of flavor to the dish. Additionally, boiled eggs, fresh herbs like cilantro and green onions, and a squeeze of lime juice are often added to enhance the overall taste.


Mohinga is traditionally enjoyed as a breakfast dish in Burma, but it is also commonly consumed throughout the day as a quick and satisfying snack. It is often sold from small food stalls and vendors who prepare the soup fresh each day to ensure its authenticity and flavors.


Not only is Mohinga incredibly delicious, but it also holds cultural significance in Burma. It brings people together, fostering a sense of community and shared experiences. It is a dish that connects generations, as families pass down their cherished recipes and techniques for making the perfect Mohinga.


When you take your first spoonful of Mohinga, you’ll be treated to a burst of flavors. The tangy and savory broth, combined with the soft and springy rice noodles, creates a harmonious balance. The toppings add layers of texture and complement the soup’s overall profile.


Whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Yangon or venturing into the local marketplaces, be sure to seek out a vendor who serves Mohinga. It is an essential part of the Burmese street food experience and a dish that will leave a lasting impression. So dive into a bowl of Mohinga, savor its complex flavors, and partake in the rich culinary heritage of Burma.


Shan Noodles: A Burmese Favorite

When it comes to Burmese street food, Shan noodles are a beloved and popular dish that you simply can’t miss. Originating from the Shan State in Burma, these noodles have become a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


Shan noodles are made from thick rice noodles that are stir-fried with a variety of savory ingredients. The noodles are typically cooked al dente to maintain their chewy texture and are then tossed in a flavorful sauce made from soybean paste, garlic, and chili flakes.


What sets Shan noodles apart is the vibrant combination of toppings that accompany the dish. The noodles are often served with shredded chicken, although variations with pork or tofu are also common. Toasted peanuts, crispy fried shallots, and fresh lime juice are added as garnishes, adding a delightful texture and tangy flavor to the dish.


One of the reasons why Shan noodles have become a favorite street food dish is their versatility. You can enjoy them on their own as a quick and satisfying snack, or pair them with a side of pickled mustard greens or wonton soup for a more substantial meal.


There’s something incredibly comforting about a plate of Shan noodles. The savory flavors of the sauce, combined with the fragrant garlic and chili, create a harmonious balance of taste. The toppings bring additional complexity, adding crunch, richness, and acidity.


When you’re in Burma, exploring the street food scene, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in a bowl of Shan noodles. You’ll find them in bustling night markets, roadside stalls, and even small restaurants. Each vendor may have their own special touch, so be sure to try them from different places to discover your favorite version.


Shan noodles not only offer a delicious culinary experience but also provide a glimpse into the diverse food culture of Burma. They are a product of the traditional Shan cuisine, which is known for its bold flavors and emphasis on fresh ingredients. By enjoying a plate of Shan noodles, you’re immersing yourself in the local culture and savoring a dish that has become a staple for both locals and visitors.


So when you find yourself wandering through the vibrant streets of Burma, keep an eye out for a vendor serving Shan noodles. Indulge in this Burmese favorite, and let its enticing combination of flavors and textures transport you to a world of unparalleled culinary delight.


Laphet Thoke: Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad

When it comes to unique and flavorful dishes in Burmese cuisine, Laphet Thoke, also known as Burmese fermented tea leaf salad, stands out as a must-try delicacy. This vibrant and refreshing salad holds a special place in Burmese culinary traditions and is a popular street food treat.


The star ingredient of Laphet Thoke is the fermented tea leaves, which are harvested from tea plantations and undergo a fermentation process that can take several months. The leaves are then mixed with various ingredients to create a harmonious balance of flavors and textures.


The base of the salad typically includes diced tomatoes, freshly shredded cabbage, and crunchy roasted peanuts. The fermented tea leaves are added along with additional ingredients like crispy fried garlic, toasted sesame seeds, and roasted split yellow peas. These elements combine to create a complex and multi-dimensional taste experience.


One of the unique aspects of Laphet Thoke is the way it is traditionally eaten. Rather than being tossed together in advance, the salad is often served deconstructed. Diners can create their own individual bites, combining different ingredients in each mouthful to suit their personal taste preferences.


When you take your first bite of Laphet Thoke, you’ll experience a burst of flavors. The fermented tea leaves offer a slightly tangy and earthy taste, complemented by the freshness of the diced tomatoes and the crunchiness of the shredded cabbage. The roasted peanuts add a rich nuttiness, while the crispy fried garlic brings a delightful aroma and subtle garlic flavor.


Besides its delicious taste, Laphet Thoke is also known for its potential health benefits. Fermented tea leaves are high in antioxidants and are believed to aid digestion and provide a natural energy boost. It’s no wonder that the Burmese have been enjoying this salad for generations.


As you explore the bustling streets of Burma, keep an eye out for a vendor offering Laphet Thoke. You’re likely to find it at local markets or as a side dish at small food stalls. Each vendor may have their own twist on the recipe, so it’s worth trying Laphet Thoke from different places to savor the subtle variations.


