I have seen lots of street food around and been excited to try but also fairly worried about the normal things: hygiene, food quality and deliciousness! I was recommended the SaBa Street Food Tour by several people who mentioned their freinds or family had had good experiences.
Marc was very helpful in changing the tour for dietary requirements and advising on the trishow. I booked the evening tour for two people and our guide was Kyaw. We had a Trishaw, like a richshaw but with a side car, which was a really fun way to traverse the city. Kyaw was great at giving us background to the dishes we tried and filling us in with Myanmar culture.
The first dish on the menu was Mohinga, a local classic. This is a fish broth with slim noodles, usually made from carp fish. Ours was topped with fried gourd and banana stem. Although not much of a looker it was delicious! It’s usually served as a breakfast, but street vendors noticed it’s a warming quick meal and started selling it in the evenings as well. Perfect !
Then we got back on the richshaw and headed to a little shop for Shan Noodles. The place was a skinny, long thin shop just off the main drag, and inside was white tiled top to bottom.
Shan state is in the north of Myanmar and happened to be where our guide Kyaw from. They come as a ‘soup’ with ramen style broth, or ‘salad’ without this. We had ours salad style with thick flat noodles, chicken and plenty of sauce. You can add chicken stock water with spring onions, and chilli flakes to taste. They also had a type of fermented vegetables which I thought might be like Kim chi but we’re actually more like pickled cabbage. The Shan Noodles were excellent of course.
Next at the same little shop came a tray of dumplings. These were gelatinous lumps, filled with chicken mince, boiled and then quickly fried for colour. They were nice, but made nicer with a bright orange sweet and sour dipping sauce.
When we made our way outside, the sun was setting and it was quite dark! We jumped on the trishaw and came to a stall basically in the middle of the road with a lady selling rice pancakes. She had lots of different types but we picked up spring onion, egg, and banana (Oxford comma fairly important there) which she cut with the tongs and put into bags for us to eat while on the rickshaw. The banana was probably the highlight for me. It was sweet with palm sugar crystals and squishy with banana, the thick pancake making a perfect wedge to hold while speeding through the traffic.
Next it was on to the market to see many beautiful fruits, vegetables and heaps of spices. There was some meat but lots of fish and huge shellfish in bowls. Our guide pointed out ‘snake face fish’ which was as attractive as you might think.
Other highlights included a big wobbling pile of ‘elephant foot tuber’, tiny white aubergines, peices of banana stem thicker than a leg, and fluffy lychees called Rambutan that I had seen elsewhere in the streets.
Next we moved on to a traditional tea shop. These are shacks at the side of the road, often a couple of crates and bowls, with an umbrella for the rain, and lots of tiny plastic chairs and tables, like children’s furniture.
We arrived just as evening prayer was finishing and everyone was coming out of mosque, wanting tea and a chit chat. A loud exasperated lady in a bright yellow longyi and matching headscarf was wading through the organised chaos and ordering about a whole load of young chaps into providing a range of teas and salads for people. We sampled the ‘not so sweet’ and ‘sweet and bitter’ varieties which to be honest both mainly tasted of condensed milk and not much else to my unrefined palate. We also tucked in to some unusual salads (to me anyway, they are common street food in Yangon) of pennywort, tea leaves, morning glory and something called ‘green crumb’ which seemed to be mainly nuts and raw onion. Chilli and raw garlic completed the authentic tea experience.
After our delicious salads. It was back on the bike to get to a little place for dessert. This was a twist on the traditional Falooda, made with custard pudding, tapioca pearls, vanilla ice cream, milk and small jellies all layered in a tall glass with ice and eaten with a spoon. I was not a fan. Like a really wet, sweet trifle, it was mix of strange claggy textures and sickly while also having a blend of thick milk and ice sloshing around the stomach. Anyway, apparently it’s very popular so I am clearly wrong! But not for me.
After this low point in Myanmar cuisine I was nearly full to bursting but ready to end on a high. When our guide said we were heading to 19th Street I was delighted because it is meant to be the hive of activity! When we finally left our TriShaw we saw this was the case!
I don’t know how we would have chosen somewhere as every shopfront was busy to bursting. There were market stalls, tables and people chatting and laughing all along the street. We took a seat and ordered some BBQ fish. This turned out to be a whole grilled Tilapia served with tamarind dip,
marinated in chilli and garlic, stuffed with lemongrass and other fragrant herbs. Delicious!! The fish fell off the bone and the meat was soft and beautiful.
A really fun place to have a beer and do some serious people watching! A great end to the evening and a highly recommended experience.
Sa ba means eat please in Myanmar language, and I’m so glad we did!
Sa Ba Street Food Tours: From $35 per person