The country of Myanmar, traditionally known as Burma, mingles many cultures of Southeast Asia in its dance, music, clothing and most especially food. Cuisine plays a central role in Myanmar life, and as in other coastal cultures in Southeast Asia relies heavily on seafood.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are widely used in Myanmar cuisine, and a plethora of different plants are available. Myanmar’s location allows its people to draw from the fruits and vegetables of China, India and Thailand. Tropical fruits such as jackfruit, guava, durian and lychee are used as desserts, salads and ingredients in entrees. Many fruits have also been imported from the West, and strawberries and cherries are both popular in Myanmar cooking. One of the most popular vegetables in Myanmar is jengkol, a legume that is cooked and used in most curries.
Beef is completely eschewed by Buddhists in Myanmar, who revere the cow as a sacred animal. As a result, it is rarely seen in Myanmar cooking. Pork has a more nuanced place in the national cuisine. Although it forms a cornerstone of most traditional dishes, neither the country’s Muslim population nor Buddhists who worship the spirit deities known as nats will eat it. Chicken is widely used, especially among devout nat-worshippers and Muslims. As in many Southeast Asian countries, fish and seafood also play an integral role. Fish paste, or ngapi, is used in nearly everything – in all kinds of dishes and also as a condiment and as a base for soups and curries.
Indian dishes such as chapatti and samosa are very popular in Myanmar, often integrating regional dipping sauces. Chinese influence has led to popular dishes such as san byohk, a rice porridge with flavoring, and htamin jaw, a classic fried rice with peas and either bean curd or meat. Mohinga is one of the most well-known national dishes, consisting of fish soup with rice noodles, often served with fritters of some sort. Coconut milk curries, such as ohn no khao swè, a curried chicken and wheat noodle soup, are also common.