Ordering Food & Drinks in Burmese 🍔 🍟 🍨 🍷
As a foreigner in Myanmar, you will find it very useful to be able to order food and beverages in Burmese. You will have to pick up some vocabulary used in ordering food. Secondly, you need to understand some likely answers from the waiter. That's exactly what we are going to learn in this lesson.
The likely answers to that question are:
ရမယ် | ya1 meare2 — Yes, please wait (get + future tense)
ထိုင်ပါ | htine2 ba2 — Please take a seat. (sit + polite word)
မရဘူး | ma1-ya1 bu3 — Not available. (negative + available + negative ending)
ကုန်ပြီ | kone2 byi2 — has just run out. (run out + present state of condition)
ကုန်သွားပြီ | kone2 thwa3 byi2 — has run out for some time. (run out + gone + present state)
မရှိဘူး | ma1-shi1 bu3 — We don't have it. (negative + present + negative ending)
ရမလား | ya1 ma1-la3 — Is it available?
The actual meaning in Burmese is: get + can be done + ?
လုပ်လို့ရမလား | loat lo1 ya1 ma1-la3
is a question of whether or not something can be done. (do as this + can be done + ?)
Why is it taking so long? ⏰ 😠
If you have ordered something for a while and it is taking a long time, you can ask:
xxxx မရသေးဘူးလား | xxxx ma1-ya1 thay3 bu3 la3
မရသေးဘူးလား | ma1-ya1 thay3 bu3 la3
without mentioning the food item.
ခေါက်ဆွဲ | khout-hsweare3 — noodle (noun)
ကြော် | kjau2 — fry (verb)
မ | ma1 — not (particle)
ရ | ya1 — get; obtain (verb); roughly means "available"
သေး | thay3 — yet (particle)
ဘူး | bu3 — negative (particle)
လား | la3 — ? (particle)
The likely answers you will hear are:
ခဏလေး | kha1-na1 lay3
Please wait a while. (a short while [noun] + [particle] indicating small amount)
မရသေးဘူး | ma1-ya1 thay3 bu3
Still not available. (negative + obtain + not yet + negative ending)
ရတော့မယ် | ya1 dau1 meare2
It will be ready soon. (available + indicating future action + future tense ending)
You have to be careful with
ခဏလေး | kha1-na1 lay3
by the Burmese waiter asking you to wait for awhile. He will never tell you
ကြာဦးမယ် | kja2 ome3 meare2,
meaning it will take a long time, even if you ask him:
ကြာဦးမလား | kja2 ome3 ma1-la3
Is it going to take long?
It all depends on how busy they are and which eatery you dine at.
Measure Words for food and drinks ☕
You need to remember two primary measure words, also known as numerical classifiers. For food items, use
ပွဲ | pweare3,
which can be soften to sound like
ခွက် | bweare3.
It means an order of something to eat. For drinks, use
meaning a glass or a cup.
ခေါက်ဆွဲကြော်တစ်ပွဲ | khout-hsweare3 jau2 da1-bweare3
a plate or an order of fried noodles
ခေါက်ဆွဲကြော်နှစ်ပွဲ | khout-hsweare3 jau2 hna1-pweare3
fried noodles for 2 persons
ခေါက်ဆွဲကြော် ၃ ပွဲ | khout-hsweare3 jau2 thone3 bweare3
fried noodles for 3, and so on.
Please refer to Lesson 12 for numbers and measure words in details.
Beer, alcohol, and liquors are available in a large number of eating houses and almost all up-scale restaurants that are licensed to sell alcoholic drinks. You can order local Myanmar draft beer in a glass or a jar cheaply. It is easy to remember the measure word for a jar. The same English word "jar" is used, and pronounced as ja3.
ဘီယာ တစ်ဂျား | be2-ya2 da1-ja3
means one jar of beer, and it is about 5 glasses.
In some eating places, you will notice imported cold drinks in tin cans together with local soft drinks in glass bottles and purified drinking water in plastic bottles. They are usually kept inside a refrigerator with a glass door near the cashier's counter. You can have soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi, and Sunkist imported from Thailand.
