Burmese Food: A Culinary Travel Guide

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure and privacy policy for more information.

Last Updated on November 6, 2020 by Audrey Scott

What is Burmese food? Which Burmese dishes should you seek out and what sort of flavors and spices might you find when you visit Burma (Myanmar)? This Burmese Food Guide provides shares our favorite Burmese dishes, street food, snacks, and curries that you'll find in Burma (Myanmar).

Burmese Street Food, Streetside Soup
Streetside soup in Rangoon.

During our month-long visit to Burma (Myanmar), we explored Burmese food to the fullest — frequenting street food stands, eating in restaurants, even enjoying a few home-cooked meals at local homes. We quickly appreciated Burmese cuisine for the beauty of what it is: an Asian cuisine fused from Southeast Asian, Chinese and Indian influences.

Armed with that perspective, we found Burmese food a pleasure. Street food was varied, accessible and inexpensive. Restaurants were similarly enjoyable. And we were even fortunate to be invited into homes in towns and villages for a few home-cooked meals.

This Burmese Food Guide shares our favorite dishes and eating experiences from our travels around Burma (Myanmar).

Note: In case you're wondering, we never got sick eating Burmese food (here are some tips on how to eat local and stay healthy). Although we ate food on trains, in street stalls and in markets, we almost always ate vegetarian. In these environments, eating meat can be dicey. We avoid it if we have any doubts.

Top 15 Burmese Dishes

1. Mohinga (or mohinka)

Burmese Food, Mohinga Soup
A bowl of mohinga for breakfast.

The unofficial national dish of rice vermicelli in a fish-based broth of onions, garlic, ginger, and lemon grass – all topped with sliced banana blossom, boiled eggs and fritters (akyaw). Sounds like a strange choice for breakfast, doesn't it? But after almost a month of fried egg breakfasts, this soup provided a welcome change.

The best: at the family-run roadside stand in Meikthila near the bus stop to Bagan.

2. Chapatis and Curry in Mandalay

Burmese Food, Chapatis in Mandalay
Chapati line in Mandalay.

This chapati stand needs no name; everyone in Mandalay knows it. It’s difficult to decide which facet of the chapati production line impresses the most: the women rolling the dough or the guys tossing and frying the chapatis. And the taste is no slouch either.

To give your chapati some company, opt for a dose of meat or veg curry from giant cauldrons. The veg curry and daal were both tasty – and bottomless. Between dips, scoops and swabs, enjoy life as it swirls on the street and tables around you.

Location: Mandalay, 82nd and 27th Streets.

3. Barbecue Street in Rangoon (Yangon)

Burmese Food, Street barbecue
Grilled okra and broccoli at Rangoon's barbecue street.

Although barbecue usually implies meat, we went all vegetarian. Herbivores and carnivores alike will find an endless choice. Opt for food that looks fresh and select your desired atmosphere. The grilled okra, broccoli, mushrooms, and tofu all rocked, particularly when washed down with a cold draft beer.

Location: Rangoon's Chinatown between Mahabandoola and Anawrahta Streets.

4. Samosas

Burmese Street Food Stand
All different varieties of samosas on the streets of Rangoon.

Anywhere on the street, particularly in Rangoon / Yangon. Sample them on the street corner, on the train platform, in the circle train. Try 'em, try 'em often. Some even feature hints of cinnamon and star anise.

Try also the samosa soups (samusa thouk), where samosas are scissored into a light broth and topped with fresh herbs, onions and greens.

5. Burmese thali.

Burmese Food, Curries and Thali
Bus station thali. Pretty darn good.

Bus journeys in Burma often take twice as long as they should. As a consolation, your bus will usually stop along the way at a roadside restaurant or two dishing out vast multi-course thalis (rice, soup, vegetables, curry, chutneys) that run $1.00-2.00 for all you can eat. Quality varies.

We enjoyed our best experience on the way from Meikthila to Bagan.

Roadside Restaurant Rule of Thumb: if the food looks fresh, go for it. If the food looks tired, give it a pass.

READ MORE: Visiting Burma: How To Do It Responsibly

6. Flan and coffee near Sule Pagoda (Rangoon)

Burmese Food, Flan
Who knew Burmese flan could be so good?

Wake up, walk down the street, and smell the coffee. Literally. We followed a strong coffee smell down the street to Let Ywe Sin, a hole-in-the-wall place that offers a lively local crowd, delicious coffee and flan. Audrey, not normally a fan of flan, is now a convert. Even better, a dish of flan and two coffees runs $0.80.

Location: 128 Sule Paya Road (a few doors down from Aroma Cafe and Castle Internet Café) in Rangoon (Yangon).

