Myan­mar food from a Chi­nese per­spec­tive – Chi­nese in­tern group

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Huang Lingzhi , Geng Dezhi and Qu Ge

From July 5 to July 19, the un­der­grad­u­ate team of the School of Jour­nal­ism and In­for­ma­tion Com­mu­ni­ca­tion of Huazhong Univer­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy went to Mizzima, a fa­mous me­dia group in Myan­mar, for a 15-day in­tern­ship. Dur­ing the in­tern­ship pe­riod, 10 un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents formed three teams to con­duct re­search in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions ac­cord­ing to their own in­ter­ests and hob­bies.

Our team “Fried Rice 2800” ad­hered to the prin­ci­ple of “The most im­por­tant thing for ev­ery­one is food.” and with the un­lim­ited yearn­ing for Myan­mar cui­sine, opened a sur­prise and an un­for­get­table culi­nary jour­ney.

As the old say­ing goes in an­cient China – “We can't say what is the Tao." The philo­soph­i­cal thoughts of the "Dis­course does not fully ex­press mean­ing" al­ways linger in an­cient Chi­nese phi­los­o­phy. For this rea­son, the cul­ture of a na­tion is al­ways dif­fi­cult to de­scribe in words. They may ex­ist in the Na­tional Mu­seum, may ex­ist in the class­rooms of pri­mary and sec­ondary schools, and are more likely to ex­ist in the small restau­rants in the streets. This time, we are fo­cus­ing on the mo­tif of all hu­man think­ing food, ex­pect­ing to ex­plore the cul­tural con­no­ta­tion of this an­cient coun­try Myan­mar through food.

We de­cided to delve into Myan­mar food, in­clud­ing vis­it­ing restau­rants to taste it in per­son. The aim was to ad­here to the idea that "prac­tice is the sole cri­te­rion for test­ing truth." Dur­ing the half-month pe­riod, we trav­eled through the streets of Myan­mar, ate in dif­fer­ent types of restau­rants, and tasted tra­di­tional food and ex­otic food. In the process of experience and learn­ing, we fi­nally fo­cused on laphet and pork stick.

On the af­ter­noon of July 9, we had a chance to come to the School of For­eign Lan­guages at Yan­gon Univer­sity. Pro­fes­sor Poe warmly wel­comed us. Re­gard­ing the cui­sine of Myan­mar, Pro­fes­sor Poe tells us that many of the foods that can be eaten in Yan­gon are im­proved, and the tastes are in line with the tastes of peo­ple from all over the world, such as var­i­ous curry foods with In­dian taste, Korean kim­chi and rice cakes, Chi­nese hot pot and veg­eta­bles, and so forth.

After be­ing in Yan­gon for four days it was dif­fi­cult to tell whether the food we bought was of au­then­tic Burmese taste. In the ex­change with Pro­fes­sor Poe and the lo­cals, it is known that the taste of the Burmese is sour, spicy, light, greasy, sim­i­lar to the taste of Sichuan in China. And it is usu­ally re­quired to put chili oil on the ta­ble. Burmese love chicken, duck, fish, shrimp, shrimp paste, fish sauce, and they love eat­ing curry, usu­ally ask­ing for a lit­tle sweet. It is best to mix with toma­toes. In ad­di­tion to eat­ing or­di­nary veg­eta­bles, peo­ple like to use fruits to cook. For ex­am­ple, cut the mango into pieces, mix with soy flour, shrimp pine, shrimp soy sauce, onion and fried pep­per seeds. It tastes sour, salty, spicy and fresh.

What sur­prised us and moved us was that Pro­fes­sor Poe gave us two au­then­tic Burmese cuisines. One sound is like "tani", which is a lo­cal spe­cialty palm sugar, and the other is called "laphet", which is a kind of pick­led tea prod­ucts. While en­joy­ing the de­li­cious pick­led tea made by the pro­fes­sor, I can't help but think of Chi­nese tea. Tea in China is usu­ally used to soak in wa­ter, and the tea cul­ture has a long his­tory. The literati en­joy tea for self-cul­ti­va­tion. The tea is also used to show your open-hand­ed­ness and hos­pi­tal­ity. The tea cer­e­mony is used to ex­press re­spect and ad­mi­ra­tion. We usu­ally also achieve in­ner peace by drink­ing tea. The love of tea is the same as that of China and Myan­mar. As the lo­cal proverbs in Myan­mar say: “Mango is the best among all fruits; pork is the best among all meats; in all the leaves, laphet it is the best.” But is this kind of pick­led tea sim­i­lar to China in terms of cul­tural con­no­ta­tion and food eti­quette? Can “laphet” also rep­re­sent Myan­mar food to the world like Chi­nese tea? We have many ques­tions.

