Name: Marc Shortt
Hometown: Yangon via Norfolk, England
Job: Food Tour Co-ordinator at Sa Ba Street Food Tours
In this issue of The Talk, we catch up with Marc Shortt from Sa Ba Street Food Tours to give us a flavour of his work introducing travellers to the bountiful spread of Yangon’s incredible street food culture.
Why did you establish Sa Ba Street Food Tours?
Sa Ba Street Food Tours began because we felt too many people were coming to Yangon and missing out on the delicious and interesting local foods that exist here. It’s hard to know where to begin with some of the dishes and vendors, the language barrier can be an issue plus many people are worried about getting ill from the local food.
We love to share about this culinary side of Yangon, so using my experience as a chef and my team’s knowledge of what’s cooking in Yangon, we introduce safe, tasty local food and places that people wouldn’t usually visit on their own.
What kind of customers do you get?
Our customers are good people to be around, food lovers and the culinary and culturally curious who come with a great open -minded energy to explore what Yangon has to offer. A very pleasant day job for us.
We get a big mix of different nationalities and alongside tourists it’s been a huge compliment to have many expats living in Yangon join our tours. We have had guests who lived in Yangon for 3 years but never made it downtown to explore the food scene, it was an honour for us to have that responsibility!
What are the risks of running a street food tour?
In Yangon the main risks of a walking food tour are the traffic, street dogs and unhygienic food preparation. Luckily all our staff are experts at avoiding all of these risks so guests can have a safe and fun time.
What are the rewards?
Customers love the authentic street-level experience we are proud to share. I’m a keen global traveller, foodie and chef and the main reason I travel is to discover the cuisine and culture of a country. You are what you eat and through our tours you can not only learn a lot about Myanmar dishes and their ingredients, cooking techniques etc. but you can also discover a lot about Yangon’s people, history and culture through the medium of food.
What would you say to travellers afraid of trying Myanmar street food?
Food hygiene is an issue but with a little common-sense and awareness it is possible to enjoy the treats of the streets in Yangon. Choose busy places with lots of local customers and a high-turnover of products, where it is cooked fresh and/or hot plus where the owners take pride in the presentation and cleanliness of their establishments are all good signs that you can eat there with confidence.
What’s your favourite Myanmar street food?
Oooh it’s very hard to pick just one but lately I have made it my mission to eat nan pyar toh (flat noodle salad) all over town. I love the combination of the noodles mixed with garlic oil and spices all tangled up with shredded chicken, fried onions, garlic, fresh coriander then garnished with crunchy pe kyaw (chickpea fritter) on top and a few slices of hard boiled duck egg. Very tasty and a beautiful combination of textures and colours.