Tag Archives: Burmese food

Challenge: Eating ALL the Burmese Food!

In case you don’t keep close track of my schedule (and why not?!), I visited Burma/Myanmar a few weeks ago with my buddies Sarah and Melanie. One of the reasons I was excited to visit Myanmar is that I just knew that Burmese food was delicious. All the Burmese food I’ve had in the States and in Thailand has been fantastic, so I was really excited to go to Myanmar and eat ALL the food.

Well, no thank you, Burma, I will pass on most of the Burmese food you presented.

Look, I’m sorry, but sometimes somebody has to speak the truth: Burmese food in Burma is not the most delicious stuff I’ve ever eaten. The Indian food was crazy good, though, so that’s positive!

Let’s recap:

Burmese food in Burma: No, thank you.

Burmese food outside of Burma: Yes, please!

Indian food in Burma: Yes, please!

Indian food outside of Burma: Yes, please!

Conclusion: Indian food is awesome.

And now some pictures!

My favorite meal of the trip:

See, it’s Indian! Fried bread cut up, samosas cut up, chickpeas, mint, tomatoes and potatoes, all covered in broth. It cost about 40 cents. I will dream about this for the rest of my life. Really.

This was supposed to be our last breakfast, except that a plane ran off the runway at the Yangon airport and we had one more night at a very nice hotel in Yangon. Air Asia actually came through; they took care of all the hotel stuff and then had a special extra flight the next day for all of us to get back to Bangkok.

That has nothing to do with food.

Final Score: 

Eating ALL the Burmese Food: 0   Sarah, Melanie, Megan: 1

We tried and tried and tried. I say we win!

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Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It: Part 2

**Apologies (mostly to my mother) for not posting sooner. I was in Burma/Myanmar for a week and could not access my site. Apparently the junta thinks I am dangerous! Sweet! The next week will be pretty sporadic, as well, for posting, as I’ll be doing a silent meditation retreat on Koh Samui, so no Internet, phone, reading, writing, speaking, etc. AT ALL. Good grief, I might just lose it.

For part 1 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It, see here.

And now without further ado, here is the long-awaited (yeah, yeah) part 2 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not A Do-Gooder and Feel Kind Of Guilty About It!

You’re welcome.

6. See Some Waterfalls.

Sarah arranged for a driver to take us around to some waterfalls in the area. He was Burmese, spoke pretty good English, had a 30-year-old car with no air conditioning, and also sold yogurt. We found about the yogurt because every now and then he would stop at a factory or a Karen-Thai village and say, “5 minutes!” Then he would take a cooler out of the trunk and sell some yogurt to people. It was…odd. But whatever, we were cool; we went with the flow.

So, anyway, William (our Burmese driver’s name was William, duh) drove us around to see some water falling down hills. How that ends up being so beautiful is beyond me, but it is.

I think this is purty.

7. Eat Lots of Burmese Food

Funnily enough, I was heading to Myanmar right after I was in Mae Sot, but from all accounts, the Burmese food in Mae Sot is better than the Burmese food in Burma. After having been in Burma, I can vouch for this truth.

For those of you who will be venturing up to Mae Sot and are looking for farang-friendly joints, Borderline has the most amazing potato curry, chickpeas, tealeaf salad, and basil lime juice.

Burmese ginger salad. My mom's favorite!

Burmese tealeaf salad. Yup, it's really tea!

Drooling now...

SP Kitchen, it is generally agreed, has the best tofu salad and fish curry.

Lucky is the place to go in the morning for Burmese Muslim food, but you have to get there early; by 9 a.m. everything you want will have long been sold out. Sarah and I went one morning and had potato curry, chickpea curry, two roti, two naan, and two Burmese teas, and it cost us 54 baht. That’s less than $2 for all of that. As a bonus, you have kids (kids—not teenagers) who should really be in school yelling your tea order to the kitchen in the back and serving you food, so you can start out your morning alternately praising the heavens for the delicious food you are stuffing in your face and feeling horribly guilty because you probably shouldn’t be patronizing a place that employs kids instead of sending them to school.

What I find interesting about that, incidentally, is that this place is super popular with all the NGO workers in town, as well.

Just-made naan. GET IN MY FACE!

8. Go to the Markets.

Duh, it’s Thailand, it’s pretty much a law that you have to visit the markets in any given town. In Mae Sot proper, there is a very lively and large market that lasts all day. Part of it is the fresh market, with fruit, vegetables, meat, seafood, and–of course–large fried insects for sale. The other part of it is daily needs, clothes, that kind of thing.

Here’s a tip: Buy packets of tealeaf salad ingredients at the stalls here. They’re vacuum-packed and you can take them back with you and impress all your friends by adding some stuff and making tealeaf salad. If you’re in the United States and you are a white person (as in “Stuff White People Like” white person), this will immediately up your social standing by about 15,000 points because the kind of tealeaf you need is difficult and expensive to buy back in the U.S.

You’re welcome. Again. I really am providing you with a wealth of information today!

Burmese Muslim vendor. The white stuff on her face is called tanaka, and is used widely in Burma as sunscreen!

The other market, Mae Rim, is out of town at the river on the border of Myanmar and Thailand. Lots of tourist crap, really, but some neat stuff, too.

The market is right next to the Burmese-Thai border.

9. Hang Out in the Wats

The other tourist law in Thailand is that you’re required to visit ALL the wats.

My first trip to Mae Sot I was followed by the cutest—and dirtiest–kids ever at one of the wats. We shared some fruit and candy, I let them take pictures with my camera, they fought over who got to monkey-grip my various limbs while I was walking, and I had to practice my teacher look (I still got it!). It was good times.

ARE YOU SERIOUS?! STOP BEING SO CUTE!*

*(This pic was taken by one of the other kids.)

My second trip to Mae Sot, I found a Burmese Buddhist wat with a bunch of people hanging out. I knew it was Burmese Buddhist because the Buddhas have LED lights behind them like—Hey, here’s Buddha! He’s enliiiiiightennnnnned! Good for you, Buddha! Par-taaaaaaay!

What a horrible photo. Still, you can kind of make out the party Buddhas in the background.

I hung out around the fringes watching people until I got myself invited to give alms to the monks, eat a huge lunch in honor of a family member becoming a monk for a week, roam around the temple, and do some chanting (during which I fell asleep).

So, when I reviewed this picture, I'm sorry to report that I said, 'Oh my god, I look huge!' The lady to my left (in the pink) then said, 'But my skin is so dark!' Women in any culture: Insecure about their looks for one reason or another. Gah.

10. Do Some Shopping

Mae Sot has some nice fair trade shops like WEAVE (Women’s Education for Advancement and Empowerment), which is a registered fair trade store and supports Karen (an ethnic—and Christian—Burmese group) women refugees living in the camps. They have some really beautiful items, and I know that the money actually helps people, not just the organization.

Borderline, mentioned above for their food, is another store that has beautiful fair trade items.

______________________________________________________________________________________________
And that is my guide to Mae Sot. I really do recommend visiting, as it’s very different from any other part of Thailand I’ve seen.

Just remember if you go, though, to keep in mind the words of an extremely pretentious person on the Lonely Planet forum for Mae Sot: “Mae Sot is really for the traveler, not the tourist.”

And if you meet this person while traveling in Mae Sot, please punch him in the face for me.

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Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Guilty About It: Part 1

When I leave Thailand and people ask me how my time here was, I’m going to sum it up in one sentence:

Saw a lot of cool wats, ate a lot of delicious food, hung out with a lot of amazing people, the end.

Seriously, this accurately describes all my time in Thailand (ok, not ALL my time in Thailand, but some things are private, people!).

My time in Mae Sot has fit the mold, though Mae Sot is different than any Thai town I’ve been to. It’s on the border of Burma and has an interesting mix of foreign NGO workers, Thai, Burmese, and other ethnic groups from Burma like the Karen. There are several refugee camps in the area, and there is a large population of Buddhists, Muslims and Christians, though I can’t comment on the harmony of those populations living together because I don’t really know enough about the situation.

This is my second visit to Mae Sot to visit my friend Sarah, and while she is working, I’m off exploring, eating lots of food, and sitting in coffee shops. Oh, and taking naps, of course. What am I, somebody with a job?

Here is part 1 of my Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Bad About It list. It is highly subjective and only reasonably informative.

1. Embrace Your Inner Dirty Hippy

Do you harbor a secret desire to wear fisherman pants without irony and not wash your hair on a regular basis? Mae Sot is the place for you!

The foreign population in Mae Sot, in my entirely informal poll of people I’ve seen and talked to in a couple of days, is mostly made up of NGO workers and volunteers. Many are those extremely beautiful, makeup-less, fresh-faced, eager, young people who wear baggy fisherman pants without irony and talk about changing the world in such an earnest way you want to give them a big hug and protect them from the inevitable disappointments of the world. In Bangkok, these people are usually confined to Khao San Road, where they can eat terrible pad thai, drink buckets of whiskey and Red Bull and talk about how awesome Thailand is.

In Bangkok, there is a largely-professional group of expats working in the city. Even (“even”!) English teachers dress up for work in business clothes. I generally try to dress like a normal human being in Bangkok and make an effort to put on make-up and wear heels occasionally. In general (GENERAL), Bangkokians may not dress up, but they don’t really dress down.

In Mae Sot, though…I’m totally embracing my 20-year-old inner dirty hippy. I’m wearing the same dirty pants (trousers, Brits, trousers!) every day I’m here, I’ve got my hair in a bun, no make-up, and I’m wearing those awesome head covering things that I usually only wear at the beach or for hiking. And you know what? I totally do not stand out and I am loving it.

I don’t even feel unattractive, whereas in Bangkok I would be the biggest slob on the block in these get-ups. Not that it would matter, but still.

Yay, inner hippy drinks tea from a Snoopy mug while listening to somebody talk (but looks introspective)!

p.s. I’m sure there are plenty of professional people here, and clearly not everyone is a hippy, but it’s funnier that way!

2. Take a Burmese Cooking Class

My mother’s favorite restaurant in the Washington, DC area is a Burmese one called Mandalay, and she adores their ginger salad. When I told her I was going to a Burmese cooking class in Mae Sot, she gasped, “Oh, be sure to make my salad.”

Well, Mother, never fear, I have made your salad, and it is stupid easy to put together. I’ll make it for you when I get home.

The class we attended was at Borderline, which has a cute shop and a tea garden/restaurant with scrumptious food. We started off the day by going to the market in town for supplies, then stopped off for breakfast at a Burmese tea shop, where we sat on teensy little stools and had some noodles and…tea. I know, that’s a shocker.

I like to keep you on your toes.

In the class, we made ginger salad, tealeaf salad, veggie pakoras with lime ginger dipping sauce, potato curry, and basil lime juice. And then we put it all in our faces and made a lot of obscene “mmmmmmm…ohmygodthatissogood” noises.

That's some potato curry getting ready to be cooked up and shoved into mouths. GET IN MY BELLY, POTATO CURRY!

It all costs 450B (about $14) per person, and we got a cookbook to keep, as well. Worth every freaking penny.

Foods. Delicious foods.

3. Go See Burma

Notice I didn’t say you could actually visit Burma from Mae Sot. You know how Sarah Tiny Fey Palin can see Russia from her house? Well, you can see Burma from Mae Sot! You used to be able to cross the bridge and go into Burma, but Burma closed the border in 2010. Mrwah.

Those buildings are in Burma, right across the river. Soooo close...

4. Rent a Bike and Ride It Around

While living in Japan, I had a bike I rode around the city, as many people did. I would zip around people and ring my bell at them with great glee. I miss it quite a lot, to be honest. And you might think I take my life in my hands when I ride a motorcycle taxi in Bangkok without a helmet, but I would truly be suicidal if I rode a bicycle around that city.

Enter Stage Left: Mae Sot!

Dang, people, riding a bike around this town is fun.

Positives:

  • It costs 30B (~$1) a day to rent a bike.
  • Traffic jams don’t exist here, so it’s fast getting around.
  • It’s flat flat flat.
  • It takes no time at all to bike outside of the town and find yourself in the middle of rice paddies and water buffaloes. I biked about 20 minutes from the center of town and was really in the sticks, with people staring at me and gasping, “Oh, farang!”

Negatives:

  • It sucks when it rains.
  • Not so easy in a dress/skirt.
  • It’s hot hot hot.

The goat stared at me until I said, "HELLO!" and then he smiled, muttered, "Farang," under his breath, and moved on with his life. Oh wait, that was ALL THE PEOPLE IN MAE SOT who did that.

5. Battle Some Soi Dogs

Thailand’s population of stray soi dogs is approximately 5 times the population of the actual country. Packs of mangy, poorly fed, pitiful dogs roam the streets and sometimes bother unsuspecting Canadians like my friend Sarah. I think she doesn’t normally wear her maple leaf flag badge so the soi dogs don’t know they’re supposed to leave her alone and pick on Americans, like the rest of the world. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

USA! USA! USA!

Anywho, Sarah has to routinely battle soi dogs who chase her on her bike and nip at her heels as she’s trying to ride home. She has tried various tactics including yelling, jabbing at them with an umbrella, and–her last resort–bribing them with dog treats.

So far, Sarah is winning the battle, but she is afraid it’s only a matter of time before she starts to lose.

But she's too pretty to attack, soi dogs!

All this is to say that if you’d like to get your adrenaline going and do some battles with stray dogs, you should make a trip to Mae Sot. You won’t regret it. 

***Part 2 of Things To Do In Mae Sot If You’re Not Being a Do-Gooder and Feel Kind of Bad About It will be coming here in a few days…

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