Cuisine in Myanmar has had many influences from neighboring countries and ethnic minorities, but is very different from the Thai, Indian and Chinese food that visitors may be more familiar with. The fact that Yangon was an important trade route, especially for the British, means that many spices were acquired during importing and exporting.

As with most Southeast Asian countries, rice is a staple in Myanmar, but equally important are noodles. Because of the large coastal area and inland lakes, fish is more common than meat and is prepared in all kinds of ways. One typical dishe is mohinga, noodles in a fish soup. Another delicacy well worth trying is lahpet, a pickled tea leaf salad.

A very nice and fun experience is to drink tea at the many shops all over every town in Myanmar. Many have strange small plastic stools to sit on, but the tea is excellent everywhere. Order a cup and eat some cakes (you only pay for what you eat) and just watch time pass by.

Bars and Pubbing in Myanmar

Unlike Thailand, there is no all-night partying in Myanmar. The government has on again, off again curfews, so make sure to check the current restrictions before venturing out at night. Generally, there is very little Western nightlife, but stalls sell food and beer near the major hotels in Yangon. Music is popular and many places have live bands at night.

Yangon, the biggest city in Myanmar and home to the most expats, has the most after dark options for visitors. Popular live music venues include the ABC Country Bar (404 Mahabandoola Road, Yangon) and Mr. Guitar (22 Sayasan Road, Yangon). In the hotels, The Music Club (Grand Royal Plaza, 33 Alan Pyha Road, Yangon) is popular, but the most upscale is probably the Gallery Bar & Restaurant (223 Sule Pagoda Road, Yangon) inside the Trader Hotel.

Dining and Cuisine in Myanmar

Yangon by far offers the widest selection of eateries in Myanmar including local food, as well as range of international cuisines from Chinese to Shan, American and Italian. Outside of the main cities, food options are limited to primarily Myanmar cuisine and sometimes Chinese, but more Yunnan-style than Cantonese like most Westerners are familiar with.

In Yangon, if you’re brave enough to try one of the food stalls, they are the best place to get cheap, authentic local cuisine, both from Myanmar and ethnic.For stylish dining, check out Monsoon (85-87 Thinbyu Road, Yangon), which is housed in an old colonial building and serves a nice mix of Thai, Vietnamese and Lao dishes. Expats in Yangon love the 50th Street Bar & Grill (9/13 50th Street, Yangon), which serves up Western and Asian food including hamburgers and has pool tables and a big screen TV for sporting events.

Some of the more upscale restaurants in Yangon can be found in the hotels, such as the Golden Kitchen Chinese Restaurant (372 Bogyoke Aung San Road, Yangon) in the Grand Mee Ya Hta Executive Residences and the elegant Strand Grill (92 Strand Road) housed in the beautiful The Strand hotel, only open for dinner. Prices are comparable to those in the West. For something unusual in Myanmar, the most romantic dining spot in Yangon is the Sein Lan So Pyay Restaurant (28 Inya Road, Yangon) on Inya Lake.

Mandalay does not have quite the breadth of cuisine as Yangon, but there is excellent Shan and Chinese food here. The prices are also much cheaper, which is nice for the budget conscious traveler. For local fare, head to Aye Myit Tar Restaurant (81st Street, Mandalay) where there is no need to read a menu, just point to the dish you want at the counter. The place is always packed with locals at lunch time, so you can be assured of good food and freshness. For Shan cuisine, head to Lashio Lay Shan Restaurant (65, 23rd Street, between 83rd and 84th Street), another local favorite for the htmain jin balls made of deep fried tomatoes, rice and fish. For more upscale dining, head to the Green Elephant Restaurant (3H, Block 801, 27th Street, between 64th and 65th street, Mandalay), which serves up traditional Myanmar cuisine in a beautiful colonial setting.

Dining beyond Yangon means there are fewer English menus, so knowing some basic Burmese words helps.