In 2013, Coca Cola manufacturing plant in Hmobi, a town north of Yangon, has started its operations. Coca Cola made a $200 million investment with a projected job creation of 22,000 over five years span. In 2014, 1.25L bottle of Coke was sold for 700 kyat (approx. US 70 cent). 1.5L bottle is 1,000 Kyat (approx. US 67 cent) in 2019. Made in Myanmar Pepsi is also available in Myanmar now. (See Pepsi Cola Myanmar facebook page)
Tiger beer brand from Singapore is also available, but if you read the printing carefully, you will see that it is brewed and canned in Myanmar. Myanmar Beer also comes in tin cans.
Tiger be2-ya2 Tiger be2-ya2 da1-bu3 pay3 ba2
Give me a can of Tiger Beer. (Tiger + beer + one + can + give + polite word)
yay2-thun1 da1-bu3 pay3 ba2
Give me a bottle of mineral water. (water + clean + one + bottle + give + polite word)
If you have an urge for a stronger alcohol content, you can order Whiskey or Rum in "peg". If you want the whole bottle, then say:
ဝီစကီ တစ်ပုလင်း ပေးပါ
Whisky da1-ba1-lin3 pay3 ba2
Give me a bottle of Whisky. (Whisky + one bottle + give + polite word)
While in Myanmar, try Myanmar made Aythaya Wine and Grand Royal Whisky. Aythaya Wine produced by a team of German experts is the first Western style wine in Myanmar made with grapes grown in the village of
အေးသာယာ | ay3 tha2-ya2
located between Inle Lake and Taunggyi at the altitude of 1,300 meter above sea level. By the way, the name of the town means quiet and pleasant. Maybe it should be translated as "Pleasantville".
Grand Royal Whisky is the product of over 17 years of experience by Scottish Master Blender William Arthur.
Those are the affordable gift ideas. As for myself, I am always content with soft drinks or plain water for dinner.
As of April 2012, a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label in Ocean supermarket is sold for around 20,000 kyat (around USD 25) (Note: there was no sales tax added in Myanmar at that time but tax is now included in the selling price with much higher sticker prices compared to a few years ago.)
Take Out Food 🚗
English word "parcel" is used in restaurant and eating houses in Myanmar for take out food packed in styrofoam boxes. It may not be correct English, just like "packet", which is a direct translation of "pau" in Mandarin Chinese is used in Singapore for the take out order.
ခေါက်ဆွဲကြော်တစ်ပွဲ - ပါဆယ်
khout-hsweare3-jau2 da1-bweare3 - pa2-hseare2 — One fried noodles to go!
Alternatively, you can say:
pa2-hseare2 htoat pay3 ba2 — Can you put it in the bag? (parcel + to pack + give + polite word)
Halal food for Muslims ☪
You will find a number of packaged and processed food with "Halal" printing both in English and Arabic. That means they are approved by Islamic Religious Affairs Council in Myanmar. You normally don't expect a Chinese person to be a Muslim, but some Chinese in Myanmar are Muslims, and you can ask the local people where you can get
ပန်းသေးခေါက်ဆွဲ | pan3-dthay3 khout-hsweare3,
a type of fried noodle similar to Mee Gorang in Malaysia and Singapore. Their spicy cooking style probably comes from Sichuan, the south-western part of China. You can also get Halal biryani rice with chicken and mutton. Those shops are usually owned by Indian Muslims, and some are wealthy enough to expand into chain-restaurants.
ကြက်သားဒံပေါက် တစ်ပွဲ | kjet-tha3 dun2-bout da1-bweare3
One chicken biryani, 🍗 🍛 please! (chicken + biryani rice + one + order)
ဆိတ်သားဒံပေါက် နှစ်ပွဲ | sate-tha3 dun2-bout hna1-pweare3
Two mutton biryani, please! (mutton + biryani rice + two + order)
Eating Utensils 🍴
Normally, you have a choice of either a spoon and a fork or a pair of chop sticks. Go to an American KFC style fast food restaurant, and you will be surprised to be served with a knife and a fork. This will be a totally new experience if you have considered fried chickens to be "finger licking good!" In early July 2015, the real American KFC opened it's first branch in Yangon near the busy intersection of Bogyoke Aung San Road and Sule Pagoda Road.
