Real Burma Food Culture

Jothi Ganesh
Aug 31, 2018 · 4 min read

My parents were born in Burma, but were repatriated to India. My grandparents went to Burma for business, and later came back to Tamilnadu.

More than the history, it’s the food that stays with me. Today, I’d like to take you on a tour of Burmese food


This is the most popular Burmese food. If you love spicy and greasy food, this is for you.

It’s composed of boiled noodles topped with fried gram flour, dried red chilli powder, fried garlic, garlic oil, fried onions, lemon juice, salt water, raw onion, shredded cabbage, Thattai (flat south Indian snack), and coriander leaves. If you want, you can also add fried egg, chicken, mutton, or dry prawns(Koonpodi, another Burmese special which I’ll cover). It’s freshly made and meant to be consumed immediately. Yumm!

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Burma Atho — Home style

Mohinga (We pronounce it as Mongiya at home)

This is an aromatic chick pea flour soup made of either banana stem or fish. It has most of the ingredients you’d find in Atho. This is our go-to remedy for colds. It’s one of the best dinners you can have on a rainy day.

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Kouni arisi/Burmese sticky rice

This is made by soaking white/brown sticky rice overnight. It’s steamed with brown/white karamani. It’s served hot, mixed with sugar and grated coconut. It’s a very filling breakfast won’t let you feel hungry till late noon.

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That’s white sticky rice breakfast


This is made with grated raw carrot, fried tomatoes along with all the ingredients of Atho. This is a great side for any rice dish. You could also make it with cabbage or vallarai keerai(Indian Pennywort). It’s healthy as well as tasty!

Koonpodi/Dry Shrimp

This is made with dried shrimp, cooked with onions, garlic & red chilli paste. It’s a delicious side for plain rice/dhal rice. It goes well with Eenjo thanni(another Burmese food, which I’ll cover later)

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This is sticky rice soaked overnight and ground into a thick paste spread on a banana leaf. It’s stuffed with coconut and sugar, folded and steamed. You need to have it while it’s hot. The sugar, coconut and the rice coating is mouth watering. Whenever I ate this, we ended up licking our elbows of the juices.

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Lahpet(Pronounced as Lapey)

Lahpet is a pickled tea leaves salad, which we have when it rains heavily. The pickled tea leaves are mixed with peanuts, onion, gram dhal, red chilly powder, oil, and an assortment of nuts. We used to take this and sip plain green tea made from the same tea leaves. On a rainy day, a sip of green lahpet and its salad is nothing short of heavenly. Woah! It’s bringing back some nostalgic memories.

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Eenjo thanni

This is a clear soup made of any greens along with a vegetable. Usually it is murungai keerai and surakkai(Bottle Guard). In a way, I’d call it a Burmese rasam.


This is another yummy side made of fried tomatoes, peanut, and garlic. This is my Grandmom’s specialty, and also happens to be my daughter’s favorite. All she needs is Kochi and plain rice.


After eating all this food, you’d need something for digestion, right? That’s where Yesa comes in. It’s a salty, sour, and tangy powder. It tickles when place it on the tongue, is very good for digesting after a meal or when you’re suffering from indigestion.

Food is an important part of our culture, and something we need to pass onto the future generations. As a Tamilian, I prefer giving my daughter Tamil dishes like kali/ kool(porridge), and millet. I don’t believe pizzas and burgers form a part of this.

PS: If you’d like the recipe to any of these dishes, please let me know! I’d be happy to share it with you all.

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