With all kinds of ques­tions, on the af­ter­noon of July 12, Mr. Lei Yun, the Chi­nese Dean of the Con­fu­cius Class­room in Fux­ing, Myan­mar, in­tro­duced our three squad mem­bers to visit Mr. Deng Huaqiang, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Myan­mar Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion, and Mr. Su Xia, Pres­i­dent of the Myan­mar Fu­jian Youth As­so­ci­a­tion. Through this con­tact, we fur­ther un­der­stood the his­tor­i­cal ori­gins of the three tra­di­tional foods in Myan­mar, Mo­hinga, Laphet, and pork stick, as well as the ad­just­ment and changes of tra­di­tional food in Myan­mar's in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion process.

We sim­ply shared the Chi­nese tea cul­ture with Mr. Deng and sug­gested the dif­fer­ences be­tween Chi­nese peo­ple drink­ing tea and Burmese eat­ing tea. Mr. Deng said, “Burmese like to eat laphet, some­times as a snack, some­times as a din­ner, al­most ev­ery fam­ily has a laphet at home.” As for cour­tesy and hos­pi­tal­ity, when you come to visit Myan­mar friends, they will also of­fer you a fresh laphet, which is a wel­come to you.” In terms of “self-cul­ti­va­tion”, “laphet” is closer to “nor­mal fam­ily” than “Literati”. At first, the "laphet" method was in­vented by the royal fam­ily mem­bers, and then be­came a di­etary trend in the nor­mal fam­ily. The Burmese peo­ple re­garded "laphet" as an in­dis­pens­able dish in their lives in­stead of nour­ish­ing things.

On July 10, by chance, we met a Burmese girl Xiaoli who has lived in China for more than ten years. When we saw Xiaoli, she was eat­ing pork sticks at the ferry. When she heard that we were talk­ing in Chi­nese, she greeted us with great en­thu­si­asm to taste the spe­cial­ties of Myan­mar.

"This is called pork stick, which can only be seen in Myan­mar. It is de­li­cious," she said.

Xiaoli proudly in­tro­duced the pork stick to us. Un­der her lead­er­ship, we in­ves­ti­gated lo­cal mar­kets, snack streets, and fer­ries in Yan­gon, tried street food, and learned about the cul­tural im­pli­ca­tions and in­ter­est­ing sto­ries of many street foods, and deep­ened the recog­ni­tion of Myan­mar food cul­ture.

When we asked Xiaoli for her views on the food of the two coun­tries, Xiaoli said that she could cook Chi­nese food, and her hus­band also loved it, but she still couldn't for­get the food of her home­town of Myan­mar.

"You are Chi­nese. It is very novel to come to Myan­mar. I grew up in Myan­mar and it is my home." Even after spend­ing so long in China, which is fa­mous for its food, Xiaoli has not changed her pref­er­ence for Burmese food. When she set foot back in Myan­mar again, she said she fondly re­turned to her coun­try’s street food.

Cul­ture is na­tional and global, and so is the food. With the in­crease in in­ter­na­tional ex­changes, Yan­gon has more for­eign restau­rants, and some lo­cal restau­rants have also ad­justed the food flavour to meet the pref­er­ences of for­eign trav­el­ers. The Feel Restau­rant near the French and In­done­sian em­bassies is a highly suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple.

On the af­ter­noon of July 15, our group came to Feel Restau­rant in Yankin Cen­ter, which was rec­om­mended by Mr. Deng Huaqiang, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of Myan­mar Food and Bev­er­age As­so­ci­a­tion. The foods here are com­pat­i­ble and in­clude Chi­nese, West­ern, Burmese and Thai dishes, mod­i­fied to a cer­tain ex­tent. The restau­rant mainly has two modes: Self-ser­vice and or­der­ing. The dishes here are var­ied and the Amer­i­can fast food such as French fries, burg­ers and fried chicken are quite sat­is­fac­tory, suit­able for fast-paced din­ing peo­ple. Chi­nese noo­dles have the taste of curry as a soup, which has a unique taste.

What we noted was there were tourists from all over the world. And they were happy to praise the restau­rant hid­den in the first floor of the mall.

Myan­mar is mov­ing to­wards in­ter­na­tion­al­iza­tion. As a coun­try of thou­sands of Bud­dhas, we can feel its sim­plic­ity and peace from the food in the streets and lanes. Burmese food has its own dis­tinc­tive fea­tures, such as the "laphet" pick­led tea is the only one in the world.

After walk­ing through hun­dreds of streets, we found the taste of Myan­mar that be­longs to us. This coun­try has given us a warm wel­come and a sin­cere smile. We hope that one day we can re­cip­ro­cate.

We hope that one day, our friendly and kind Myan­mar friends can come to China - We will give the great­est sin­cer­ity to en­ter­tain you. And we will en­deav­our to pro­vide you the best of our de­li­cious Chi­nese cui­sine.

Chi­nese in­terns en­joy Yan­gon cui­sine.

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