There seems to be a trend among Burmese college students that study abroad to return home during holidays, take pictures of all – and I mean all – the food eaten during their stay and upload the photos on Facebook. It is also a courtesy for those that are abroad to act extremely jealous (in many cases, they actually are) and politely comment on the photos with expressions of pain, hunger and such. This is as far as the long prized tradition goes.
When Ruth Reichl wrote the review for Patroon in 1998, she named her husband “The Reluctant Gourmet,” who whines at the thought of dining at fancy places but secretly enjoys it. Big deal, but it actually is, because there is a thin but fine line between being able to dine out and being able to actually dine out! Collecting menus as trophies, taking photos with famous chefs – an expensive hobby for sure, but the pleasure, my friend, the pleasure … of food and only food, every bite, the humid atmosphere, the sounds of people, the scorching Yangon heat, goes beyond random Facebook comments and stacks of expensive menus with obscene food.
So here is one of the memories of gastronomical pleasures in Burma:
Along the outer corridors of open-aired Bogyoke Market stationed are a row of “snack” men and women, who may get kicked out of the compound any moment, may therefore have to bribe the Market officials to continue their businesses and thus effectively contribute to the informal extralegal sector of the country’s economy. Shown here is one of the snack ladies with her tray of Mote-Lake-Pyar, a rice-based local snack with bean paste embedded in it. Around her, there is a tray of fish cake, damson preserves (yum), sticky rice wrapped in leaves, yellow htan-thee-mote, sheets of jengkol beans to be eaten with coconut milk and many more! While in season, you may spot durian and Taungyi strawberries in cute rattan baskets.
Walking along Bogyoke Market and nitpicking food from street vendors has always been my thing to do since 5. After years, the number one hangout spot from 1930s has transformed now into a tourist shopping site for Burmese handicrafts and souvenirs. But be prepared for nostalgia when you visit the old colonial structure with Palladian windows and cobbled street, combined with the local flavors from a range of street vendors.