Walking along the streets of Yangon, or indeed any other city or town in Myanmar, you will be drawn to the smells and sounds of food being cooked and sold, sellers calling out and customers ordering a vast variety of street food. From sweet snacks to spicy pick-me-ups to full meals, there is always something cheap and delicious to try. To embrace your adventurous side and delve into the world of Myanmar street food from a tiny, plastic street-side stool, is to dive deeper into Myanmar culture and gain a real taste of daily life of local people. Here is a brief introduction to common street food you should try while in town.
Fried Crickets (Payit Kyaw)
Fried crickets are a kind of snack and though many foreigners think they are cockroaches, they are not.
They are a seasonal insect so sometimes they can’t easily be bought. The winter season is cricket season although this year the prices are still high. It may look awful—some locals even dare not try it—but the taste is amazing. It tastes rich and crunchy and it’s really perfect with beer. The price per cricket is K100 and you can see the vendors around the downtown area and on 19th Street.
The popular street breakfast paratha (pronounced in Burmese at palatha) is a great street food worth trying.
It is made from fried dough and often has a crispy texture with a slightly sweet inner filling of mashed boiled peas. Some people serve paratha with chicken curry when they have a donation ceremony at their home. It can also be ordered at every tea shop while some street vendors specialize in only varieties of paratha. The price is around K500 for paratha with boiled peas and K200 for plain paratha.
Myanmar Pancake (Bein Mont)
Bein mont – also known as ‘Myanmar street pancake’ – is chewy, crispy, nutty and very easy to order as a take-away snack. There are two different types – brown and white pancakes. Both of them are made of rice flour but the brown cakes are mixed with jaggery (palm sugar) so it tastes sweet and is topped with coconut slices, nuts and white poppy seeds. The white pancakes are suitable for those who don’t like sweet food and are topped with boiled peas and onion. Some people eat bein mont as breakfast and some as a tea time snack. You can find them for sale along many streets in Yangon and elsewhere. The prices vary from vendor to vendor ranging from K200 to K500 each.
Pork Sticks (Wethar Doke Htoe)
Another popular street food in Yangon, and my all-time favorite, is wethar doke htoe. Though popular among locals, many foreigners dare not try it. The various parts of the pig is cut into small pieces and skewered – including internal organs like liver, intestines, kidneys, spleen, heart, lungs, tongue, meat, skin and cartilage. Diners sit on small stools around the vendor and take soup from a larger pot of broth in the middle. If you dare to try it once, just walk around downtown and you’ll see many vendors. It’s cheap too at K100 per stick.
Shwe Yin Aye
Myanmar has another tea-time street food dessert called shwe yin aye. Ladled from a large pot, you will be given a plastic cup of sweet liquid and various solid elements inside. They usually include steamed sticky rice, jelly, coconut milk, sugar, bread and ice. It tastes sweet because of the coconut milk yet it’s not overly sweet. Shwe yin aye is popular dessert during Thingyan (Myanmar water festival). People make donations of it during the New Year celebrations handing a cup to everyone passing on the street. Apart from holiday time, you can easily see stationary and walking street vendors selling it especially in the downtown area for about K700 per cup.
19th Street Barbecue
19th Street is famous for cheap beers and Myanmar-Chinese barbecue. The street starts to get busy around 4pm when vendors and beer stations start to display their BBQ items. Most are skewers of pork, chicken, fish, meatballs, tofu, ribs, squid and prawns as well as vegetables like mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, asparagus and so on. Customers can take a basket and choose as many skewers as they wish. Staff then season and barbeque the skewers and serve them to your street-side table along with some sour and spicy dipping sauce. It goes particularly well with a cold draught beer in the evening. The prices of skewers range from K500 to K4,000.
You will get the smell of the delicious grilled river fish before you even see it. In Yangon, the Hledan area is the most popular place to go for street-side grilled fish shops. The whole fish is rubbed with a marinade of red chili paste and some extra spices. It may be grilled dry or cooked by the marlar curry method. The shop will provide a delicious dipping sauce to accompany it. The prices are different from shop to shop varying from K4,000 to K6,000.