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Saturday, May 29, 2021

Myanmar, But Without the Military Coup Part

We're still celebrating AAPI Heritage Month and this has been an interesting month for learning things. We have previously "traveled" to Japan, China, Thailand, and Mongolia just a few weeks ago. Funnily, we've never actually made it to Asia, though we have plans to visit Japan in the somewhat near future and we've just made plans to visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives in 2023. 

We're still celebrating AAPI Heritage Month with a destination date night to Myanmar (or Burma) in order to try a new local restaurant.

Our neighborhood just got a new Burmese restaurant that I wanted to try, so I decided to do a whole staycation around it. The only things we know about Burma/Myanmar* are not great, so I thought we'd learn what makes the country awesome, besides the food, which is pretty wonderful. Top Burmese opened during the pandemic and immediately figured out how to stand out and stay open. 

They have a nice outdoor seating area and when indoor seating came back, they introduced robot wait staff. They still have regular wait staff, but many of the dishes and takeout orders are brought by robot to limit contact between people. They also have a robot at their bar that picks up glasses and helps the human bartender. 

We both went in to pick up food and had to wait a few minutes for our order to be ready. We took a seat and watched these awesome robots do their jobs really flawlessly. They are limited to food inside, as they can't make it over the threshold to serve outside and humans deliver any alcoholic beverages and also take orders and interact with guests as they normally would (just a bit less frequently asking if you need anything). In short, they are doing things efficiently and keeping staff and patrons as safe as possible. I'm excited to eat there in person when I feel more comfortable doing so.

before we get to food, let's talk about the decor at home. I ordered two backdrops, but I either misplaced the second one or it disappeared somewhere in the month I received it and did this destination date night. But let's not talk about my problems and instead focus on the good backdrop I had that overlooks the city and has gorgeous temples in the distance, really showcasing what is most important to the people of Burma. 

I know the country has beautiful beaches, so I pulled out my beach backdrop with bright blue waters, white sand, and palm trees, all of which can be found in abundance on the coast, even near Yangon, the country's capital. There's such an interesting juxtaposition between poor-looking cities, gorgeous beaches, and decadent temples. I can see why so many travelers love this place. 

I brought in some tropical leaves for our table, a hand painted parasol (one of Burma's must-buy souvenirs) and a flag. I brought back my leaf bowls for small foods and my pale yellow plates to add color to this wonderful meal. I really wanted the food to stand out and it did, though it didn't really need my help.

Cheers! We have takeout drinks, so bars can continue to function and many restaurants are allowing alcohol to go home in pick-up food orders. For this reason, I ordered something called the Yangon City Pass. It's sugar cane juice with lemongrass-infused rum and it was light and refreshing and you could easily drink 3 more before realizing what a terrible idea it was. I ordered Eric a mocktail called the Pagoda Spritzer. It was a bit sweet and a bit tart, which is everything he likes: lemon balm, pear juice, raw apple cider, and mint. 

There were so many good things on the menu, we opted to try a little bit more than usual by ordering 3 appetizers and just one entrée. Here's what we have: tamarind spicy wings, vegetable samosas, and garlic quail eggs. Tamarind is a common spice in southeast Asia and is used quite often in street food. These wings were delightfully spicy, but not hot. I could have eaten quite a few more. If you've not eaten a samosa, you have to. We get these quite often when we have Indian, but these tasted so fresh, despite being fried, and the dipping sauce wasn't overpowering. 

The quail eggs were...something entirely else. They are called Burmese Land Pearls and they are boiled and deep fried whole and marinated lime, black beans, garlic oil and chili. I will say these are different than anything I've ever eaten. I'm still not sure if I liked them or not. They were crunchy on the outside, but like an unseasoned deviled egg inside. We did eat them all though, so they weren't bad. I suspect it was a case of wondering what we actually thought of them.

For our main, I chose chicken paratha. A mild chicken curry is served with toasted Burmese soft flatbread. It's sort of like a cross between a tortilla and a naan and I am here for eating baskets and baskets of it. It's there to use as a utensil of sorts for your chicken and was served with pickled cucumbers (not pickles) and jalapeños. I could eat this frequently and not get sick of it. It's so good. I am also excited to try any of their gigantic salads that are super colorful and fresh. 

We watched a few walking tours while we ate, because that's what you do when street food is on the menu. One was a walking tour of Yangon, another was a tour of Yangon's street foods and the markets they sell them in, and then we took a temple tour, because how can you not?

After our meal we, of course, had dessert. I ordered two, because I wanted a variety and also because I wasn't sure that one would be that good. The Burmese Dessert Cake looked interesting, but could have gone either way. It has a squishy texture, if you're into that, and isn't overly sweet. It's made with suji wheat and butter, and then topped with sesame seeds. If you like a more savory dessert, this is for you. The second dessert was sweet paratha. It's a pan-toasted paratha that is served with sugar cane whipped topping. It tasted a lot like a crepe this way, but I thought the difference between both desserts was interesting and really delicious. 

(We've since gone to eat outside at Top Burmese to try more foods. We had the ginger salad, mango wings, chicken and vegan samosas, beef coconut curry, kneaded fish rice, strawberry falooda, and coconut ice cream. I tried the Pegu Club drink, that I really enjoyed. You can see their menu here.)

This was a fun and unique destination date which I would definitely be happy to repeat with different food and activities. You could use this as a learning opportunity for the civil unrest* in the country or really just enjoy the beauty the country has to offer in different places.

Here are some things we used to make our Myanmar staycation unique:

I hope you use this time to learn about a new travel destination. Even if you can't travel right now, you can still do some armchair traveling like we're doing. It gives you something fun to plan and allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture without leaving home, making it the ultimate in budget travel and a way to get away while you're saving for your next big trip.

Have you ever traveled to Southeast Asia?

*If you haven't been following the military coup in Myanmar, this is a very significant thing happening. Long story short, the country had an election, but the person who won was instead overthrown by the military (which has a very long and terrible history and why many women are fleeing to become refugees in other countries and risking everything to walk hundreds or thousands of miles with little to no belongings and children they may have) and they are indiscriminately murdering and kidnapping citizens who are protesting, and even those that aren't. Because of the terrifying situation, many have started protesting by not going to work, as the military has been snatching people off the street for going about daily life. If you're on Twitter, search #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar. For the record, I stand with the people of Myanmar. This is unacceptable and shows exactly what could have happened in America if our former president was able to get his way. Luckily, our military doesn't work for the president and they have integrity.

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