7. Fish with green chili curry

Does the thought of green chili make your belly boil? If so, give this dish a try. It was surprisingly light – a fish filet high on taste and low on heat. And the best refined fish we tasted during our travels in Burma. Price was reasonable, too. For a companion dish, try the pumpkin curry.

Location: Unique Superb Restaurant at Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake).

8. Kausuetho (khow suey)

Burmese Food, Spicy Noodles
Kausuetho, spicy noodle goodness.

Burmese yellow rice noodles turned with an Indian-slanted spice masala, herbs and a squeeze of lemon juice (or vinegar). As our vendor prepared the dish with her bare hands, we wondered whether our stomachs would abide it. The taste: terrific. Toilet emergency factor (TEF): none. Location: Bago. From the main street hotel strip, cross the bridge and turn left into the local market. Look for the piles of the bright yellow noodles near the entrance.

9. Burmese curries for lunch near Teak Monastery (Mandalay)

Burmese Curries
A tasty Burmese lunch selection across from the Teak Monastery.

The food was decent, but the women who work here made the experience.They start out shy, giggling and skeptical. Then they end up like this.

Oh, and you get an all-you-can-eat (they will be shoveling you full) Burmese thali featuring mung beans, green beans and various vegetarian stews sided with hot sauce. We forgot to ask what the dishes were named because we enjoyed the company too much. Location and cost: Down the street from Teak Monastery in Mandalay, 700 kyats (less than $1).

READ MORE: Burma’s Golden Kite: Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Rangoon

10. Nepalese food and chutneys

Burma’s diversity also translates into a variety of available ethnic restaurants. No matter what you order – stuffed paratha (stuffed flat bread), curry, or rice, be sure to feast your eyes and mouth all over the accompanying chutneys.

Location: The Everest Café in Kalaw takes the prize for variety and quality of chutneys: radish, hot pepper, cabbage, mango pickle and tomato salsa. Also try the appropriately named Nepalese Restaurant in Mandalay (on 81st Street between 26th/27th) – great methi paratha (potato and fenugreek stuffed flat bread) and lassi.

11. Lahpet thouk (Tea Leaf Salad)

Burmese Tea Salad
A plate of Burmese flavors, including Lahpet thouk, at Green Elephant.

A salad of pickled tea leaves served with various crunchy bits and sauces (fried peas, peanuts and garlic; toasted sesame, fresh garlic, tomato, green chili, crushed dried shrimps, preserved ginger) and dressed with peanut oil, fish sauce and lime. Unique and delicious.

Location: Green Elephant Restaurant in Mandalay (27th and 6th Streets).

12. Trekking food

Trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake with Sam’s treks, get a guide (ours was named Alex) and enjoy home made food three times a day. Dishes might include pumpkin and ginger soup, tomato slaw with lime juice and peanuts, pumpkin curry, and braised okra with sesame. Bonus treats include spicy salsa from the local village.

13. Guacamole and “Special Eggplant”

Burmese Food, Eggplant Salad
Roasted eggplant salad and guacamole at Moon Restaurant in Bagan.

Guacamole in Burma? You better believe it. An American tourist taught the cooks at a local vegetarian restaurant how to churn out delicious guac with baked pappadums (paper-thin bread).

For a bit more local authentic go for the candi mi po tho, a dish featuring roasted eggplant stir fried with spring onions, peanuts, garlic, sesame seeds and a dash of hot pepper. We returned and enjoyed a private lesson on how to make this flavorful dish.

Location: Moon Vegetarian Restaurant just inside the gates of Old Bagan, north of Ananda temple.

14. Hinto (or, Hnyin htoe)

A hearty favorite in the Burmese countryside. One night in the Burmese hills of Shan State, just after we brushed our teeth (a non-trivial production) and settled into bed, our host family delivered late night parcels of onion, leek, rice, and cabbage steamed in a banana leaf. Hnyin htoe tastes even better after the flavors have settled overnight and are fried up in the morning with turmeric and chili.

15. Gyin thouk

Grated ginger salad with sesame seeds. Our best experience came at the hands of the wife of a Burmese man who invited us to his house in New Bagan.

READ MORE: Rangoon Reflections

More Burmese Food Recommendations

Best Breakfast

Burmese Food, Breakfast
An amazing breakfast at Myanmar Beauty Guesthouse.

It’s almost worth getting off the bus in Toungoo and staying overnight at Myanmar Beauty Guesthouse just to experience the world's most abundant breakfast. Vast, varied, and delicious, it may include fresh fruit from the garden, fried chapati (crispy, blistered, and topped with boiled lentils/peas), eggs, samosas, fresh locally-grown coffee…and just about anything else you might desire.

