Vegetarian food in Myanmar: A complete survival guide


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Theplas: check

Ready to eats: check

Packaged food : check

SOS words: check

I was a vegetarian traveling to Myanmar: a country predominately consuming non vegetarian fare.

Throughly acquainted with the menu of Burma Burma, I looked forward to gorge on all that I ate under the plush decor of this restaurant, on the streets of Myanmar.

Myanmar veg meal
A vegetarian Burmese meal at Inle Lake: Fried Rice, Shan style noodles, Tomato and Cucumber salad and Bean and Potato gravy

But then the food gods had other plans.

I hardly found what I ate back in Mumbai or even remotely close to it in Myanmar.

When I lost all hope, the county surprised me in tiny little ways, dishing out delicious vegetarian fare where I least expected it.


If you’re a vegetarian and want to travel to Myanmar read along!

Vegetarian for them includes fish. Fish oil is extensively used in their cuisine. When you wish to ask for completely vegetarian meals you need to say “Tathaloo” this means lifeless.  As it is a Buddhist country there are ‘lifeless’ options available.

A quick guide:

” Teh Ta loo Shila?” – “Do you have vegetarian food?”

“Teh ta loo la?” – “Is this vegetarian?”

“Atha ma sa bu”- “I do not eat meat”

street food pancakes
Vegetarian Street food : Stuffed rice pancakes served with chickpeas

 

Fresh salads are the safest and best options as fresh fruits and vegetables are aplenty in Myanmar.

 


The Burmese eat fruits as dessert and grapes, strawberries, cherries are grown in abundance in Pwin oo lwin, known as the Cherry capital.

 

fruit vendor
A fruit market at Pwin OO Lwin

 

There are tomato farms in Inle Lake and Tomato salad is an must try here. Other common salads are Seaweed and carrot salad, tea leaf salad.

Burmese love tea salads. No other country consumes tea leaves in meals like the Burmese do.

Most restaurants serve Vegetarian fried rice, Fried noodles with vegetables and steam rice with vegetables.

These are easy and quicker options for vegetarians and are served with black soy sauce and chopped garlic and cost approx 2000-2500 Kyat.

The best vegetarian fried rice I had during my Myanmar trip was at the Green Tea restaurant at Pindaya.

Vegetarian fried rice garnished with cashews and cucumber
Vegetarian fried rice garnished with cashews and cucumber

Traditional restaurants serve a thali where rice is served with a variety of vegetables. The main compartment is filled with steam rice and other compartments include vegetables, condiments and fritters. The condiments are fried peanuts, crushed coconut and dried chillies.

 

Authentic Burmese thali
Authentic Burmese thali

Vegetables include Marrow curry, Stir fried grout curry, Stir fired Pokchoy and mushrooms, Bean     curd curry, Potato and bean gravy, Cheese and Tofu stew, Eggplant and black bean, Chick pea curry.

Burmese food isn’t spicy: Most of their cuisine is infused with coconut and banana. But even the sweets are not too sweet. Everything is balanced and yes, flavoursome.

Rice served with vegetable gravies and salads
Rice served with vegetable gravies and salads at Myanmar treasure resort, Inle

Burmese love their tea: Walk around in the streets of Myanmar and find tiny, unpretentious tea houses dishing out cups of Burmese tea, made out of condensed milk and served in tiny white cups.

tea cups

Laiphet ( tea with condensed milk) is usually served with mildly sweet pancakes.

Bagan and its love affair with Tamarind: Bagan is famous for its tamarind and jaggery sweet called ‘tamarind flakes’. These are melt in the mouth layers and make for ideal souvenirs to take back home.

tamarind flakes bagan
Tamarind flakes

All over Bagan, loose tamarind candies are sold by vendors.

Street food is cheap and offers tremendous variety.

 

Vegetarian snacks and starters are available by and large. Fried assorted snacks can be found at most of the street stalls. These include Rice dumplings, pancakes and the likes.

A definite must try is the Mont Lin Ma Yar ( rice pancakes made in round moulds, fried with oil and topped with chickpeas and onions). This literally translates into the ‘Husband and wife snack’ 😀

Starters include Fried Tempura, Rice Crackers.

burmese veg starters inle fritters

 

Burmese desserts aren’t too sweet. Most restaurants serve Sago pudding, semolina cakes, pumpkin puddings and Banana cakes.

