Tea leaf salad
Perhaps the most famed Burmese food is lephet -- fermented tea leaves. The tart leaves are eaten on their own, typically as dessert, but they're also served in the form of lephet thoke, a salad of pickled tea leaves. The dish is versatile. It can be a snack, an appetizer or, coupled with a plate of rice, a meal.
Known in Burmese as nga htamin (fish rice), this Shan (one of the country's main Buddhist ethnic groups) dish combines rice that's been cooked with turmeric and squashed into a disk with a topping of flakes of freshwater fish and garlic oil.
As the name suggests, curry is the central element, but after you've chosen one -- typically a meaty, somewhat oily curry based around pork, fish, shrimp, beef or mutton -- a seemingly never-ending succession of side dishes will follow. These include rice, a tart salad, a small dish of fried vegetables, a small bowl of soup and a large tray of fresh and par-boiled vegetables and herbs to be eaten with various dips.
Burmese tea shop meal
Tea shops run by ethnic Burmese are good places to dig into the world of traditional Burmese noodle or rice dishes such as htamin thoke, a type of rice salad. Indian/Muslim-owned tea shops tend to serve South Asian-influenced, deep-fried savory snacks, such as samosas or poori (deep-fried bread served with a potato curry) or baked breads such nanbya (naan). The latter also often serve South Asian-style desserts. Chinese-owned tea shops often feature baked sweets as well as meaty steamed buns and dim sum-like items.
Shan-style 'tofu' noodles
One of the most unusual dishes in Myanmar is hto-hpu nwe, literally "warm tofu." Associated with the ethnic Shan of northern Myanmar, the dish doesn't actually include tofu, but rather a thick porridge made from chickpea flour.
The dish takes the form of thick, round rice noodles with chicken, thin slices of fish cake, par-boiled bean sprouts and slices of hard-boiled egg. The ingredients are seasoned with a mixture of roasted chickpea flour and turmeric and chili oil, tossed by hand and served with sides of pickled greens and a bowl of broth.
Myanmar's unofficial national dish is mohinga -- fine, round rice noodles served in a hearty, herbal fish-and shallot-based broth, often supplemented with the crunchy pith of the banana tree. It's beloved as a breakfast dish, but, sold by mobile vendors, it's a common snack at any time of day or night.