Yangon’s Street Foods — For the Hungry and Daring
By Lwin Mar Htun 29 June 2018
One of the best ways to get to know a place is by exploring its popular foods. Walking along the streets of Yangon, you will come across a plethora of vendors and stalls offering a wide range of foods influenced by Chinese, Indian and local cuisines.
This street fare often looks good and smells delicious, and it is always cheap. If you want to know more about the daily lives of the local people and the culture of Yangon, the city’s famous street foods are one of the best places to start.
To help, I have collected some of the more common and popular street foods for you to try the next time you’re in town. These foods can easily be found in downtown areas like the Sule Pagoda neighborhood, Chinatown and Bar Street.
Wat Thar Doke Htoe (Pork sticks)
A local favorite, you will surely be attracted by the smell of Wat Thar Doke Htoe (pork sticks). The various parts of the pig including internal organs like liver, intestines, kidneys, spleen, heart, lungs, tongue, meat, skin and cartilage are all cut into pieces and skewered on small bamboo sticks. You can ask for any part of the pig and the vendors will slice it up for you. Most of the Wat Thar Doke Htoe vendors provide small stools for their customers to sit on, and you can then ask for sauce and soup from a large pot that sits in the middle of the table. Wat Thar Doke Htoe is very popular with locals although many foreigners shy away from it because of the way it is displayed and for reasons of hygiene. Some restaurants and bars also offer pork sticks on their menus so you may want to try it at one of those places instead. If you dare to try the real street pork sticks, just head for downtown and you’ll see many vendors offering this Yangon staple. Each stick will cost about 200 kyats. Prices vary depending on the shop.
Moat Lin Mayar
This is a popular Myanmar teatime snack. The direct translation is ‘Couple’s Snack,’ because it is made of two halves that are joined to become one. First, the vendors pour the mixture into a big black round pan then put on other toppings like peas and quail eggs. Then, the halves of Moat Lin Mayar are separately heated by a charcoal fire underneath to a crispy brown and finally combined as one and flipped over. You can find Moat Lin Mayar around the city. It is usually sold as a set of 10 for 500 kyats.
La Phet Thoke (Tea leaf salad)
La Phet Thoke is a traditional Myanmar dish that is often sold at teashops, restaurants and uniquely styled stalls. You can see these La Phet Thoke stalls at many places in Yangon. The vendors put a small amount of tealeaf into a small container and mix it with boiled corn, peanuts, diced tomatoes, cabbage and some dried fish. La Phet Thoke stalls are most commonly seen around the downtown area and on 19th street.
Bein Mont (Myanmar pancake)
Bein mont is a traditional snack that some people eat as breakfast and some as a teatime snack. It is also known as ‘Myanmar street pancake’ and is chewy, crispy, nutty and perfect to order as a take-away. The vendors will cut it into bite-size portions that you can eat as you go on your way. There are two different types – brown and white pancakes. Both are made of rice flour but the brown cakes are mixed with “jaggery” (palm sugar) to sweeten them and are topped with coconut slices, nuts and white poppy seeds. The white pancakes are more suitable for those who don’t like sweet food and are topped with boiled peas and onion. You can find them for sale along many streets in Yangon and elsewhere. Prices vary from vendor to vendor but Bein mont typically sell for 200 to 500 kyats each.
Lan Thaye Moat (Dosa sandwiches)
Lan Thaye Moat was originally an Indian cuisine that is mixed with a Myanmar topping. It’s a crispy, thin crepe made from the batter of fermented ground lentils and rice. First, a thin layer of batter is spread quickly inside a concave metal pot over hot coals, then some toppings are added such as tomatoes, chickpeas, small pieces of chili, cabbage, bean sprouts along with sprinkles of black pepper. This one is also good as a takeaway and it’s perfect as teatime or pre-dinner snack. Lan Thaye Moat typically sells for about 200 or 300 kyats each.
Samosa Thoke (Samosa salad) is another Indian-inspired cuisine that is a mixed salad of diced potato, chickpeas and samosa. The salad also includes shredded cabbage, chopped raw onions, mint leaves, and some chili for those who like it a little hotter. Then, a small amount of heat and comfort in the form of thick masala lentil soup is poured over the salad and it’s ready to eat. Samosa Thoke is a vegetarian dish and some people eat it instead of dinner or lunch. Samosa salads can easily be found on Yangon’s streets and sell for 500 kyats each.
A Kyaw Sone (Fried snacks)
A Kyaw Sone (Fried snacks) is Myanmar’s very own fast food and can be found on many streets of Yangon. Buu Thee Kyaw (crispy gourd fritter) is a local favorite and you can also get fried snacks like samosas, spring rolls, chickpeas, bananas, ba yar kyaw and fried potato slices. People eat them for breakfast and sometimes as a teatime snack. It’s delicious but the oil used to fry them is sometimes not of the highest quality. So, you need to be careful to check the vendors before you buy from them. These fried snacks are also cheap at 100 kyats each.
A Thoke Sone (Variety of salads)
A Thoke Sone is one of most popular street foods in Myanmar. Among the varieties are Khout Swal Thoke (noodle salad), Tofu Thoke (tofu salad), papaya salad and also rice salad. You will see a lot of portable street food stalls in the crowded parts of Yangon. Vendors carry those stalls on their shoulders, balancing two baskets. They go place to place and settle down when they find what looks like a good spot. You take a seat on their colorful plastic stools and you can choose among the salads, which are made in front of you after you place your order. If you want it spicy, then ask for some chili powder. The salads are mostly good tasting but they are best avoided if you have stomach problems. If you dare to try one while you are in Yangon, you can easily find these roving vendors in the downtown area. One salad will cost 500 kyats.