Laphet Thoke showcases the rich culinary heritage of Burma and is a testament to the creativity and flavors that can be discovered in its street food scene. So be sure to embark on this flavor-packed adventure and savor the unique delights of Laphet Thoke.


Samosas: A Taste of Indian Influence in Burmese Street Food

When exploring the street food scene in Burma, you’ll notice the unmistakable presence of samosas, a delicious snack that reflects the Indian influence on Burmese cuisine. These deep-fried pastries filled with savory goodness have become a popular street food item across the country.


The origins of samosas can be traced back to India, but they have found a special place in the hearts and taste buds of the Burmese people. These golden, triangular pastries are filled with a flavorful mixture of spiced potatoes, peas, and often accompanied by minced meat variations.


What makes Burmese samosas unique is the combination of flavors and seasonings used in the filling. The mix of aromatic spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, adds a vibrant and satisfying taste. The filling is then wrapped in a thin layer of dough, which is deep-fried to perfection, creating a crispy and flaky shell.


Samosas are typically served as a grab-and-go snack from street food vendors and can be enjoyed on their own or with a side of tangy tamarind chutney or spicy chili sauce. The delightful combination of crispy pastry and savory filling makes them a favorite choice for both locals and tourists seeking a quick and satisfying bite.


While samosas have their roots in Indian cuisine, the Burmese have given them their unique twist, incorporating local flavors and ingredients. This fusion of cultures can be seen in the popularity and availability of samosas in Burmese street food stalls.


As you stroll through the streets of Burma, don’t be surprised to find vendors prominently displaying trays of freshly fried samosas. The aroma alone will entice you to take a bite and experience the explosion of flavors and textures.


Whether you’re wandering through the vibrant night markets of Yangon or exploring the local neighborhoods, make it a point to try Burmese samosas. Bite into the crispy shell and savor the spiced potato filling, and you’ll understand why these delightful pastries have become a beloved and integral part of the Burmese street food scene.


Burma’s samosas are not just a delicious snack; they highlight the cultural exchange and culinary diversity found in the country’s street food. So embrace the Indian influence on Burmese cuisine and indulge in the flavorsome samosas that have become a symbol of the vibrant street food culture in Burma.


Battered Fried Foods: A Crispy Delight

When it comes to indulging in crispy and satisfying street food in Burma, battered fried foods are a true delight. Whether you’re wandering through bustling night markets or exploring the local street stalls, you’ll find a variety of delectable treats that have been dipped in a flavorful batter and fried to perfection.


The beauty of battered fried foods lies in their versatility. From crispy tofu and vegetables to succulent meats and seafood, there are endless options to choose from. One popular example is “pwe kyaung,” deep-fried spring rolls filled with a mixture of vegetables, noodles, and sometimes minced meat. These golden parcels offer a delightful crunch and a burst of flavors in every bite.


Another popular battered fried treat is “emporium pauk,” stuffed fried bread. These fluffy pockets are filled with a savory mixture of spiced chicken or pork, vegetables, and herbs. The bread is then coated in a light batter and deep-fried until golden brown. The contrasting textures of the crispy coating and the soft filling make it a favorite street food snack.


Battered fried foods are not limited to savory options. Sweet treats like “kyauk kyaw,” battered and fried glutinous rice cakes, are also popular. These little morsels are lightly sweetened and often sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. They provide a delightful combination of textures, with a crispy outer layer and a chewy interior.


When it comes to enjoying battered fried foods, locals usually pair them with tangy and spicy dipping sauces. These sauces enhance the overall flavors and provide a wonderful contrast to the crispy exterior.


As you explore the street food scene in Burma, you’ll undoubtedly come across vendors frying up a range of battered delights. The aroma of sizzling oil and the sight of golden-brown snacks will tempt your taste buds. Don’t resist the temptation—indulge in these crispy delights and experience the joy of biting into a perfectly fried treat.


Battered fried foods in Burma are more than just a crispy snack; they represent the creativity and culinary diversity found in the country’s street food. So whether you prefer the savory goodness of spring rolls, the comforting warmth of stuffed fried bread, or the delightful sweetness of fried rice cakes, dive into the world of battered fried foods and savor the irresistible combination of crunch and flavor.


Grilled Skewers: A Meat Lover’s Paradise

For meat lovers exploring the street food scene in Burma, grilled skewers are a true paradise. The tantalizing aroma of marinated meats sizzling on hot grills will entice you to indulge in these flavorful and succulent delights.


Burma’s grilled skewers offer a range of options to satisfy every carnivorous craving. From marinated chicken and beef to tender pork and flavorful lamb, there is a skewer to suit every taste. The meats are typically cut into bite-sized pieces and then skewered before being grilled over open flames.


What sets Burmese grilled skewers apart is the variety of marinades and seasonings used. Local spices such as garlic, ginger, lemongrass, and turmeric add depth and fragrance to the meats. Some vendors also offer a spicy chili marinade for those who crave a fiery kick.


