If you happen to find yourself on the bumpy road between Mount Popa and Salay, stop by Nying Ko Ko for flavourful curries in the sleepy town of Kyaukpadaung.
Let’s say you want a break from the awe-inspiring ancient pagodas of Bagan.
And let’s say you decide to visit Mount Popa for that one beautiful shot of a temple perched upon a volcanic plug, and the thrill of a monkey potentially pinching your sunglasses.
And then let’s say you decide to take a detour to Salay to see a former temple turned pseudo-museum.
Well in that case, you should definitely eat at Nying Ko Ko. Set in the sleepy town of Kyaukpadaung, around 20 mins into the drive from Mount Popa to Salay.
It’s a sweet little local spot, with the servers’ delight in talking to us suggesting a limited number of foreign visitors, if any.
Curries were flavourful, though on the oily side, as expected in most local street side venues. Standouts were the spicy lentil curry and braised aubergines, both packing a punch well above their meat-based counterparts. That said, the pork belly was pretty tender, especially given that it was cooked in quantities to feed most of the macaque monkeys on Mount Popa.
Pennyworth salad on the other hand, tasted a more bitter than normal, with a slight muddy flavour. Take a pass on that and load up on the stir fried veg instead.
Overall, the food was filling, totally satisfying and super cheap.
What you’ll remember from a visit here isn’t just the food though, but the warmth and care of the folks running the restaurant. How often do you get a family eager enough to pop to the shop down the road, despite your protestations, because they ran out of Myanmar beer and you didn’t want Chang? Or who will cut up and beautifully present the papaya they spotted you carrying in from a nearby market?
In short: lovely people dishing up lovely food.
Nying Ko Ko Restaurant
Price: Around 10,000 for 5 people
Must orders: Lentil curry and braised aubergine
Good for: Travellers to Mount Popa, particularly en route to Salay
Address: Kyaukpadaung village, Mandalay