You wouldn’t know it from its long history of ethnic conflict, but Myanmar is a country that takes real pride in the richness of its cultural tapestry.
One of the blessings of this cultural mix is the many gastronomic opportunities that it gives us. From the remote highlands to the central plains, and from the Andaman Sea to the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar has many distinct cuisines, each one the product of a unique culture.
Sadly, however, volatility in some hill-tribe regions and government restrictions on travel to certain parts of the country make it difficult for gourmets to venture out to those areas to taste local foods.
That’s why visitors and residents alike can be grateful for the Taing Yin Thar Restaurant in Yangon, which offers the many flavors of multiethnic Myanmar all in one convenient location. Situated at the northern end of Inya Lake, this semi-open-air eatery is Yangon’s answer to those who want to know how the rest of the country eats.
“There’s no other restaurant like it in the whole country,” said Daw Yamin Aung, one the establishment’s owners. “We simply want the world to know our country’s food diversity.”
Established in 2011, the two-story restaurant’s menu boasts more than 100 items representing the country’s eight major national ethnic races. An English menu divided into seven categories—appetizer, salad, soup, main course, vegetable, side dishes and special menu—is available to help foreign visitors navigate through the restaurant’s unfamiliar culinary terrain.
Most ingredients are sourced from the regions where the different dishes originate, ensuring an authentic dining experience. Flavors vary, from mild-tasting fried sausages from southeastern Myanmar’s Kayah State to moderately spicy grilled fish served up boneless and marinated in pepper and chili in the Shan style. Both go well with khaung yay, a kind of liquor made from fermented rice that’s popular in hilly regions of the country.
For those who aren’t afraid to try the fiery food of Myanmar’s westernmost state, the Rakhine pickle salad is sure to be a real eye opener. Or if you want to take the intensity down a few notches, just order the Chin-style pork-rib soup, served with sweet corn, bean, pumpkin and other vegetables, with green chili added for a sweet and mildly spicy taste.
Besides the food (which is made to order, so freshness is guaranteed), the restaurant has a spacious dining area and attentive staff. Apart from traditional liquor, Western beverages are also available on request. There is also a parking lot.
Taing Yin Thar is conveniently located about half-way between downtown and the airport, so if you want one last chance to savor something slightly less mainstream before you leave the country, it’s well worth the detour.
Taing Yin Thar Restaurant, Corner of Maykha Road and Parami Road, Mayangone Township, Yangon. Tel: 01-966-0792, 09-42-012-6002, 087-322-1717
This story was first published in the November 2013 print issue of The Irrawaddy magazine.