Yangon greeted us with 40 degree heat, dust and beeping horns. After a mad bus ride so hot our shoes started melting to the floor and a wander around downtown, we jumped on the chance to eat street food now we were in South East Asia proper. Three days later, and in the middle of co-leading a Sunday Church service with our friends who run a pre-school and orphanage in Yangon, Sophie had her first (hopefully the last? Nope.) bout of traveller’s food poisoning.
We took a break from Yangon to explore southern Myanmar for a week (more on that soon) and on our return decided to do a little more research into our food choices. Here’s our recommendations of where to eat if you ever visit Myanmar’s biggest, colourful, crazy city.
Shan state lies in the north of Myanmar, and their local dish has become a national favourite – think Myanmar’s version of Pad Thai. The basic recipe is made with flat rice noodles, meat boiled with ginger, garlic and fish sauce, mixed with smashed peanuts and sesame seeds and topped with crunchy onions. Many variations spring from this core recipe and are served hot or cold. 999 Shan Noodle Shop on 34th Street is a local and traveller favourite, with chatty, smiley staff serving consistently tasty food.
On the second floor of 77- 79 Pansodan Street hides Rangoon Tea House, a modern, self-aware take on a colonial tea house. RTH’s customers are expats and the newly rich and young of Yangon, allowing us a peek into a side of the city we’d only see once more at Pansodan Gallery on Tuesday evening. Although their prices reflect this compared to the rest of the food we ate in Myanmar, it was still within budget for us. RTH’s menu focuses on adding a creative twist to traditional Myanmar dishes, using locally sourced ingredients, though we suspected from both their branding and decor that RTH’s founder had also spent time in London (we were right). Everything we tried was absolutely delicious – should you visit, the Daggertooth mohinga, aubergine curry and chocolate samosa are a must try.
Cashew bread, pineapple buns, raspberry and almond twists. The amount of time we’d gone without baked treats may have been the reason these tasted so good, but they were moreish, sticky and just the right amount of sweet.
Nilar’s is always bustling with Yangon dwellers and visitors alike. Serving the best buttery, spicy, juicy biryani we’ve ever tasted at unbelievably low prices, Nilar’s often runs out of their signature dish in the evening so make sure you get there quick. A notable mention goes to their mango and pineapple lassi, too. This is the kind of place where the staff remember you after just few visits, and then eagerly suggest new things for you to try each time.
Another gem on Pansodan Street, we stopped here for the happy hour before dropping in on the fabled Pansodan Gallery’s Tuesday night gathering. Much of Phayre’s allure lies in it’s clean modern aesthetic, chilled vibe and excellent wifi speed, but we soon found their food was worth shouting about too. It’s okay to crave Western food when completely overwhelmed by a total lack of recognition, and Phayre’s sandwiches and salty-spicy-seasoned chips do just the trick. Make sure you try their take on a Night In Old Mandalay cocktail, too.