Most Interesting Street Snack

Burmese Snacks
Smoked bat vendors. Bagan, Burma.

Bat Skewers – roasted, toasted, crispy, crunchy, meat on the bone. Full disclosure: we never tried them. The woman selling them claimed they were very tasty, but they didn't look particularly meaty or enticing.

Best Beer

Stick with Mandalay Red (choose it over Mandalay Blue). You’ll learn early that not all beers are created equal. Myanmar Beer is OK too, particularly on draft.

Best Western Meal

Pizza and Tagliatelle Bolognese at Star Flower Restaurant in Nyaungshwe (Inle Lake). An Italian tourist from Bologna supposedly taught a couple of Burmese brothers how to cook Italian food. The results are impressive and remarkably authentic, especially considering you're in Burma and some of the ingredients can be difficult to come by.

About Daniel Noll
Travel and life evangelist. Writer, speaker, storyteller and consultant. Connecting people to experiences that will change their lives. Originally from the U.S. Daniel has lived abroad since 2001 and most recently has been on the road since 2006. When he's not writing for the blog you can keep up with his adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about him on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

41 thoughts on “Burmese Food: A Culinary Travel Guide”

  1. Lovely images they are. When I saw the first pic, the first think I thought was – how was the light that day, that you made the picture so well that I can feel the third dimension like food popping up right on my screen. Flan and coffee is equally nice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. No fair! Can’t you just shove some of that beautiful food through the screen, instead of taunting me like that?!

    Really nice photos.

  3. That looks scrumptious. We have a few good Burmese place in the city, but nothing compares to the local cuisine. The set-up, presentation, and flavors.

  4. Wow! Everything looks amazing. A beautiful example of fusion that has developed its own identity. My favorite is the Chapatis – sounds wonderful. I love flan. The flan-like dessert (pudim) we have here in Brazil is so great, that one looks like it might surpass it. Yum!

  5. Aha! Many familiar scenes above. I could really go for a bowl of mohinga right now. And you beat me to the guac–I’ve been planning to post something on the great guacamole we had for breakfast, prepared as other Burmese salads are. I must try it at home when I get back to my kitchen!

  6. Thanks everyone. As for the lighting in these shots, it must have been the morning light. I’m not always up to see it, but when I am, I always seem to be richly rewarded.

    I could go for some Burmese flan right about now.

  7. Wow, what an amazing post! I love the photos and the food I miss! Breakfast was always one of my favorite meals, but only in Burma and I would get up at the crack of dawn just to sample a different treat every morning. So different from cornflakes and milk!

    I love that coffee shop you mentioned as well, they also have great semolina cake with carmelized coconut on top. Fantastic and across the street from there is where they make famous hand-tossed Burmese salads.

    Please show your support for the Burmese by signing this petition to drop the sanctions on Burma. Unfortunately we are not living in an ideal world and the sanctions have not helped the situation at all. The first anniversary of Cyclone Nargis is fast approaching and the international community needs to show support.


  8. @hellaD: Savory breakfasts (soups, breads, beans, etc.) are a surprise treat in Southeast Asia.

    That coffee shop is incredible. We probably should have branched out from the flan, but we simply couldn’t change our focus. Next time, we’ll try the semolina cake with carmelized coconut (in Burma!…amazing). And hand-tossed Burmese salads? I’m making this comment just before lunch…dangerous timing.

    Thanks for the information on dropping the sanctions.

  9. Thanks for sharing your pictures.
    Did you guys ever tried coconut noodle soup (own no kao soi), similar to Kao Soi found in Chaing Mai? That along with mokhinga and let thoke (kaosuethoke) are my favorite. Just curious, you were never once sick from eating while traveling in Burma?

  10. @Sam: We sampled so many different kinds of soups throughout Burma and Southeast Asia, that it’s possible that we had own no kao soi. But we don’t recall it specifically.

    And, no, we were never sick from eating while traveling in Burma. And we ate on the street and rather adventurously while we were there.

  11. i love asian food but have recently become allergic to peanuts? do you think this will be a problem in burma? does anyone know how to say “i cannot eat peanuts (or peanut oil)” in burmese? thanks so much for the help. i’m so excited about my trip!!!

  12. @amy: Being allergic to peanuts while traveling in Burma is not ideal, obviously. But if memory serves, it’s not the end of the world and not nearly as difficult as it might be in Thailand. Burmese cuisine is not as peanut heavy, but they are still present. Good thing is that you’ll have the more Indian and Chinese sides of the Burmese table to rely on.

