Myanmar as a whole was a spontaneous trip for me back in 2015 and as always, I knew I wanted to take a cooking class. It’s one method I always use to gain a better grasp of the food when introducing myself to an unknown country, culture and cuisine and that’s exactly what Myanmar was to me. Unknown. I had a few ideas of the food I would find based on the neighbouring countries. Ultimately though, it was a mystery. Then I arrived in Nyuangshew, where things became more apparent in addition to finding a cooking class. At the north end of Inle Lake in the Shan State, the culinary capital of the country I found ‘Myo Myo Cooking Class’.
Myo Myo’s was different than most classes I’ve attended in the past. I happened across a sign outside of her family restaurant and went in to investigate. I signed up and made my way back in the morning. It began the same as most with a short, fast paced tour around the chaotic lanes of the market. Myo Myo navigated her way from stall to stall in her morning routine seeming to know her vendors quite well. The key to getting the best product. Walking back to another restaurant, smaller than the one I booked in, she explained that this was also hers. A tucked away gem catered more to locals.
What made this class so special for me was not only did the cooking take place in the kitchen of her personal restaurant kitchen while she was organizing some prep of her own. It was a one on one class. The perk to less tourism at the time. Getting organized, she poured me a chilled, refreshing palm sugar/coconut drink which helped with last night’s beer rolling around in my empty stomach. The cooking began as we started by making a large pot of rosal leaf soup to last the restaurant for the day. A bitter local green indigenous to Asia, the soup was very herbal with an umami undertone from the addition of a small fist sized ball of shrimp paste. Next up was a chicken and fish curry, but the main event in my opinion was the Green Tea Leaf Salad.
I’d fallen in love with this strange and unique salad the first time I had it a few days back in Kalaw. It was all recognizable flavours except one. The fermented green tea leaves and there was something about it I couldn’t pin on the head, but I knew I liked it. A salad of simplicity, but well balanced each ingredients are allowed to shine. Tomato, cabbage, broad beans, peanuts, sesame seeds and green tea leaves making up the bulk of the salad with a balanced dressing of fish sauce, lime, peanut oil and sometimes a light splash of sesame oil.
I sat down to an unnecessarily large breakfast and gorged myself on all 4 dishes trying to fit as much in as I could. Myo Myo was not just a great chef preparing amazing Burmese dishes. She is very kind and knowledgeable who was happy to answer whatever questions I had about her beloved cuisine. I asked for a rundown of how to make Shan Noodles. Another of my favorites here, she gave me a detailed explanation as best she could without preparing it in front of me. An experience which helped open my eyes further to a new cuisine, I would highly suggest signing up for a class with Myo Myo.
Note: I have read recently the cooking takes place in her home now and I have been unable to find a website or current price, though most cooking classes tend to cost around 30-40$.
Have you taken a cooking class in Myanmar? What did you think?