Vegan in Burma (Myanmar)
Are you vegan and on your way to Burma (Myanmar)? Congratulations! We spent about a month traveling in this amazing country and we had never any problem finding tasty food. Back in Sweden we decided to write a post in our animal rights blog ”Grymt sa grisen” about our personal experiences. As this might be interesting for people around the world the text will be written in English.
We found it very easy to live as vegans in Burma. We didn’t always ask about everything and sometimes assumed that dishes that seemed vegan were vegan. Most of the time people at the restaurants were very kind and helpful if we had any questions or suggestions. ”Vegan” in burmese? Well, for us it usually worked to say something like ”tech tech loo” (you better ask someone in Burma for correct pronunciation…). Often they will understand your english.
Two things to keep in mind: Fish sauce, which might be a problem for vegans in many Asian countries, is fortunately often written in the menus but if you want to be completely sure to avoid it you better ask. And it’s a good idea to tell them you don’t want any egg – especially if you order some kind of noodles.
Around in Burma two dishes are extremely common in the menus and also great for vegans: Fried rice with vegetables and fried vermicelli with vegetables. You can find them everywhere. Garlic is also very common in the Burmese kitchen; we found it in almost all dishes during our trip.
The breakfast at our hotels varied a lot. But the conclusion is that the Asian style buffets are better than the European. The hotels that served noodle, fried rice and spring rolls for breakfast were much better for us than the more egg and toast styled ones. But there’s always fresh fruit and juice at the breakfast table at Burmese hotels.
The cheaper restaurants in the streets of Rangoon are often as tasty as the more expensive ones. What you pay for in the more luxurious restaurants are the settings, maybe some more service and usually a more aesthetic plate. In our opinion the food is not necessarily better. For example the tastiest deep fried tofu we ate during our journey we found at a very cheap restaurant at Inya Lake Bank (western Inya Lake).
A nice mid price restaurant in Rangoon is Padonmar at Kha Yae Bin road 105/107. Here we ate Burmese bean curd and Malaysian style rice noodles. Yummy! These guys know how to do it!
We also ate a couple of meals at our Clover hotel restaurant at Wingabar road. They had quite a lot of snack dishes and vermicelli and fried rice dishes. The street restaurant at the same road was also a great cheaper choice. They made really wonderful fried noodles with vegetables!
In the park at the Kandawgyi lake in central Rangoon we ate at a more fancy restaurant. To get into the park you will have to pay a small entrance fee, the prices at the restaurant are quite high and the dishes are in some ways modified for a more western taste. Quite boring but the lake is a welcome waterhole in a hot and noisy city.
At the end of our stay in Rangoon we found this crazy restaurant called Oriental House – A mix of a school canteen, an East European party hall and a scene from a Kaurismäki movie, complete with sleepy live music and a shallow color scale. Nevertheless the restaurant has a great mix of Burmese and Asian dishes, with an impressive section of vegan and vegetarian food. It’s far from a cozy romantic restaurant but the food is delicious and the surrealistic feeling is unbeatable.
There’s a lot of fishermen living around Ngapali and obviously much of the food served at the restaurants is fish and seafood. Even so it’s not hard to find vegan food in the menus. It’s much easier to find vegan food in Ngapali beach than at the Swedish west coast. All restaurants we visited had at least two or more vegan dishes. There are also a lot of fruit vendors along the beach – a great way to get energy, nutrition and hydration during the hot beach days.
You find the Ngapali restaurants at the beach or along the main road. We ate mostly at the beach restaurants with their great sea views. They are both cheap and have very fresh and tasty food. The beach restaurants lies close to each other and serve similar dishes but we had some favorites during our stay.
At Blue Sea Restaurant we ate a fantastic lentil soup made with yellow lentils, glass noodles, garlic and ginger. Burmese lentil and vegetable soups are a very nice part of the Burmese kitchen and is a very cheap way to get healthy and tasty food. At blue sea they also serve the Burmese potato curry – very tasteful.
Another great beach restaurant was View Point where we especially enjoyed fried vegetables with cashew nuts – sounds simple but it was delicious! We also tried their fried vegetables with coconut sauce – perfect for those who look for sweeter tastes.
At Ngapali restaurants you very often get a gift in shape of a dessert, not seldom steamed bananas with sweet coconut sauce – very tasty!
Pyay, situated east of Ngapali, is definitely worth a visit. Beautiful and relaxed the city also has some nice restaurants which also serve vegan dishes. Hline Ayar at the river bank of Irrawaddy became our favorite. Probably most known for the live shows, they also served some very well-cooked courses.
Another restaurant also very close to the river is the Southern Star. You can’t complain about the nice location (close to the Nawade bridge) but unfortunately we were not very impressed by the menu and the lazy service and decided just to eat some snacks.
In Bagan it’s common to see street advertisements from the restaurants that vegetarian food is on the menu. In Old Bagan you can easily find two vegetarian restaurants: The Moon and Yar Pyi. The two restaurants have quite the same menu and both serves good food. “The Moon – Be kind to animals”, which is the complete name, seems a little more established though.
The Moon also seems to have been able too keep its soul as a Burmese restaurant even though it’s a waterhole for westerners. The atmosphere is very pleasant with a cozy garden with shadows or half-shadows and on the wall Aung San Suu kyi smiles at you.
The restaurant has a lot of vegan dishes such as coconut tofu curry, guacamole with papadum, sweet and sour potato and sticky brown rice and – their fruit juice is super!
If you want to explore the traditional Burmese food the restaurant La min Thit in New Bagan is a perfect way. They have set menus (where the vegetarian set was at the first page!) for a very cheap price. We pay 3000 kyat (you’ll get around 840 K for 1 $) for 1 set that included a large portion of salad, soup, rice, vegetables, corn curry, bean curry, tomato curry, green tomatoes, fried watercress and for dessert fried banana and cane sugar candy.
The Shan-style kitchen around Inle lake includes different curry dishes and tofu made of split yellow peas. A nice place to start explore the Shan food is the restaurant Smiling Moon. Situated at the busy main street of Nyaung Shwe, it might be a nice starting point for your Inle-adventures. Smiling Moon is also a reliable travel agency which can help you arrange for example boat trips, bus tickets and treks in the mountains. Here the dishes are inexpensive but still tasty.
If you need a more relaxed setting in Nyaung Shwe, away from the street noise, you can try Teak house. The menu will not surprise you, but we really enjoyed the fried rice, made with very fresh vegetables.
Sometimes, even in a country like Burma you might get a craving for some western food. The Nyaung Shwe Italian restaurant Golden Kite serves mostly pizza and pasta-dishes. The pizzas are not vegan with soy cheese and so on, but we had no problems to modify the ingredients. We also tried their pasta with tomato sauce – very tasty!
The best way to see the lake is by boat. If you take a boat trip you will find that there are plenty of pole house restaurants around the lake. The menus are rather similar and the dishes are not very exciting. However they usually have some vegan dishes to offer. If you are not afraid of taking risks with the hygiene, you can of course eat at one of Inle’s very crowded markets.
In Burma you will never need to have any shortage of snacks! In the streets and markets you will for example find different kinds of nuts, tofu- and rice crackers and rice candy.
A lot of vendors also sell papadum, potato snacks and a very sweet candy made of cane sugar.
Then, of course, there is all these fresh, wonderful fruits! Papaya, banana, orange, lychee, melon…