    I don’t know off-hand how to say “I cannot eat peanuts…” in Burmese. However, someone at your guest house (in Rangoon / Yangon, probably) should be able to tell you how to say it and also be able to write it down on a piece of paper for you. That will help immensely.

    Have a great trip. Let us know how it goes — the trip and your avoidance of peanut-based foods in Burma!

  13. @Myat: Burmese food is fun! We really enjoyed exploring the cuisine while traveling in Burma.

    A good home-cooked Burmese meal sounds absolutely great right about now. Glad you found us and left a comment.

  14. Hi Daniel,
    Thank you so much for promoting our Burmese food and sharing your experiences. I am glad that you have enjoyed the food so much. Wish you find a good Burmese friend to invite you for home cooked- authentic flavor meals to enjoy! Greeting from Canada.

  15. @Sandra: We are very excited for you! The people in Burma are lovely (so is their food, of course). The more you explore and interact with Burmese people on the street, the higher the likelihood that you will be invited back home for tea, sky beer, or a meal. Any questions about traveling to Burma, just let us know.

  16. We are travelling to Burma very shortly and we are even more excited after reading your piece. Can’t wait to try all the lovely food and meet the people and really hope we get an invite to dinner like you.

  17. Hi,
    I just returned from Myanmar where I traveled all around the country. One of my favorite “finds” was at a street vendor in Yangon. It was a delicious sweet fritter made with sticky rice flour , palm sugar, and sesame seeds (I think there was also coconut milk in the batter. She would scoop up a ladle of batter and put it in a small wok filled with cooking oil. I did not get the Burmese name but she told my guide that they were more popularly called “Barbie Cakes.” They were puffed up in the middle and were sooooo good! Have you come across these little gems? I would love to get the recipe and have searched the internet but have had no luck in finding anything remotely similar. Can you shed some light on this for me. I would be very grateful. Thanks!

  18. @Ken: I believe we have, but I’ve never heard them called Barbie Cakes. Love that name. Maybe you are looking for the Burmese version of Halawa (or halwa or halva)? I’d do a search for recipes for that. Or, and I’m less confident of this: mont pyar thalet or bein mont, khauk mont.

  19. Travelling to Burma next week and have always been under the impression the food is a bit rough and ready. You certainly make it look a whole lot better. Excited about the Indian influences in the area, I’m a sucker for curries and flat breads. Thanks for this.

  20. @Allan: Burmese food isn’t as well known as Thai or Chinese foods (its neighbors), but there’s certainly lots of great soups, curries and other dishes to try. Hope you have a great trip and eat well!!

  21. Looks like an amazing place with really interesting food. Thanks so much for sharing. Found another article that I really found interesting, it’s all about Myanmar and may be of interest to fellow South East Asia travellers.

    • These were taken with either a Nikon D70 or Canon EX-V8. Nowadays, our photos are taken with the iPhone 4s, Nikon D7100 or Canon s95.

  22. going to Myanmar next month, this post got me so excited! I have to say though, what shocked me the most was freakin’ FLAN and GUACAMOLE in Burma?! I am so excited, since I haven’t even been to Latin America in a while! 😀 !!

    -Maria Alexandra

    • Yes, you read that correctly. Flan and guacamole in Burma. Plus all the more traditional Burmese food favorites. Not sure if those two places are still there, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Especially the flan. Eat well and let us know how it is!

  23. wow amazing post!
    Love them all! My favourite is probably Mohinga!
    I live in Yangon and will definitely go and try the Burmese flan from Sule Paya road. Smoked bat…not calling me but I guess we should try…? Have you?
    I have travelled all over Myanmar cooking with local families and had an amazing experience. Love your article. Delicious!

    • Thanks, Juan. Let us know about the flan in Yangon. Am hoping it’s still there. Didn’t try the particular bat dish we photographed, but imagine that in some of our other Myanmar street food adventures, we might have sampled it unknowingly.

    • Thanks, Rose. Burmese cuisine definitely benefits from Myanmar’s location as a bit of geographic and ethnic crossroads. We’ve made different versions of Burmese pumpkin curry. Very tasty. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  24. During my travels through South East Asia, I found the Burmese cuisine sadly lacking. The more touristy northern circle was fine, but the further south we went the worse it got and in Dawei it was downright awful! I’m not a big foodie but boy was I happy to get back to Thailand for some decent grub. I clearly missed a whole world of dishes, as the items in your post look yummy!

    • Jeanne, it hard to compete with Thai food 🙂 That said, most of out time in Myanmar was in the northern part of the country so perhaps the southern region doesn’t have the same flavors, spices and diversity. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck on your next visit!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.