Burmese Food Truck to Deliver Street Eats With a Side of Tolerance

By Samantha Michaels 30 May 2014

RANGOON — A new food truck may soon be driving the streets of Rangoon, delivering a mix of traditional Burmese cuisine along with a message about tolerance.

Fund-raising is under way to launch Harmoneat, a food truck that will serve healthy locally sourced dishes derived from the country’s diverse ethnic and geographic areas, including noodles from Shan State, seafood salad from Arakan State and spicy chicken from Kachin State.

Along with the meals, which will cost about 1,500 kyats (US$1.50), customers will receive a recipe card and a small description about the history of the cuisine.

Project director Meg Berryman says the goal is to build positive associations between communities and celebrate diversity, in a country with 135 officially recognized ethnic groups. “It’s about starting conversations,” she tells The Irrawaddy.

She and her husband David Hale, both Australians, were inspired to launch the Rangoon-based social enterprise after working in the development and peace-building sectors in Burma.

They started an online fund-raising campaign on May 20 and have already raised over Aus$13,000 (US $12,000). They hope to crowdsource more than four times that amount by the time the fund-raising period closes in 20 days.

To offset costs and keep meal prices competitive, Harmoneat will offer cooking classes for visitors and expats in Burma’s former capital. Burmese chefs, ideally from a range of ethnic backgrounds, will be hired to lead the classes. “Harmoneat will be a locally led and run operation—we want to build the capacity of local entrepreneurs and youth groups to develop social businesses,” says Berryman.

Harmoneat plans to team up with several international and local partners, including the Free Burma Café in Australia, which trains young Burmese refugees, as well as Shwe Sa Bwe, a French restaurant in Rangoon that runs a free chef school for Burmese students.

“We don’t want to compete—we want to collaborate with existing organizations in Yangon [Rangoon],” says Berryman.

If the fund-raising campaign succeeds, the food truck will likely stay in Rangoon for the first year, with the possibility of traveling elsewhere in Burma after that.

“That’s the beauty of a food truck,” Berryman says. “In the future it’s something we can take on the road, either as an educational tool or as a business itself.”