Saturday, January 03, 2015

MYANMAR munching -many miraculous meals or bravos for Burmese food(Dec 27-29, 2014)

We just spent three days in MYANMAR (aka Burma) and it was an awesome experience. I was completely blown away by the beauty of the people, the country and the food.
We started our trip with a quick Fried Noodle Lunch at the Scott Market in Yangon (aka Rangoon), which is the largest indoor market in country with hundreds and hundreds of vendors and I could not possibly tell you the name of the place we ate at. The guy who ran the shop was a riot as he kept kissing Sam and making the funniest of comments.
The food was a preview of what was to come. I believe the four dishes (three of us and our guide) cost under $15.00!
That night in our hotel, The BAGAN LODGE we had a set dinner which was quite filling and pretty decent starting with a Chinese Style Roast DUCK Salad with Bell "Peppre" & Chilli Sauce; English spelling here is not a forte, but the food was very good, if a bid blander than what we had been having on land for the past week. SPICY SEAFOOD SOUP with Sesame Oil followed and this was delicious and truly satisfied my spice tooth, if there is such a thing. Samuel chose the HOT & SOUR SOUP which he declared to be hot and spicy on all terms, but still very good.
Wine can be ordered by the bottle here, and there are several also by the glass, including some local wines, which truly surprised us. We asked the server if we could taste the two Myanmar reds by the glass and the lesser priced was much more to our liking so we ordered the $25 bottle AYTHAYA SHIRAZ-CABERNET from the Inle Lake region, 2013 Dornfelder Cuvee from Myanmar 1st Vineyard Estate which was full-bodied with some slight tannins and was a wine we knew would work with spice. The other Red Mountain Estate Shiraz-Tempranillo from Southern Shan State was less exciting.
When the CHINESE BLACK PEPPER (spelled correctly here) BEEF with woked fried Vegetables arrived, we declared it the most bland dish ever and immediately asked for hot sauce and a small bowl of vinegar with sliced garlic and lots of sliced red chili arrived which did just the trick.
Dessert was SAGO with Coconut Milk which is very akin to tapioca and had balls of melon & papaya as well. The flavors were superb and again, like so many desserts we have had, very refreshing after the spice.
Off to bed early for a 5am wake up call as we had a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over Bagan and its 3000+ temples dating back over 1000 years!
On Sunday we spent the day touring all of Bagan, which is about 200+ miles north of Yangon and had a superb lunch at EDEN BBB (we never did find out what this stood for) Restaurant very close to all the pagodas and temples. It was a very quiet place with the tourists in the courtyard and the drivers up front :-)). We all (save for Sam) declared the fish toast (think shrimp toast back in US Chinese restaurants, but here more fishy) to be the best ever. First came Curried Vegetable soup with the biggest of curry leaves and lots of okra and tomato. Okra is a big veggie in this area and is always tasty and seems to never have that gooey consistency it can have at home.
All the dishes then arrived together and we dug into TOMATO SALAD that had gorgeous fresh red tomatoes from the Inle Lake region (about 100+ miles to the east) as well as cabbage slaw and red onions in a peanut dressing. Braised PUMPKIN was another tasty dish as was the Veggies & Tofu plate with cauliflower, pea pods, bok choy and much more. Our guide, May, explained one of the vegetables is called leaf of the gods in Burmese and it is akin to spinach, but very flavorful. The entrees were Fish or Pork Curries (of course with mounds of rice)which were also delicious and a bit more flavorful than the night before. May explained that less spice is used in the north and ordered up that vinegar-chili-onion-garlic mix which packs a punch and is called BEICHIH (and sounds almost like "bitchy"!!).
Dessert was watermelon, honeydew & papaya served on ice cold plates.
Will declared the Myanmar Beer to be a hit as well.
Dinner was a special event with a meal catered by WELCOME LOCAL RESTAURANT for just the four of us at the foot of one of the temples lit by dozens and dozens of small oil votive lamps as we were led down palm mats from the car to a beautiful traditionally set table with torch bearing men surrounding us. There were dancers and a musician who performed all through dinner and it was hard to decide whether to eat or watch them. It was one of the most memorable dining experiences of our lives as we watched the floodlit pagodas all around. No alcohol is allowed on the holy grounds, so we did with water or sodas. Instead of fish or shrimp toast, here we had onion toast which was amazing, and Samuel did like this flavor and we all gobbled up pieces of the crispy white chips. LENTIL SOUP started the meal and Samuel declared this his new favorite soup, but alas only in the Burmese style which is loaded with lentils and veggies and not super-thick.
All the mains and sides arrived and there was no room on the table at all with FRIED FISH CURRY, CHICKEN CURRY, Fried Noodles, Vegetables and gorgeous whole PRAWNS butterflied and grilled with superb and not too spicy seasoning. Of course, there was beichih and we finished with delicious and crispy (and not greasy) fried BANANAS with honey drizzle and fruit. The tea was also quite nice and relazing.
I must mention that the fruit is amazing everywhere and Samuel has taken a liking to dragonfruit while I like the rambutans we purchased in Thailand. I think we all adore Mangosteens the best.
Our final day in Bagan also included a stop at a Lacquer Factory, where I think we bought everything in site, but were treated to tea, drinks and some snacks as well. Here we adored the local "number on snack" which is called LEPHET TOKE. It is presented in a separated bowl with four sections containing the components which are combined as one desires for each spoonful. TEA LEAF SALAD is ground tea leaves which are in a paste and have healing qualities to boot. DRIED SHRIMP have a spice an gie much flavor to the dish, A mixture of peanuts, garlic and sesame seeds (ground together) form a paste that keeps everything together, and then there is a shredded ginger salad to top the whole spoon with. I need to try and recreate this awesome combination as it was so delish I ate almost 5 spoonfuls!
The next morning we rose early again for our flight back to Yangon and more touring of the large and overcrowded city. Lunch was at MONSOON Restaurant where there is a bar and many locals downstairs, but white linens and white folk upstairs :-)).
Only the guides and servers upstairs were local, and sadly the service was not that fine. Will & Sam had melon coolers with watermelon and lime while I went the healthier route with a Veggie Pineapple drink made from cucumber, pineapple and ginger. May said her lime soda was very bitter, even after adding a carafe of sugar water!
Sam wanted two starters and gobbled up a huge bowl of Penilay Kyarzan Hincho, that lentil soup he now loves as well as a huge plate of Por Pia Thod, Thai Veggie spring rolls.
Again, as is the local custom, all the starters and mains arrived togther and we dug into Nga Phe Thoke, a fish cake salad which actually was shredded fish cakes with the salad mix that packed a punch. Tha Kwar Thee Pazun Sake Thoke (thoke is salad I think) was a refreshing shrimp, cucumber and lime salad.
The Kyether Kalathar Chet is called Bachelor's Chicken & Gourd Curry in English and sadly some of the pieces were more bone than meat, but this very traditional local curry was loaded with flavor in the sauce and the gourd was cooked perfectly and had a pear flavor as well, which while odd, was delicious.
Wetther Phone Yay was not a dish declaring the virtues of the telephone, but a Pork in Black Soy Bean Paste Curry that I loved. It was even better when the Beichih arrived (after asking for it 3 times).
Stir fried Morning Glory (the veggie we had the first night in Singapore) was here translated as watercress, but it is still closer to bok choy or spinach(could this be leaf of the gods in Burmese?) and came with chilies in an oyster sauce that was sublime.
We skipped dessert as we were full and ultimately headed back to the ship knowing that Burmese food is now on the list of must do again!