Now, KFC not only has more branches in Yangon, but also expanded to Mandalay and other smaller towns like Bago, Pyay, and Taunggyi.
As for eating rice, just like other south east asian countries, a spoon using your right hand is supposed to scoop up the rice while use your fork in the left hand to push the rice into the spoon in front. This makes more sense and certainly more efficient than using a fork — American style, or chinese chop sticks.
zoon3 neare1 kha1-yin3 pay3 ba2
Give me a spoon and a fork. (spoon + and + fork + give + polite word)
tu2 pay3 ba2
Give me chopsticks. (chopstick + give + polite word)
da3 ya1 ma1-la3
Can I have a knife? (knife + available + ?)
Burmese Food 🍲
For breakfast, Burmese people have
ပဲပြုတ် | peare3-byoat,
a type of pea steamed and fried with rice, or eaten with
နံပြား | nun2-bya3,
round baked staple food made from dough of flour. Ethnic Shan or Kachin people eat
ခေါပုတ် | khau3-boat,
which is a type of black sticky rice grounded and baked or fried. Ungrounded Burmese version of glutinous rice is called
ကောက်ညှင်းပေါင်း | kout-hnyin3 boun3,
which is served with the mixture of grounded sesame seeds and salt sprinkled over it.
Another breakfast or lunch item favorite with the Burmese people is
မုန့်ဟင်းခါး | mone1-hin3-ga3.
If you have ever tried Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Pho Bo or Malay Laksa, it is the same idea, except for that the soup base is made from a type of cat fish, and the rice noodle has a distinct fermented aroma.
The soup base of mone1-hin3-ga3 contains baked rice and pea flour, banana stem, hard-boiled duck eggs, onions, lemon grass and fish sauce. The fish is separately fried with minced garlic, onion, ginger, and turmeric powder until golden brown for the appetizing aroma, and added to the soup base. It is eaten with crispy fried onions or fried melon, and garnished with fresh cilantro (parsley), lime or lemon, and sprinkle a little chili powder before serving. It is my favorite; the ingredients of mone1-hin3-ga3 seem to raise the overall endocrine system of the human body and one bowl is never enough. But I have to warn you, if you are a Westerner not accustomed to the taste of fish gravy, you might not find it pleasant.
Then, you should try
အုန်းနို့ခေါက်ဆွဲ | ome3-no1 khout-hsweare3,
which is another soup-based noodle, but made with coconut milk, garlic, ginger, onions, hard-boiled eggs, pea powder, chili powder and chicken. It is closer to Malay Laksa.
Another of my favorite is
ခေါက်ဆွဲသုပ် | khout-hsweare3 dthoat,
a kind of salad with the mixture of noodle, rice in chili oil, cabbage, bean sprout, green papaya, toufu, shredded dried shrimp flakes, mashed potatoes, fish sauce, tamarind sauce with garlic, and garnished with fried crispy garlic in oil. There are a number of decent restaurants specializing in Burmese food..
Food Poisoning & diarrhoea 🚑 😨
Be forewarned about eating in unclean roadside stalls. For some reasons, local people seem to have developed immunity to unhygienic food preparations in some roadside stalls. Is the immunity in the Burmese gene? No, even returning Burmese living abroad have lost this immunity and develop stomach upset problems. For your own convenience, bring medication for diarrhoea if you want to be adventurous. On the other hand, outbreak of e coli, cholera or hepatitis will affect local and foreigners alike. Learn how to say, "I have a stomach ache" in lesson 21.
Menu Items 📜 🍛
I think I have covered enough for you to be able to exchange a fairly good conversation with the waiter, and at the same time introduce you to the background of food in Myanmar. You will just have to build up some more vocabulary on the menu items. The main staple of Burmese is
ထမင်း | hta1-min3 — rice
which is eaten with dishes called
ဟင်း | hin3.
ba2 hin3 ya1 ma1-leare3
What do you have? or What dishes are available? (what + dish + available + choice word + ?)
To answer that question, I have listed the vocabulary of food menu items on the left side (or table near the top of the page for mobile users.) Visit Myanmar with Asia Pearl Travels, and enjoy your meal!