What to eat in Yangon? Good question.
The cuisine of Myanmar is fusion food – its neighbours India and China have heavily influenced many of the country’s dishes. Like most South East Asian cities, it’s hard to visit Yangon and not be enthralled by the food. While this is in no way a definitive list, if it’s your first time in Yangon you can’t go wrong with these iconic Burmese dishes.
No.16, 11th Street
+95 1 701 692
It would be criminal to visit Yangon and not have a bowl of mohinga noodles, the country’s unofficial national dish. Street vendors selling mohinga noodles are found on almost every street corner in the city. Pull up a colourful plastic stool and dive into a bowl of rice noodles swimming in a fishy broth spiked with plenty of ginger and garlic. Bitter banana blossom, hard-boiled eggs and akyaw fritters add extra flavour and texture. Best eaten for breakfast.
Some of the best mohinga noodles are sold from Myaung Mya Daw Cho, a charming little shophouse restaurant towards the west of the old town.
Almost any Myanmar restaurant or tea house is going to serve up their version of Burmese pork curry. If you're considering what to eat in Yangon, be sure to add sibyan pork curry to the list. The sticky, slow-cooked curry is cooked with pork belly which gives an oily finish and plenty of palm sugar which adds sweetness.
This isn’t a dish to be eaten on its own. The strong flavours are best accompanied by steamy piles of rice and fresh vegetables which help cut through the curry’s richness.
While you can find excellent versions all over the city, the unassuming 203 Curry Restaurant sells a fragrant sibyan pork curry along with plenty of other dishes. It's a little tricky to find, but wander along the northern end of 37th Street and look out for the queue leading from its doorway.
You may think it's odd to have include a South Indian dish on a list of what to eat in Yangon. However, Myanmar has absorbed influences from all it’s neighbours and with a sizeable Indian community, it’s no surprise that many dishes from the sub-continent have made their way across the border.
If you’re going to try just one Indian dish, make it a dosa. Light rice batter crepes are used to mop up a variety of coconut curries, pickles and rich, ghee-spiked dhal.
Unsurprisingly, the best are found down in the capital’s Little India. Try the New Delhi Restaurant on the corner of 28th Street which cooks excellent, perfectly crisp dosas best eaten with sweet chai tea.
No. 286 Anawrahta Road
Looking for a quick bite on the go? The streets of Little India are filled with the smells of frying samosas – parcels of crispy deep-fried pastry filled with minced meat, potatoes or vegetables. Best eaten when they're warm straight from the fryer, though you can pack them up and eat them cold on long bus or train journeys.
It's hard to find a bad samosa in Yangon, but the crispy parcels from Indian Hut just a few doors down from the New Delhi Restaurant are worth stopping by for.
77-79 Pansodan Street
+95 9 979 078681
Other than Myanmar, no other nation uses tea leaves for anything but a brew. To make them palatable in lahpet thoke (tea leaf salad), they are fermented and then dossed in a dressing made from ginger, chillies, garlic, peanut oil, lime juice and fish sauce. A little crunch comes from tiny dried shrimps, deep-fried peas, crushed peanuts and toasted sesames. There’s almost always a sharing plate of tea leaf salad on most evening meals.
Many tea houses and street vendors sell versions of lahpet thoke, most of which are very good. But for one of the best tea leaf salads in the city, try the Rangoon Tea House.
130B 34th Street
Don’t confine yourself to just Mohinga noodles. The north-eastern state of Shan does a fine noodle dish cooked in a light tomato sauce with fresh vegetables. Some are drier, others swim in a spicier broth.
You shouldn’t have any trouble finding Shan restaurants in the capital, but some of the best shan noodles in Yangon are found in the famed 999 Shan Noodle House. This cramped spot close to the Sule Pagoda has an extensive list of Shan classics.
+95 9 7776 85552
The Yangonese love a good barbecue. For the best, make a dash to the famous 19th Street which has so many charcoal cooking vendors it’s nicknamed 'Barbecue Street'. Locals have their favourites, but as a newbie to 19th pick any one of the small eateries, choose your meaty skewers from the counter and sup on a beer while you wait for them to cook. Don’t worry if you’re a vegetarian or pescatarian, there’s plenty of alternatives like grilled tofu, vegetables and shrimps.
Many of the BBQ houses up 19th Street are good, but the local favourite Shwe Mingalar Restaurant has one of the largest ranges of skewers.
Those who’ve visited Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand will inevitably have tried the famed khao soi, but its origins lie in Myanmar, not Thailand. Plastic bowls are filled with yellow egg noodles and topped with a spiced curry broth. Some of the more expensive khow suey are made with rich coconut milk and you’ll typically find a leg of chicken. Squeeze over lime juice for a little zing.
The tiny Sanpya Daw Kyi restaurant just west of the old town cooked up a creamy version of the noodle curry with fried pea fritters and chewy yellow wheat noodles.
It would be a shame not to gorge on Myanmar’s abundance of exotic fruits. Sweet mangoes, sticky longans, rambutans and dragonfruits aren’t hard to find. Nor are sweet and sour mangosteens, grapefruit-like pomelos or papayas. Those feeling brave could even try durian. Work past the smell because the creamy, custard-like flesh is a delight.
You wont have trouble finding fruit all over the city, but for the largest and freshest selection, try the Chinatown Market along 17th Street.
Still confused about what to eat in Yangon? No problem. You can always join this daily evening Yangon food tour and gorge on all the good things to eat in the city with the help of an expert local foodie.
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