It’s not a strange thing that a boy from the hilly region of Myanmar had never tried sugar cane juice before his high school life in another town. Even though sugar cane can be seen abundantly in South-East Asia, it is more rare in hilly and cool region like my hometown, Lashio, Shan state. I’m not saying that you could not get sugar cane juice in Lashio, but saying it is not common.
Sugar cane juice is called as Kyan Yae in Burmese language. It is a very popular drink in Myanmar especially in the hottest regions during the hot season, which is between March and June. So, for my first day of student life in Mandalay, I saw many new things that were way different from what I could find in my hometown, including stylish vendors.
Among them, one vendor got my full attention. He kept turning the wheels of his rolling machine when I first noticed him, and there were also ringing bells attached to his two wheels machine. That was probably the sound of those bells that persuaded me to get closer to him. “Uncle, what’s this?” I asked him so curiously. “It’s sugar cane juice, son!” he replied and asked, “Want to try?”. “Sure”, I answered immediately. This is how my first experience with sugar cane juice started.
The smiling vendor prepared my order skillfully. He chose two raw sugar canes that were already peeled. The first step was to pass the cane through the rollers that squeezed the juice out of the cane. The juice coming out drained into a large cup that was placed under it. The final step was to put the juice into a clean cup with a slice of lemon. The process is quite simple, but the result was perfectly tasty to me. The feeling of this sweet and cold juice that freshened me up in the hot environment of a new city, is something that I will never forget.
Nowadays, sugar cane juice vendors can be found in every street of Yangon and Mandalay. Only 300 – 500 Kyats for a cup. The price is affordable for everybody and it may be the reason why it is popular and so common. At that time, I didn’t think about the consequences of drinking that juice. Not that it made me addicted, which I am somehow, but rather that often the preparation is not that clean. I understood only later that I should always be careful about the stall I choose. I choose to buy only from clean shops, and I have never been sick from it, so just buy wisely :).
Anyway, Myanmar food culture is simply associated with street foods and drinks that you can abundantly find all around the country, just like you will in most Asian countries I guess. You just got to try it! Many Myanmar people will tell you that Myanmar sugar cane juice is the best, but we are far from being the only country where you can find tasty one. But one of my friends who recently came back from Egypt told me that their sugar cane juice is better than Myanmar. Decision lies in your palate, so you have to try it and feel for yourself. Enjoy the degustation.