Fast food Myanmar-style is not burgers but pork sticks. Perfect when just grabbing a quick bite before going home, or just having something to go with a bottle of beer.
Pork sticks are no ordinary meat. These are cutlets from innards, brittle pig ears, and fattest pork legs, pre-cooked and displayed in all its glory in a big aluminium platter placed over a vat of boiling soup.
The pork-man or pork-lady as the case may be, presides over the ritual by sitting behind the pile of pork whatchamacallits making cutlets while the drooling customers sit in small and low plastic chairs around the vat. A bunch of sticks will be given to you to be used for picking the choice pork cuts. Beware! It should be one sick per piece no double picking. Use one stick and you retire it after eating the cutlet. By the time you adjourn, the Pork-man will count the number of sticks, that’s what you pay.
Act 1: Sule Pagoda Road
The Sule Pagoda Road is the center of street foods in Yangon. As the day come close to an end, ambulant food vendors start setting up their stalls in the parking lots parallel to the road. Most of the buses from downtown Yangon starts around Sule Pagoda and passengers from various offices in the downtown wait for buses, making them captured customers of the food vendors.
I once tried but when I saw the pork-lady cut the meat with unwashed knife, and dipping used cups in pails with brown water and afterwards drying it with dirty rag, I had second thoughts.
This is what I call dark side of street foods in Myanmar.
Act 2: Hpa-an market
The market in Hpa-an is not so big. People go to the market in the morning and after lunch it is almost deserted. I was once invited to have snacks and surprised to see a pork-lady with clean stall. The vat is clean, the soup really looks like freshly cooked and the pork cutlets are ok. It has a homemade appearance that drawn me closer. I gave in to my craving…
Act 3: Junction Maw Tin
Back in Yangon, I missed the pork sticks in Hpa-an, but I still cannot force myself to try the Sule pork sticks. One time, as I was accompanying my wife to buy some things in Junction Square Maw Tin, a hole in the wall food stall in the fourth floor sells pork sticks! Yup, they made a mall version of the lowly pork sticks. You sit in a bar and they give you a basin full of pork cutlets, and with the same sauces.
Change is indeed happening in Myanmar, and I like it.