Never tried Burmese food? Then you’ve come to the right city. From Rakhine-style seafood dishes to spicy Shan noodles, Yangon’s street-food stalls, cafés, and restaurants are the perfect place to get to grips with the country’s rich culinary traditions. Alongside regional offerings, you’ll find Chinese dumplings and Indian biryanis, as well as upmarket venues that are suitable for even the most special occasion.
Begin your foodie explorations with a fragrant bowl of mohinga at Lucky Seven. One of the few remaining traditional teahouses in Downtown Yangon, service starts early in the morning and continues until late afternoon. Aside from the rice noodle soup that’s made with fish, lemongrass, and yellow split pea fritters, and topped with a hard-boiled egg, the extensive menu also includes steamed buns, samosas, and fresh-off-the-griddle roti bread. From the heavy wooden tables inside to the plant-packed terrace outside, the service at this huge venue is fast and frantic.
Lucky Seven, 130 49th Street
For a more refined taste of some traditional dishes, head to the charming Burma Bistro to get a sense of how the country’s approach to cooking is all about balancing sour, spicy, bitter, and salty flavours across a range of curries, condiments, soups, and salads. Perhaps the most famous of all the salads is lahpet thoke – a refreshing blend of fermented tea leaves, tomatoes, chillies, toasted garlic, roasted peanuts, and lime juice. While here, an order of the chickpea tofu fritter served with chilli tamarind sauce is essential.
Burma Bistro, 644 Merchant Road (corner of Shwe Bon Thar Road)
There’s a modern take on mohinga on offer at The Pansodan, a handsome restaurant that recently opened in the grand surrounds of an old Bank of India building. While soaking up the decadent décor, make sure you leave room for a dessert of glutinous rice doughnuts with jaggery sauce.
The Pansodan, 106 Pansodan Road
You are likely to encounter Shan noodles being served all over the country—not just in the sprawling Shan state—but 999 Shan Noodle Shop in Downtown Yangon serves one of the best bowls around. Chicken, pork or fried tofu is cooked in tomatoes and spices, and served on a bed of sticky, flat-rice or wheat noodles alongside a peppery broth.
999 Shan Noodle Shop, 130B 34th Street
Reaching Kachin, the most north-eastern part of Myanmar, can take days by road, rail or river from Yangon, and much of the state remains off-limits to foreign travellers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try the region’s traditional spicy-sour dishes. Meaning ‘delicious’ in Kachin dialect, Mu Ai sits opposite the Hledan Center retail complex and serves a menu of steamed fish or chicken served in banana leaves as well as tasty soups and salads that come in bamboo bowls.
Mu Ai, 10b Hledan Street
Taking inspiration from the seafood dishes served in Rakhine state, on the western coast of the country, Min Lan is filled with tanks containing fish, crabs, tiger prawns and lobsters, which are sold by weight and cooked over open-flame grills in the cavernous kitchens. There are also spicy curries, which have a reputation for being less oily then Burmese curries, and mont di – a rice noodle dish that is Rakhine’s fiery answer to mohinga. There are several branches across the city – the sprawling venue near People’s Park is one of the largest with a relaxed undercover terrace. It’s also next door to Mandalay Tea Room, which serves dishes that are unique to the former royal capital.
Min Lan, 77c Shin Saw Pu Road
Mandalay Tea Room, 77e Shin Saw Pu Road
If you are looking for the city’s answer to Little India, make your way to Anawrahta Road where you will find sweet shops selling gulab jamun and jalebi and casual cafeterias serving dahl and vegetable curries. Specialising in Southern Indian thali-style dishes, the marble-topped tables and polite waiters at Bharat Restaurant make it a smart addition to the area around Sule Pagoda, while Nilar Biriyani serves excellent lassis—from raspberry or mango to plain.
Sandwiched between Strand and Mahabandoola Roads, and running from 13th to 25th Streets, Chinatown is all about baskets of dumplings in the mornings (try All One Dim Sum) and barbecue in the evenings. Once the sun has set, take a walk down 19th Street and you will find plenty of street-food stalls and draft beer stands.
Bharat Restaurant Mahabandoola Street, at the corner of Seikkantha Road
Nilar Biriyani, 216 Anawrahta Road, between 31th and 32th Streets
All One Dim Sum, 90 Sinn O Dan Street
Step back in time and escape the heat of the city’s streets at The Strand Café. Acknowledging the country’s colonial past, the polished floors, lacquered ceiling fans, whimsical wallpaper, and cane rattan chairs set the scene for a high tea with a difference. Served every afternoon, guests are invited to tuck into English garden party-style sandwiches and scones, but are also served a range of Myanmar delicacies—including mutton puffs, wontons stuffed with Rakhine prawns, sago, and coconut milk palm sugar, jasmine jellies, and freshly churned ice cream made with seasonal fruits.
The Strand Café, 92 Strand Road
Meanwhile, French flair meets contemporary Burmese dishes at Nova in the recently opened Rosewood hotel, where the menu is divided into West (pork rillettes, bouillabaisse and roasted salmon) and East (banana blossom salad, deep-fried Ayarwaddy river fish, Myanmar chicken curry).
Nova, 14 Strand Road