Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Midnight hunger in Yangon

Find the fried rice you need past sundown and until sunrise.

YOU toss and turn in your bed late at night, where sleep is hardly anywhere in sight. You might be working on a night-shift, feeling like you deserve a treat, a gift.Or you might have been out all evening, burning calories and partying. Suddenly it strikes: the crave for a late night fried-rice. Yangon might be Myanmar’s most vibrant city, however it is not yet a city that never sleeps. But late-night gluttons rejoice, Weekend has some good addresses where tables and chairs will be set for you, and where rice will be fried all through the night. Follow us on a late night Htamin Gyaw [fried rice] tour.

1 – “Ywama”, the risk-free rice

By Nyein Ei Ei Htwe

Ywama is a rising star in the competitive world of fried rice. Only four years in existence and the stall has made a name for itself on the streets of Yangon.

Ywama can accommodate no less than 400 customers and its nine charming employees are working around the clocks to deliver steaming plates of fried rice until late into the night.

On a normal weekday – or rather, weeknight – one and half bag of rice is being cooked in one night. But on weekends that amount almost doubles.

“Clearly, our main target is party people going out at night,” explains U Soe Aung, the owner of Ywama. For this reason he only serves chicken, pork, or duck dishes, but no fish. Why? “Well, most of the people going out at night will have consumed alcoholic drinks. And because you have to rely on electric lights at night, fishbone might slip in and get stuck.”

U Soe Aung admits selling one or two snakehead intestines occasionally, as a snack.

Party people are most welcome. However, Ywama is no after-party.

“This is not our core business, but we do have families and groups of colleagues coming. So, in order for everybody to get on well, we do not sell any alcohol or beers, and we prohibit drinking at the shop,” explains U Soe Aung.

Fried rice has not always been the owner’s line of business, but he is passionate about it and will greet every customer with a warm embrace and a smile.

Ywama’s signature dish is pork. 15 different varieties are on offer, from sweet and sour pork, to pork head salad, and grilled or steamed pig.

Unlike other rice shops, fried chilies, pickled onions or cabbages are not offered as side dishes here; instead, there are vinegar-pickled whole onions, ‘ngapi htaung’ (a fish paste mixed with chilies), and roselle leaf soup with bamboo shoots, that you can ask for as much as you like.

Ywama is open every day from 7:30pm till 3am. A special fried rice or a curry will cost you K2000. Less elaborated dishes with an egg on top around K1000.


Ywama, Corner of Ywama and Baho Road, passed Hledan ‘Sein Gay Har’ shopping mall.

Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet


2 – Good old "Nhote Khan Mhwe"

By Lay Phyu Pyar Myo Myint

According to his most loyal customers, the taste of U Nhote Khan Mhwe’s fried rice hasn’t changed in 30 years. His secret? A love for carefully selected rice and a unique masala spice, which embalms his whole shop.

“I have ordered masala from the same Indian shop and ground it at home for over three decades,” Nhote Khan Mhwe explains as he strokes his moustache.

Nhote Khan Mhwe or “The man with a moustache” is his name, and also his shop’s. His parents did not give him this name at birth but he has been wearing it for so long that it became part of his identity. Habitude, it seems, is Nhote Khan Mhwe’s best selling argument.

The decoration of his shop is plain and simple. What people really come here for is the quality of the food. This is true of taxi drivers but also nation-wide celebrities. “Late film star Dway used to come down here often,” boasts Nhote Khan Mhwe.

He wouldn’t be the first shop-owner to pretend stars are his regulars, I thought. But as he was bragging, pop singer Yone Lay entered the shop and ordered a goat brain curry as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

And who would blame him. All I tried in Nhote Khan Mhwe’s shop was appetizing. The goat brain curry and the chicken head broth that comes with it. The chicken drumsticks with arloos [potatoes]. The fresh onion and chili salad. No mistakes from the kitchen. My only regret is that I could not try the pork curry, which is the house’s signature dish – it is so popular that it was already sold out by the time I arrived.

Nhote Khan Mhwe is open every day from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm and for a second sitting from 11:00 pm till 1:00, sometime 2:00 am. A simple plate of masala fried rice will cost you K300. Side plates K 100. Pork curry and chicken soups K1000 and goat brain curry K1200.


