Ditch your hotel breakfast of lukewarm sausages and stale toast and immerse yourself in the Myanmar breakfast culture with noodles, tea and deep fried goodness.
When your hotel package comes with breakfast, why wouldn’t you eat there? Perhaps because you can find ten times the flavour on your hotel doorstep.
Case in point: During our recent trip to Bagan we stayed at Zfreeti hotel. The breakfast there is fine. Not amazing, but more than enough to set you up for a day on pagoda safari.
But after asking around we were tipped off about a little morning gem set snugly in the shadow of an ancient pagoda. For most of the day Pyi Wa is a bog-standard tourist orientated restaurant serving every cuisine under the sun in an attempt to appeal to all. But in the early hours of the morning, it’s a humble stop catering to locals with delicious noodle salads and friendly, if bemused, service.
The ladies serving up the noodles know what they’re doing, with a noodle assembly line to match the best automotive plants. We ordered up plates of mohingya (fish broth noodles), nan gyi thoke and khao swe thoke (both noodle ‘salads’ – i.e. not soup based) and the spread arrived within minutes.
Nan gyi thoke instantly became the crowd favourite. With big bouncy round noodles reminiscent of udon noodles coated in a turmeric-laden gravy, a sprinkle of chilli flakes, fresh coriander and chopped up sausages (more on those babies lower down) it has everything you didn’t know even know you wanted and needed in a breakfast dish.
Pro tip: if the noodles aren’t smacking great chunks of sauce onto your face as you slurp, then you’re eating it wrong…
The Khao swe thoke came next, with basically the exact same ingredients but with a different noodle base – thin, flat noodles. The noodle choice is more a matter of personal preference, just like how you like your eggs. The mohingya noodles tasted pretty similar, with a passable amount of crunchy deep fried bites but disappointingly little fish in the broth. This place is all about the noodle salads.
But the real star at Pyi Wa are the aforementioned sausages. These lovely morsels were cut up and nestled amongst the noodle dishes and, thankfully, also served as an extra accompaniment on the side too.
Lovingly caramelised and deep red in colour, the tiny little chicken sausages were so unassuming until the first bite. The texture and flavour feels akin to Chinese sausages (specifically, a cross between lap cheong and more liver-based yun cheong for those in the know), but even more delicious due to the outer caramelisation giving a sweeter first impression. As a Cantonese person, that’s a big statement to make, but one I stand by.
Sausages – little bites of pure deliciousness
And if that’s not enough to draw you away from your hotel, maybe this guy can convince you.
After all the noodle-y goodness, you need something to perk you up. So walk 2 minutes down the road to Min Myanmar, a classic tea shop full to the brim with local patrons.
Tea shops in Myanmar are magical places where, due to its historical and geographical positioning, you can legitimately have Myanmar, Indian and Chinese food in one sitting. Upon sitting down we ordered cups of milk tea. After several experiences with the uber sweet classic Lah patyei, we went with the mildly sweet but strong Pawt Kya, and the slightly sweeter Pawt Saint. Both were delicious, slightly creamy and sweet with varying amounts of evaporated and condensed milk.
That was accompanied by char kway, essentially Chinese breadsticks that I know as yauh jah gwai (Cantonese) or yau tiao (Mandarin). These were slightly doughier than the typical Chinese rendition. But given that part of their purposes is to be dipped in the sweet tea, and absorbing the condensed milk goodness, it actually works better.
In typical tea shop fashion, the server dropped off a plate of samosas along with the char kway, despite having not ordered them. The idea is that you just eat them if you fancy, and then pay for what you eat. Being greedy meant that we had to eat them even though we were beyond full. Not the best decision because they were just OK, but a just OK samosa is usually still pretty tasty.
Completely stuffed after our second breakfast, we paid up and waddled back to our hotel to have our third breakfast from their buffet (admittedly, mostly fruit and coffee). And of course we did the same loop the next day after that.
Pyi Wa Restaurant
Price: Around 7000 MMK for 5 plates of noodles (still cheap, but perhaps foreigner price?)
Must orders: Nan gyi thoke plus a side of sausages if they don’t give them to you straight off
Good for: Everyone, in our opinion – but perhaps not those who want wholemeal toast for breakfast
Address: Thi Ri Pyitsaya 4 St, Nyaung-U (google maps)
Min Myanmar Teashop
Price: Tea and snacks for 5 for under 2500 MMK
Must orders: Milk tea with char kway
Good for: Anyone who hasn’t yet been to a teashop, and everyone who has
Address: Opposite Rain restaurant, Thi Ri Pyitsaya 4 St, Nyaung-U (google maps)