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August 08, 2020

Eating Habits of Myanmar people

By Lokethar

When Myanmars , especially the older folks, meet each other the traditional greeting is “Saar-pee-bee-lar”, meaning literally “have you eaten?”. It seems rather odd that in a country in which affordable food is found in abundance, that would be the form of traditional greeting. May be it’s the indirect way of asking about some ones health as eating regular meals would be an indication of good health. The generally accepted greeting nowadays is, of course, Mingalar-bar.
Myanmar people, especially the younger ones, love to eat “snacks” between their main meals. Any time is snack time, if the chance arises. Not surprisingly, Myanmar has a large variety of indigenous snacks, of the Burmese and of the other National races. Snacks are popular “eats” when friends get together.
There are many types of Myanmar snacks. They are mostly rice or glutinous rice based eatables. There are the crispy deep fries of Bottle Gourd or Potatoes or Onions or Chick Peas or Small Prawns etc. In fact temporary shops lining some of the streets of the city, can be found selling these deep fries. If the deep fries are fried in good clean oil they are very much edible and when taken with a dip of the appropriate sauce, is quite tasty. Then there are the “athokes” which are more or less salad like mixtures of vegetables and noodles or rice or “deep fries” with ripe Tamarind and Chilli sauce. Then there is Mohinga which is a very common and popular “snack”.
Mohinga, is a rice noodle dish taken with a fish based soup and “deep fries” of either bottle gourd, or chick pea or onions with a sprinkle of coriander leaves and a twist of lemon juice. For those who like it “spicy” a spoonful of fried chilli flakes could be added. Mohinga is tasty and to an extent, nutritious as well. There are a varieties of Mohinga dishes including those that are of the National races. All kinds of Mohinga are liked by almost all people. In fact you can get Mohinga at most Food Courts or Tea Shops early in the morning and late in the evening; and through out the day in the special Mohinga shops.
However, since the early nineteen nineties I presume, Western style fast foods of all varieties made their way into Myanmar. The fast foods include fried/ grilled meats and fishes of all kinds, potato fries, burgers of all sorts, fried or soupy noodles of all sorts, pizzas and so on. The Western style fast food “shops” and “outlets” have been set up all over the country starting with the big cities. The fast food culture has caught on rather quickly in Myanmar and many persons, especially of the younger generation, have now become more or less “addicted” to the fast foods. There has even emerged food delivery services of the common Western style fast foods. Considering the fact that fast food overconsumption in the developed countries had resulted supposedly, in young people gaining weight and in many instances seen as being “obese,” it should be a lesson to our young generation to limit fast food intake. It would be bad for them if they grow up to be “obese with disease” instead of being “well built and fit”.
Generally speaking, for future people of Myanmar to be “well built and fit” it would take more than just limiting “Fast Foods”. It would include eating nutritious food for their daily meals. That does not mean that they have to take special food for their growth and development. Available food can supply the nutrition they need. However the Myanmar people especially from the rural areas, who form the largest percentage of the population, consume rice as their main food. This was the case in some now developed countries in Asia. Their people were not well built physically. But, according to them, after reducing the consumption of rice and eating more protein and vegetables which are the requirements of a “balanced meal”, they have over a generation, greatly improved their growth and physical development. We may have to do the same with the help of “nutritionists”. They can recommend making up balanced meals with whatever ingredients are available. If meat protein is hard to come by for some poorer rural folks, the nutritionists could recommend alternatives to meat protein. “Vegetables” are abundant and some, liked by the rural folks, even grow naturally in Myanmar. However the rural folks can be guided to grow a variety of nutritious vegetables for their own consumption and possibly to sell in the local markets.
If the nutritionists are few and visits by them to all the rural areas are not possible, they could perhaps advise the rural folks through nationally broadcast TV programs. One thing though, they may have to develop their programs based on the availability of the types of raw food resources in the particular area or region concerned, and come up with a “plan” of “balanced meals” suitable for the folks living there.
With Charity to all and Malice to none.

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