As the skewers cook, the meats develop a charred and smoky exterior while remaining juicy and tender on the inside. The combination of caramelized flavors and succulent meats makes each bite a mouthwatering experience.


Grilled skewers are more than just meat on a stick; they are a social experience. Street food stalls often have small plastic tables and chairs where locals and visitors can gather, share skewers, and enjoy lively conversations. It’s a chance to connect with fellow food enthusiasts and immerse yourself in the vibrant street food culture.


Pair your grilled skewers with some dipping sauces for added flavor. A tangy tamarind-based sauce or a spicy chili sauce will enhance the richness of the grilled meats and provide a refreshing contrast.


As you roam the streets of Burma, keep an eye out for vendors with grills showcasing an array of delectable skewers. Whether it’s in a bustling night market or a local neighborhood, the sight and smell of these grilled delights will draw you in. Take your pick from the selection available, grab a skewer, and revel in the satisfaction of sinking your teeth into perfectly grilled meats.


Burma’s grilled skewers are a testament to the love for meat and expert grilling techniques. They embody the passion and dedication of street food vendors who strive to offer delectable and memorable culinary experiences to their customers.


So, for all the meat lovers out there, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the meaty paradise of Burmese grilled skewers. Get ready to satiate your cravings and experience a flavor-packed journey that will leave you wanting more.


Nangyi Thoke: Burmese Rice Noodle Salad

When it comes to refreshing and vibrant dishes in the Burmese street food scene, Nangyi Thoke, a traditional Burmese rice noodle salad, is a must-try. This delightful salad offers a burst of flavors and textures, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


Nangyi Thoke features thin rice noodles that are cooked to perfection and tossed in a tangy dressing. The dressing typically consists of ingredients like tamarind pulp, fish sauce, lime juice, and sometimes a hint of chili. The balance between sweet, sour, and savory flavors creates a harmonious taste that is both refreshing and satisfying.


In addition to the dressing, Nangyi Thoke is packed with a variety of ingredients that provide layers of taste and texture. Shredded chicken or pork, crisp fried bean fritters, crunchy bean sprouts, and sliced cucumbers are commonly added to the salad, offering a combination of protein, crunch, and freshness. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds or crushed peanuts adds a nutty richness.


What sets Nangyi Thoke apart is the interactive way it is enjoyed. Instead of tossing the ingredients together, the salad is typically served with the noodles, toppings, and dressing separated. Diners have the opportunity to personalize their serving by adding the desired amount of dressing and toppings. This allows each person to customize the flavors to their liking and create their perfect bite.


Nangyi Thoke is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed as a light meal or a refreshing snack on a hot day. It provides a medley of flavors and textures in each mouthful, with the tangy dressing cutting through the richness of the toppings.


While exploring the streets of Burma, keep an eye out for vendors specializing in Nangyi Thoke. You’ll often find them at local markets or street stalls, eagerly preparing and serving this beloved salad to customers. The vibrant colors and aromas will entice you to experience the explosion of flavors found in every forkful.


Nangyi Thoke perfectly encapsulates the essence of Burmese cuisine by combining fresh ingredients, bold flavors, and interactive dining. It allows you to immerse yourself in the culinary traditions of Burma and enjoy a satisfying and refreshing salad that will leave you craving for more.


So, when you’re ready for a burst of flavor and a taste of Burmese street food, seek out Nangyi Thoke. Be prepared to create your own culinary masterpiece and relish the vibrant flavors and textures that make this dish an extraordinary delight.



Exploring the street food culture in Burma is an adventure for the senses. From the vibrant markets to the roadside stalls, the delectable dishes and unique flavors found in Burmese street food will leave you with lasting memories.


Throughout this journey, we have delved into the diverse and enticing world of Burmese street food. From the iconic national dish of Mohinga to the savory Shan noodles, the tangy Laphet Thoke, the crispy samosas, the delightful battered fried foods, the succulent grilled skewers, and the refreshing Nangyi Thoke, each dish tells a story and offers a distinct gastronomic experience.


Burmese street food goes beyond just satisfying hunger; it provides an intimate connection to the local culture and traditions. It brings people together, fostering a sense of community and offering opportunities to interact with friendly vendors and fellow food enthusiasts. It allows you to truly immerse yourself in the heart and soul of the country.


Whether you’re a foodie seeking new culinary adventures or simply looking for a quick and tasty meal, exploring the street food scene in Burma will undoubtedly be a memorable and rewarding experience. It will introduce you to unique flavors, unfamiliar ingredients, and diverse cooking styles that showcase the richness of Burmese cuisine.


As you wander through the bustling streets and vibrant markets, be sure to embrace the opportunity to try a variety of dishes, engage with local vendors, and savor the incredible flavors of Burmese street food. Each bite will transport you to a world of enticing aromas, vibrant colors, and mouthwatering tastes.


So, let your taste buds be your guide as you embark on a culinary adventure through the lively streets of Burma. Discover the hidden gems, delight in the unexpected flavors, and create memories that will have you craving the incredible street food of Burma long after your journey has ended.