Nhote Khan Mhwe , junction of Tayoke Bonkyaung and Baho streets

Translation by Zaw Nyunt


3 – "Fatty Ma", the all-nighter

By Lay Phyu Pyar Myo Myint

Efforts pay off, always.

Fatty Ma might not have the best shop in town, and it might not be the most ideally located, but she has grown her business by doing what others won’t do: work hard and pulling extra hours. In fact, Fatty Ma is Yangon’s non-stop fried-rice provider.

“We are opened from 6pm till 4am,” says the owner proudly. “Customers are coming in droves”.

Fatty Ma’s business started twenty years ago with a modest shop. Today her tea-shop catches the eye with colorful electric lights and she has a good, large share of the sidewalk on of 17th street.

And as her business grew, the list of curries got longer. Fatty Ma started with only a couple of curries on offer, now she has about 30.

Your correspondent and her photographer sat down and ordered a goat curry and fried rice. A choice they did not regret. We spent K3000, and the curry included a soup as a side dish – a strong and tasty one. A little extra rice costs no more than K200. The first curry on the price list costs K1500 - a steal.

In truth, you must not be afraid to keep company to the rats, but the conditions inside the shops are good. The two employees are washing the plates with two water bowls extremely thoroughly.


Fatty Ma fried rice shop , corner of 17th street and Anawratha road.

Translation by Khine Thazin Han


4 - "U Toke Gyi’s", people on a diet abstain

By Nandar Aung

If you venture outside downtown and head towards Yuzana Garden City, in Dagon Seikkan Township, you will find a rather quiet part of town. One place, however, is buzzing with people: U Toke Gyi’s fried rice shop.

A rather tall, round, affable, and garrulous shirt-less man, U Toke Gyi keeps people fed, and entertained.

In his shop, there are no menus. Everything is on display. Point the curry of your choosing and U Toke Gyi and his sister will serve you with a smile - If you’ve been there before, U Toke Gyi will actually be capable of reminding you of what you had last time.

U Toke Gyi’s shop is no place for vegetarian. He only has a salad and he cooks just one vegetarian dish per evening. But for meat lovers, the shop has pork, beef, fried chicken and beef curries in abundance. All of the curries are cooked the Burmese way: well, very well, but oily, very oily.

We went for the delicious pork and chicken intestine curries.

A curry and a warm plate of fried rice will cost you K1300 and will be served with fried vegetable, soup, some white onions, and chilies. That should be enough to satiate you, but if you want a little extra it’ll only cost you K100.

U Toke Gyi’s curries are fresh. He makes a point of never serving leftovers. He will serve you his cheap and fresh curries from 6pm until the sun rise.


U Toke Gyi’s, near the big archway of Yuzana Garden City, Dagon Seikkan Township.


5 - "Khan Chon", the award-winner

By Nyo Me


If winning a prize three times in a row means something, then Khan Chon is one of the best rice shops in town.

From 2000 to 2002, Khan Chon was awarded the “street food prize” by the Yangon City Development Committee. The criteria for the competition are merely administrative (respect for hours, and rules for hygiene) so we decided to see if there was more to it.

The 35 curries on display are literally mouth-watering. And the contact with the stuff does not disappoint either.

Every mouthful of the steam chicken curry your correspondent ordered was a delight. The fried rice and the fried sambur deer were delicious. Dishes come with a free sour roselle soup and Myanmar’s traditional fish paste – Khan Chon serves the best kind: the fish paste from Myeik, in the southern part of the country.

In order to make the magic happen, Daw Than Than Nwe, the owner, goes to the market every day to get the best ingredients possible. Her usual shopping bag includes 7 to 8 viss (roughly 30 pounds or 14 kilos) of meat and 50 ticals (3 pounds or 1.5 kilos) of giblets and fish. Daw Than Than Nwe, 20 years in the business, starts cooking at 11am.

Khan Chon is open from 3pm till 2am. A fried rice will cost you K400 and a curry around K1300. Prawns and sambur are a little bit more expensive (K1500), but worth giving a try.


Khan Chon, at the junction of Botahtaung Pagoda Road (upper block) and 52nd street (upper block).