Skip to main content

A steady influx of new visitors to Myanmar has exposed the country`s culture – especially its simple yet flavourful cuisine – to the wider world.

Andrew Grinton/The Globe and Mail

After nearly a half-century of military dictatorship, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma, as it's still popularly called) finally saw an easing of authoritarian rule two years ago, a mixed blessing that both restored Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to political life and has led to a flaring of the long-simmering ethnic and religious conflicts in various parts of the country.

Undoubtedly, one of the most positive outcomes has been the steady influx of new visitors to the nation and the exposure of its culture – especially its simple yet flavourful cuisine – to the wider world. "It was the hole in the [Southeast Asian] picture," says the Canadian photographer and food writer Naomi Duguid, who had travelled throughout Burma to learn as much as she could about local flavours and food even before its fledgling steps toward democracy. In 2012, Duguid released Burma: Rivers of Flavor, her handsomely produced cookbook and cultural primer nominated for a James Beard Award this spring. "From the brilliant salads, sparkling condiments and easy curries of the Bamar people living in the central river valleys to the inventive aromatic dishes of the people in the hills, Burma has a motherlode of delicious and accessible food traditions," she writes.

One of the most interesting of these, says Mardi Michels, who authors the blog eatlivetravelwrite.com and visited Myanmar for the first time this past winter, is the Burmese "rice meal," served around midday in both homes and restaurants. "It was a complete revelation," Michels says from her home in Toronto. "You're surrounded by all these little dishes at once."

Story continues below advertisement

Typically, the meal consists of soup, salad and rice, a plate of mixed vegetables, a curried meat dish (especially pork and chicken or, if it's near the sea, fish) and an array of condiments. Key ingredients include chili, lime, turmeric, dried shrimp and shallots, resulting in dishes that are hot, sour, earthy, briny or sharp but also deliciously balanced.

"Burmese food is incredibly varied," says MiMi Aye, a London, England-based blogger and food writer whose heritage encompasses several Burmese groups, including Shan, Burman and Intha. For her, one of the best aspects of the cuisine is its emphasis on texture and crunch. "We try to fry everything!" she quips, pointing to the chicken-skin scratchings that she sprinkles atop her own poultry dishes – and which served as inspiration for the crackling that garnishes the chicken dish on these pages, part of a menu intended to help beginners create a Burmese rice meal at home. Most of the ingredients, including the more esoteric ones, can be found in a good Asian food shop. Wash it all down with Asian beer, raising a toast, perhaps, to a peaceful future for the country.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter