Burmese food is not one of the highlights of travel here. It’s hard to compete with neighbouring Thailand. But we have had some culinary experiences worth writing about. In Yangon we discovered the ubiquitous Burmese breakfast – mohinga – vermacilli noodles in a fish-based broth, sometimes including egg, vegetables and fresh herbs. Very tasty. But not what we want to eat every morning – especially after a long bus road. Fortunately avocados are cheap and abundant and if we can track down a local Indian place then avocados with chippatis makes for a good faux-western breakkie.
One thing we do love is the Burmese tea stand. Found all through the main cities of Yangon and Mandalay, the tea stand is a perfect place for a little pick-me up in the form of exceptionally strong tea sweetened with a decadent dollop of sweetened condensed milk. Seating is a little kid-sized stool around a low table that is adorned with tempting snacks such as samosas or chinese buns. Locals drink tea, read newspapers, talk and smoke cheroots (green cigars). We drink tea, stare at them and pretend not to mind the sweat dripping down the backs of our legs.
One thing that is curious about the teahouses is the use of children as wait staff. Boys and sometimes girls from the ages of about seven to 15, seem to run the places and they range from being very cute to very annoying. For some reason it is the trend in Burma for boys to put a red rinse through their hair. I’ve seen this is India too, normally just amongst the silver-hair set, but in Burma it is definitely the kids that hit the bottle.
To get the attention of a boy to bring your tea, one simply makes a smooching kiss noise with the lips. This smooching sound coming from all directions, combined with eight-year olds sauntering around with all the mannerisms of waiters who have been on the job for twenty years makes the teahouse experience a little bizarre but always entertaining.