Eat­ing your way through Pyay

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - KHIN WINE PHYU PHYU Trans­la­tion by Khant Lin Oo

YOU can travel the 180 miles (300 kilo­me­tres) to Pyay, Bago Re­gion – about six hours by car – to marvel at its pago­das and drink in its his­tory, which ex­tends back to the fa­bled 1000-year Pyu era.

Or you can go there to eat. Fried snacks, Pyay rice salad, pa­per-thin crisp pan­cakes of rice bat­ter, “hooli­gan” snacks and chicken soup (Mon-style) can all be had in the Kyat Taut San shop near the fa­mous Nawa­day Bridge.

Even in Yan­gon, you may have come across Pyay-style Daw U rice salad. But if you want the real thing, lo­cals rec­om­mend the night mar­ket un­der the statue of Bo­gyoke Aung San in down­town Pyay.

Pyay res­i­dent U Ann Kaut said, “Shops in the night mar­ket are open un­til mid­night or 1am. The food is in­ex­pen­sive. You can get a salad with cooked oil, pea flour, and add tofu, beans, mango and onions. All the shops are dif­fer­ent, with var­i­ous flavours and ingredients.”

A rice salad with fried egg costs K700, and goes with meat or fish curry.

Next morn­ing, break­fast can con­sist of fried snacks and hot oiled rice. Crispy frit­ters of onion or veg­eta­bles, shrimp or gourd melt in the mouth.

Pyay res­i­dents swear by their trade­mark pa­per-thin crisp pan­cakes of rice bat­ter, which are avail­able ev­ery­where in town. They ad­mit you can buy it else­where in the coun­try, but say that’s only be­cause it was spread out from Pyay by itin­er­ant pagoda fes­ti­vals. “In the Ne Win era, the gen­er­als or­dered Pyay pan­cake chefs to cook for their re­cep­tions,” said U Ann Kaut. Or so they say. Any­way, the sight of a pan­cake seller pour­ing a la­dle of bat­ter into a hot pan and rock­ing it from side to side be­fore toss­ing in green peas and onion tops is very com­mon here.

For lunch, fried chicken, small fish frit­ters, chicken soup and chicken curry can be had at the shops near the Nawa­day Bridge. The soup, with chicken, green chilli pep­per, tamarind, egg­plant, lemon grass, ginger, gar­lic and fish paste, is a poem in spice.

In the evening, you can walk along Strand Road sam­pling more frit­ters on the banks of the Aye­yarwady River.

If peo­ple know you’ve been to Pyay, they will ex­pect sou­venirs. Buy your cream, bean sticks and home­made, chem­i­cal-free fruit jam on a Satur­day or Sun­day to be sure of get­ting them, be­cause they sell out fast. Most afi­ciona­dos go to the “teacher” home shop near be­hind Santaw Kyo Pagoda for some­thing that can­not be mis­taken for a com­mer­cial jam.

As res­i­dent Ko Kyaw Tun Khine says, “Noth­ing can com­pare with the food of Pyay.” –

Pho­tos: Thiri Lu

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