You will have worked out by now that I love good food, and I’m partial to a good cocktail.
Mandalay has the former in spades.
Shwe Pyi Moe Cafe
Having arrived in Mandalay half starved (we chose sleep over breakfast that morning), we checked in hurriedly and headed for a noisy eatery we had driven past on our way in from the airport… it was literally right next door to our hotel.
Part cafeteria, part cheap restaurant, Shwe Pyi Moe Cafe is an extremely busy (and delicious smelling) spot, packed to the rafters with locals. In fact we were hard pressed to find a table for three, but managed to squeeze in close to the kitchen, which was an impressive production line of dishes and drinks.
Teenage boys in red shirts worked as dish washers or waited on tables, while older men and some ladies cooked in the kitchen. Very little is in English – take your English to Burmese dictionary – but we were lucky our menu had pictures! However, when we began to order, the boys in red shirts looked at us with wide eyes and confusion, before running off to bring an older man who spoke a little English to translate for them.
The locals chattered loudly over the drone of the generators and lots of people stared at us while we were there, and I got the feeling that foreigners were a rare sight in this cafe.
We ordered palatas, a kind of roti stuffed with your choice of filling. John and I had banana palata, while Patrick ordered an egg palata. They’re served hot, with a pot of sugar for sprinkling over the pastry, and are nothing short of delicious. And filling! Three palatas and a soft drink each cost us 3800 kyats ($AUD4.15).
Shwe Pyi Moe Cafe also serves a variety of traditional Burmese dishes including Mohingha, Shan noodles and Indian Dosal.
Shwe Taung Tan Restaurant
On the opposite side of our hotel was this brilliant little restaurant with tables set out on the balcony, providing perfect people watching spots. This restaurant also had a take away noodle stand at the front, and both the noodle stand and the restaurant were unbelievably popular with locals.
The staff here speak relatively good English, and the menus were in English which made things a bit easier. We settled in with a beer to watch Mandalay life happen around us, and ended up ordering dinner there as well.
Shwe Taung Tan has a large variety of dishes on offer, including Burmese food, Thai and Chinese dishes and even some Western food. After much umming and ahhing over the menu, I order the Kachin chicken, Pat ordered the lemon fish (“a little spicy”) and John went after the grilled Ayerwaddy River prawns again.
Here are the obligatory photos of the amazing food:
Patrick’s lemon fish had a delicious sweetness that you get from river fish, which mixed well with the odd creamy lemon and chilli sauce that it was covered in. Patrick is a fan of chilli and all things spicy, so it makes it hard to share dishes with him in Asia. He asked for “a little spicy” but it was too spicy for me! I’m a giant wuss when it comes to chillis… proven by my refusal to take part in Pat and John’s chilli dipping sauce game in Yangon!
Many people complain that Burmese food is fatty and oily, but I disagree. While oil is a part of the cooking process, I didn’t find any of our dishes overly oily. I highly recommend trying Kachin chicken if you find it on a menu. It’s a spicy and savoury tasting dish that takes over your senses and leaves you wanting another three plates!