In Myanmar street food spills onto the streets at night. The sidewalk cannot contain them, and cars and buses are forced to yield to nighttime diners.
I sit on a little plastic stool at a silver table, waiting for my noodles. In the stifling humidity, the cool metal table is mildly refreshing against my bare forearms. Smells of curries and oily meats from the Myanmar street food waft around me. My stomach pangs, crying out for something delicious.
On the sidewalk is an array of food stalls. Dishes of…somethings, and trays of…other somethings. The types of meats are a mystery to me. Even the names of some of the vegetables escape me. Most of it smells mouth-watering, but once in a while something off-putting comes my way.
I’m surrounded by others enjoying a late night dinner on the street
Cars move along only a few meters away from the dining area, yet I hardly notice that I’m seated in the outside traffic lane. In the day this land goes to the cars, at night it becomes valuable real estate for food stalls.
Since the city banned motorbikes and scooters in Yangon, it is much quieter than other southeast Asian cities. It’s entirely possible to have a conversation and not be drowned out by two-wheelers thundering past you.
The woman who sold me my lime smoothy told me the ice was made with purified water and not tap water. I sip slowly, and trust that I won’t get sick. Even so, there must be contamination somewhere, so my defence is to simply will that I won’t get sick. It seems to work well enough most of the time.
Finally my noodles arrive
It is some variation of shan noodles, a popular Myanma dish. I prefer the ones not in a soup. I pick them up with my chopsticks, pulling them through the oil on my plate so as to soak up as much as possible. The oilier, the better. This would basically become my criteria when ordering any food in Myanmar.
As I slurp my noodles, I watch as life goes on around me. Women chatting. Bus drivers yelling. Mice scurrying. Cooks cooking. Singles eating. Young people laughing.
A curious mix of cultures. Young people play on smart phones, yet there are no motorbikes. Cars fill the streets, yet there is no McDonalds. Young women wear jeans, and young men wear a longyi. An occasional Coka Cola, but more often a Myanma brand of soda.
I sit on a little plastic stool at a silver table, finishing my noodles. My tummy is happy, and I feel ready for sleep. My lime smoothy has vanished, and the hectic atmosphere is becoming too much for me. I hand over a few dirty bills and walk down the street back to my hotel.
My dinner eating Myanmar street food is a culturally eye-opening experience. I want more, but I need to sleep now.
Good night, Yangon. ‘Till tomorrow.
What are your experiences eating street food somewhere in the world?