Pinlaung apparently means “place of gambling” in Shan. I always consider dining in small-town Myanmar a bit of a gamble and there was definitely a sense of foreboding in the pit of my stomach as we pulled in to Green Tea Forest on a recent trip to Loikaw.
It was a foreboding that was only barely overpowered by the extreme hunger from having subsisted on an airline breakfast (sausage bun, of course) until 4pm.
What would Pinlaung, a picturesque but relatively small town in the hills of southern Shan State, throw up for weary travellers like my colleagues and me?
The result was surprisingly good, although perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. We had, in hindsight, been travelling for several hours through some of the most fertile rolling countryside I’ve ever encountered: valleys lined with glowing green paddy and soft sloping fields laden with all manner of harvest-ready vegetables.
The choice of kyet konbaung-gyi-gyaw (K4000, serves two) — chicken fried with an assortment of vegetables in a light, sweet, oily sauce — turned out to be a wise one, with the country-bred, free-range chicken (known as “Myanmar chicken”, as opposed to “CP chicken”) sliced up thinly and the vegetables — carrots, onions, cauliflower and so on — still crisp.
Judging by the way our guide and driver wolfed down their si kyet noodles (K700), I’d say they were similarly impressed.
The service was excellent — the food came out in a matter of minutes, yet it was clear it had only been prepared after our arrival.
While we had to settle for coffee mix, it was complemented by excellent green tea, something for which Pinlaung is renowned. Encouraged by this, my friend and I took home some extra packets of Pinlaung green tea (K1000 each), as well as Mandalay Rum bottles of local honey (K3000) and lime juice (K3000).
The latter has proven to be an admirable substitute for fresh lime in a gin and tonic.