 

In-flight food is light and absolutely delectable: You are unlikely to get local food in your domestic flights in Myanmar. But because the duration is mostly less than 60 minutes, you are most likely to be served with sandwiches, smoothies and a bowl of fresh fruit.

in flight meal
Some of my favourite restaurants across Myanmar:

Little bit of Mandalay, Mandalay : This local restaurant serves authentic Burmese cuisine with focus on local dishes from Mandalay.

My meal consisted of Mock meat: Beans Athatu, Assorted mix veg (Thi sone nut ), sweet and sour yellow tofu (Tophu Chochin), Long bean salad ( Pe taung Shae thoe), Radish potato and carrot ( Thom myo a young chel ), Moong cake (Lah mont) a Mandalay delicacy.

moong cake mandalay
The best dessert I had in Myanmar! Moong Cake

Green Tea restaurant, Pindaya:

This restaurant near Pindaya caves offers a wonderful lake view and fabulous meals.

Cigar
Cigar

 

Karaweik Palace Restaurant, Yangon

A palace set up, with ornate interiors, buffet style dinner with live traditional Burmese dance performances. Totally worth the Kyats you spend. Full post on this place coming soon.

yangon restro

So when are you traveling to Myanmar just for the food?

Make sure you have read about the Best in Myanmar before you head out.

P.S: You can safely ditch the Theplas! 🙂

P.S.S : A big thank you to my guide in Mandalay, Mr. Minn for helping me with the Burmese names:)

54 thoughts on “Vegetarian food in Myanmar: A complete survival guide

  1. I’m surprised to see such amazing variety! Have always felt that vegetarian cuisine is so much more diverse than non-vegetarian and this post is a perfect example of that. Raw mango reminds me of Indian ambi.

  2. Those are useful tips. Surprised on their classification. Here, Vegetarian Fried Rice means it has eggs. Egg is vegetarian for most people in most of the countries.

    There is a lot to choose from. I hope I travel there for food and its cultural heritage.

  3. All these Burmese food looks so delicious! Being vegetarians our-self we totally understand your difficulties when you dont find anything good to eat while you are travelling! Booking this post for our future reference…:)

  4. Wow! That food looks so tempting. Looks like you got everything possible and that’s so good. Isn’t it?
    Another thing that caught my attention was that how local language helps us figure out things that would otherwise be hard. Good one there, D.
    Wonderful write up and amazing pictures.

    1. Similar to ” ask and you shall receive!” 🙂 hehe! The local Lang is a boon and a life saviour. People should at least know a few words. Thanks Parul! Glad you liked it!

  5. Such lovely pictures and this is one helpful post. I will recommend this very vegetarian traveling to Myanmar.
    Sometimes, its very difficult to put across in the local language that you want no meat in the food.
    You have explained it really well.

  6. Ok I am just gonna collate your posts, take a bag and go off to Myanmar someday 😀 So much detail! Btw their food is so similar to the cuisine I had in Tripura! And the moong cake – I have had it in Odisha as well as West Bengal and I love it!!

  7. Really a mouth watering post! 🙂 Such gorgeous pictures of food and it’s all vegetarian. I know, they don’t understand that fish is not a vegetarian. Common problem in South east Asia as well. Never mind, the ‘lifeless’ word is going to save us. 😀

    Very informative post Divsi, I’m keeping an eye on all your posts.

    P.S.- Hope you have saved some candies and tamarind flakes for me. 🙂

  8. Totally agree, vegetarian food in Myanmar is amazing, especially the salads. We went to a different restaurant when we travelled to Pindaya Caves – it was lovely, but kind of wish we made it to Green Tea after reading your review!

  9. Yum, yum, yum and yum!! Fabulous post Divsi. I am sure this one’s going to tempt a lot of veggie folks to venture on a Burma trip. The dishes sound so unique and scrumptious, I am sure you had a great time trying them all out. This post will truly be a life-saver for vegetarian tourists.

  10. Very useful and informative post Divsi! The photos are just awesome and look so inviting. I love the “husband-wife” snack, we make something similar in South India with idli batter! That is so cool:)

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