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Some of Burma’s best food is situated around Inle Lake, a UNESCO-recognised biosphere reserve located in southern Shan State.
DVB reporter Ko Htwe recently made a trip to the lake, where he snapped a few photos of food vendors and their tasty snacks along the way.
Tohu thoke (Tofu salad)
Tohu thoke is a dish common all around Shan state, but prepared differently depending on which area you’re in. The tohu thoke in Inle has its own unique recipe, common in the nearby towns of Aungban and Taunggyi, and has a unique taste, making it a popular dish among many newcomers to the Nyaungshwe’s lakeside market, which opens one day of every five.
Inle Montee and Paunghtamin (Inle-style fish and noodle soup and steamed rice)
Inle montee is somewhat similar to the Burmese monhinga, except it includes nga-pe (knifefish) and omits the banana tree stem. The soup, just like mohinga, is made with fish and rice powder, plus a lot of tomato. Many Inle montee vendors can be found around the Phaungdaw-U Pagoda and at the Nyaungshwe market. The soup is also a common side-dish, accompanying steamed rice and tohu thoke, or thaye thoke (buffalo skin salad).
Paunghtamin, or steamed rice, is a special type of Shan rice steamed in a bamboo basket. While the texture of Shan rice is not as thick as sticky rice, it is richer than normal rice. Vendors often pack the rice or sticky rice in a lotus leaf when preparing a take-away order, giving the grain a mild lotus essence. The Paunghtamin also goes together with tohu thoke.
Fried pork and sticky rice
Pork fried with leek is another popular breakfast food in Shan State. Vendors serving the dish are all over the five-day Nyaungshwe market. The pork-and-rice seller usually only puts a small amount of pork in their dishes. Lotus-essence sticky rice and the fried pork go along incredibly well, especially when accompanied by coriander, pickled mustard leaf, and deep fried red chillies.
Fish rice cake and sour pork
One of the most popular dishes sold at the Phaungdaw-U pagoda and around Nyaungshwe market. Both can be eaten together or separately, with additions of fried chilli, leek root and pickled chilli. In Nyaungshwe, Ko Lone’s restaurant is renowned for its incredible fish rice cakes and sour pork. If you’re eager to get a taste though, Ko Htwe recommends getting in early – they usually run out by late morning.
Buffalo skin salad and fried buffalo leather
An interesting meal which is becoming rarer to find. Available at the Nyaungshwe market and usually consumed as side-dish.
Hinhtoke (mashed vegetable and rice wrapped in banana leaf)
Another popular meal across Shan State is rice, vegetable and leek mashed together and wrapped in banana leaf. You can order this tasty dish with pork or with vegetables.
Bee Mont (Comb snack)
Typically eaten as an early morning snack in Nyaungshwe, Bee Mont is named for its resemblance to a type of comb used by women in the early 1900s. The ‘Comb Snack’ consists of fried pastry stuffed with potato or leek, and is the quintessential ‘taste explosion’ when combined with chilli dip. Ko Htwe says anyone interested in trying this local snack should check out U Sein Ni’s Bee Mont shop in downtown Nyaungshwe – but make sure to get there early in the morning.
Mont Lone Phyu (white rice buns)
These sweet rice buns with sugar or milk powder filling can be found at most street-side stalls. Traditionally eaten as snack and also used as offering to Buddhist shrines.