Take a Trip Around Myanmar in a Single Meal

By Lwin Mar Htun 31 October 2019

The high season for travel has returned, and those whose itineraries don’t include trips to Myanmar’s farther corners can now sample all of the various cuisines available in the country, from street food to main dishes, in Yangon thanks to the Sampan’s Supper Club events hosted by a leading local travel agency.

The first Sampan’s Supper Club was held on the afternoon of Oct. 20 for invited guests and a few club members at the Pansodan Scene.

“The main purpose of this event is to celebrate the diversity of Myanmar cuisine and encourage people to travel more around Myanmar,” said Bertie Lawson, managing director of Sampan Travel.

Aloo kataleik by Saba Street Food Tours / Htet Wai

“We hope that the Supper Club will be an opportunity for guests to meet new people, try new food, and hear about new places to travel in Myanmar,” he added.

At the event, dishes and products created by local food and beverage brands and restaurants are featured in set menus arranged by Sampan Travel. The Irrawaddy recently sat down to try the club’s offerings.

The first course was the aloo katileik by Saba Street Food Tours. This dish is made from boiled potatoes mashed and rolled into balls with minced mutton and spices. The chef smothered these in a sauce made from seasonal herbs. Each serving includes three meatballs. The aroma was great and the taste was perfection; I ate all three on my plate.

Kayah pork sausages, bean-sprout salad and khaung yay by TT’s Kitchen / Htet Wai

Then it was time for some traditional Kayah food presented by TTKitchen. They served popular Kayah pork sausages with makah powder and khaung yay (Kayah whiskey), and a bean-sprout salad. A representative of the restaurant announced the dishes and explained them, which really got us diners excited about trying the foods and made the event come alive.

The pork sausages were a bit spicy because of the makah powder. One of the most important ingredients in Kayah cuisine, it resembles chili powder but is in fact different. Khaung yay and pork sausages are a perfect match; the bean-sprout salad was great too.

Most of the guests at Sampan’s Supper Club are foreigners, and the event gives them a great chance to taste Myanmar’s many ethnic cuisines right in Yangon.

Next it was time for the main dishes. This time A Nyar Ahtar (Myanmar food culture) from Pansodan Scene served pone ye gyi thoke (fermented black bean salad), rice, kyar zan chet (vermicelli soup) and hnan phet chin thoke (fermented sesame pulp salad).

Pone ye gyi salad, hnan phet chin salad and kyar zan chet by Anya Ahta / Htet Wai

I’ve always been a fan of kyar zan chet and this one one did not disappoint. The taste was sumptuous with perfectly blended ingredients, and the soup featured a generous amount of meat. The dish left me full, but I tried a bit of the pone ye gyi thoke with rice, which was a little sour.

The other main dishes are steamed sea bass with vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf, and long bean salad prepared by Jana Mon, a popular Yangon restaurant serving authentic Mon cuisine.

To prepare this dish, the boneless fish is placed in the banana leaf with bamboo shoots, banana blossoms and carrot. The taste is rich, fresh and full. I didn’t try the long bean salad (I don’t like long beans) but my friend really enjoyed it.

Guests enjoy a set menu of local foods arranged by Sampan’s Supper Club. / Htet Wai

As a dessert, Jana Mon served coconut milk with sago seeds. To wrap up the event, we were served tea from Maw Shan, served with jaggery—a type of sugar extracted from palm sap—produced by Tree Food. Both Maw Shan and Tree Food are Myanmar companies.

Sampan’s Supper Club allows you to sample an authentic array of ethnic foods from outside Yangon without leaving the city, while being educated about the history and preparation of the dishes by representatives of the participating restaurants. It’s a fascinating experience.

Staff from TT’s Kitchen prepare Kayah pork sausages. / Htet Wai

A seat costs US$30 (45,000 kyats) per person for adults and $15 for children. Sampan plans to host the event once every three months.

“We hope to host the next Supper Club in January. We tried lots of different ethnic foods from restaurants in Yangon; we spoke to those restaurateurs who were interested in participating. We hope to include many more in the future,” Bertie said.