A spot for daily breakfast, a quick afternoon snack or something for the sweet tooth, you can find the best street food in Yangon at temporary carts set up by vendors each morning, and the stews and snacks sold throughout the day represent a wide cross-section of different cultures and ethnicities.
With more than 135 ethnic groups and borders shared with Bangladesh, China, India, Laos, and Thailand, it’s safe to say that the cuisine of Myanmar is diverse and eclectic. Here are 9 local favorite street foods to seek out on your visit.
1. Mohinga A signature Burmese breakfast dish, you can find a bowl of mohinga all over Myanmar. It's the unofficial national dish of Myanmar–a hearty, pungent fish broth is flavored with lemongrass, turmeric and pepper, which swirls around slippery thin glass noodles. The fish is not immediately recognizable; it’s ground with chickpea flour to make a lusciously thick stew usually served for breakfast. You can take home a powdered mix of the soup base.
2. Tea The Burmese teahouse provides so much more than warm beverages and snacks. It’s a place where the people of Yangon come to share the news of the day, discuss politics, and socialize. The tea you’ll find in Yangon is thick and strong, and heavily sweetened with condensed milk and sugar, but the brute force of the black tea cuts right through the dairy and sugar.
3. Tea Leaf Salad (Lephet Thote) Another signature Burmese dish is their pickled tea leaves — usually used in teas or served as a salad. As a salad, it’s base of Pennywort leaves — slightly bitter but balances out nicely with the salad sauce — mixed in with diced tomatoes, cabbage and nuts, tossed in a mildly sweet sauce and topped with a squeeze of lime. It makes for a refreshing midday snack or as a starter that opens up your appetite for the mains.
4. Samosa Salad Set up at the road side is a store with short plastic seats where you can hide from the rain or sun to enjoy this quick afternoon snack. Fried samosas cut into neat strips mixed with fried chickpeas, cabbage and potato, topped with a warm savory broth that completes the dish. If you’re a fan of spicy food, be sure to ask for chili flakes!
5. Mont Lin Ma Yar Roughly translated as “husband and wife snacks,” these tiny bites are a visual delight. Dollops of rice flour batter are added to a large sizzling cast iron pan that resembles a muffin tin. Toppings such as quail eggs, scallions, or roasted chickpeas are added to half of the dollops, and then, like a husband and wife, the two halves are joined to make a little round cake.
The quail egg versions are the perfect breakfast food, like eating half a dozen mini egg McMuffins. Mont lin ma yar vendors are found all over the downtown area, but a particularly picturesque cart can be found on Anawrahta between 29th and 30th. Here the fried bites are extra crisp, and the quail eggs are cooked perfectly, not dry and oily like at other vendors.
6. Dosa sandwich Local people call this “Gangster sandwich” — a thin and crispy Indian styled pancake with batter made of lentils. The street version of this dosa is served wrapped around cabbage, chickpeas and a unique blend of sweet and savory sauces, chopped into bite-sized pieces you can savor in one mouth.
7. Street Pancakes A short walk to the other side of Sule Pagoda on the small street between Sule Pagoda Road and 33rd Street features a row of mobile street vendors that obviously know their craft. This snack is everything you’ve ever dreamed a pancake would be and more — freshly cooked, it’s fluffy in the middle and slightly crispy on the sides. Choose to have it with an extra egg atop or sprinkled with nuts, or try both.
8. Shan Noodles If you love rice noodles but aren’t a fan of the strong fish broth in the Mohinga, you might prefer a light rice noodle dish like the Shan noodle. Another staple in Myanmar, the noodles are tossed in a tomato and chicken paste with nuts and a tinge of turmeric. If you’re a fan of noodles in soup, some places also serve it in the soup version which is light and goes really well with cut up pieces of chickpea tofu. Perfect dish to start the day in Myanmar with.
9. Grilled Skewers 19th street between Anawrahta Road and Maha Bandoola Road is Barbecue Street, where storefronts display skewers of meat, vegetables, and fish ready to be rushed back into the kitchen where they’re grilled over intense flames. Grab a plastic basket, fill it with raw skewers, and wait your turn.
A whole grilled fish is another highlight, cut into sections you can easily peel away with chopsticks; the skin is just slightly charred and deliciously sweet. Order a whole corn on the cob and it comes back in kernels, just lightly charred, meatier and starchier than the American sweet variety. When you run out of beer, make kissing noises to get the waiter’s attention.
19th Street in Chinatown In Yangon, no road is busier with hungry diners after dark like 19th Street is. While 19th Street in Chinatown is an otherwise inconspicuous road between 20th and Sint Oh Dan Street, this authentic neighborhood is teeming with delicious eats, with Chinese noodle shops and dim sum restaurants giving this road a run for its money.
This stretch of road is best known for its cold beers and wide array of barbecue skewers. The meat, seafood, and vegetables stabbed with tiny wooden spears sit out along the street, allowing hungry patrons to browse the stretch of restaurants and stalls before deciding on their perfect meal. The food here is a bit more expensive when compared to other destinations for street food, but it is well worth the few extra dollars—if not for the experience alone.