Street markets all around the cities
When you walk around the streets and downtown Yangon, you will definitely be attracted by the food smell from the street markets and stalls. Almost every street in Yangon City has street markets and you can get almost every kind of food when it comes to Myanmar traditional food. But you can also find many other things in these markets, like clothing or souvenirs for example. Some of those stalls will be found on the sidewalks and some of them are even directly on the road. However, lastly the police removed many shops from the streets, you can still find many of them on the streets though.
Myanmar is still struggling to provide enough job opportunities for its citizens; therefore people do not have other choice but to open a shop to sell things and food that they can make. Actually, the government could remove all the street markets but they do not, because they have no solutions to offer for people who would be expelled, so thy only remove stalls that are really troublesome for the traffic.
Food from everywhere in Myanmar
So nowadays, you can still get food from almost every part of the country and usually they are very cheap, and tasty. Myanmar traditional snacks are usually made from rice, bean and flour. Different states of the country have their special food. For example, Shan noodle is obviously the special food from Shan State, Rakhine monti (Ar Pu Shar Pu) is from Rakhine State, etc. You can get sweet, sour, salty, and hot food from the street markets. You can ask for the cook to put less or more chili in depending on your taste. Most shopkeepers can actually speak a little bit of English so it is easy for travellers to order food and buy stuff from them.
Myanmar street markets are scattering in the city and most of them can be found in downtown in busy areas Bogyoke Market, Pansodan or Lanmadaw. And when you go around those areas, you will find it difficult to walk on the pavement since shops and stalls are occupying more than half of it. Then people have to walk on a narrow space left and it is usually very crowded. Some of the street shops even use their cars parked on the roadside as stalls, so it adds difficulty to the already uneasy task of finding a park space in Yangon. But the situation of these people is precarious as none of them actually have license to sell, they have been allowed or tolerated for long, but now that they are somehow worsening the already bad Yangon traffic, police is starting to go after them.
Rainy season, a hard time for street vendors
You will have all kinds of sellers actually. Some of them will walk around the streets and townships to sell the foods that they made. Some use stalls to push around and some even put the food in a basket on their head. Commonly sold snacks are the traditional ones like Mont Lat Kaut, lat phat thoke, which are many people’s favourite. Customers then just wait for them to buy their snack as they pass the streets every day. They even sell when the rain falls hard, as they cannot afford a day of rest or the rain to stop in order to earn their living for the day.
Rainy season is also a bad season for another reason. Since the sanitary system of the country hasn’t been improved yet, we have a lot of mosquito and flies during the rainy season. And as the drainage systems are also in bad condition, the water does not go down easily after the rain and it encourages the proliferation of mosquitos and flies, which then go around the food sold by the street vendors. Some of them just solve the problem by putting candles on the table and near the food in order to let the flies burn their wings. So if you have a sensitive stomach, try not to eat from the street markets during rainy season.
What is the future of Myanmar street markets?
Anyway, street food is part of the charm of Burmese cities and Yangon especially, you will find flavours, objects and traditions from all over the country, and it reigns an atmosphere like no other on these pavements, so just try to stop and taste some of Myanmar’s favourite. And who knows, in the future, all that folklore and traditional food might not be in the streets anymore but under roofs, so you might want to discover it while you still can.
Let’s see what the development of the country and the cities brings for those street vendors. If the government is able to provide market places around town for people to come and shop that might help these vendors as well as the traffic on the road and on the pavement. But will it actually benefit the customers and vendors? People will have to go far to get their food and they might not want to take the time, have your vendors just by the street downstairs your home or office is so much more convenient…