Indian Restaurants in Mandalay

Variety is the spice of life so the famous saying goes. For my partner and I that invariably means not only exploring the traditional cuisine of a country, but also looking further afield. This has been met with varying degrees of success, but if you’re in the mood for Indian food (unnecessary rhyme) in Mandalay we’re happy to report you’re in luck. We found 2 excellent spots that showcase different approaches to the cuisine, so if you have time and enjoy a curry I’d recommend trying both.

 

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On the hike up to Dee Doke Waterfall outside of the city

 

Quick Info – Indian Population in Myanmar

Over the centuries many Indians have called Myanmar home. The 2 countries share a boarder, so immigration and trade have long been a part of their shared history. However it was during colonial times that the population of Indians in Myanmar grew to its largest, with large numbers settling primarily in the 2 major cities: Yangon and Mandalay.  Interestingly ‘Burmese Indians’ are actually from several different countries, speaking an array of different languages and practicing different religions.

In no particular order…

1) Indian Tadka (27th Street, between 63 and 64)

Indian Tadka is actually part of a group of restaurants, with 2 more locations in Yangon. The service, atmosphere, surroundings (and of course most importantly the food) infer this is a different level of eatery. It’s opulent. It’s rich. It’s on the more expensive side… It’s also totally worth it.

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Why get one curry when you can have four?

The menu is broad ranging but manages to keep you from getting overwhelmed, with a variety of mutton, paneer, vegetable, and chicken dishes on offer. Pair this with their freshly made garlic naan and cold beer and you can’t go wrong. I’m not huge on spice, but this place isn’t your average curry house in the UK where spicier means better. The dishes are complex, with several packing considerable heat but in a smart, layered fashion.

“Indian Tadka is the place to go if you feel like treating yourself”

During my time in Mandalay I tried many different dishes, but the standouts were always the paneer butter masala (a luxuriously intense dish, delicately spiced and creamy, packed full of chunky, homemade Indian cheese) and the kadhai mutton – a super tasty and rich tomato-based sauce with tender, boneless mutton and pepper. The portions are ample and thoughtfully presented, with attractive swirls of yogurt and cream to complement the heat. They also provide free  poppadoms, mint chutney, and Indian-style pickled  onion (sirke walk pyaaz). It’s worth adding there is Chinese cuisine on offer as well, however I’ve never been able to peel myself away from the main menu. Dishes range from 3,000- 6,000 kyat ($2.25 – $4.50).

In short Indian Tadka is the place to go if you feel like treating yourself – and let’s face it even the most thrifty of travelers need some TLC every now and again.

2) Kaung Thant Cafe (27th Street, Corner of 82)

Now to a place considerably less formal, more affordable, yet just as tasty… the famed Kaung Thant Cafe. Not so much a cafe more a collection of tables on the street, I was shown this place by a local friend and it became one of my favorite haunts whilst living here. Even though the sign for Kaung Thant isn’t in English it’s easy enough to find – just look for a yellow shopfront on the corner of 82, usually partnered with a fair amount of eager customers ready to sample the delicious Indian food.

“look for a yellow shopfront on the corner of 82, usually partnered with a fair amount of eager customers”

Kaung Thant Cafe offers Indian food with touch of Myanmar influence, and they’re well-known in the city for their legendary homemade chapati. One should be enough, although on our last visit we recently ended up sharing a second because they’re too good not to. Complimentary tea is provided, although I would recommend getting a cup of sweetened milk tea (le pay yeay) to have alongside your meal.

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Squeezing as much food (and people) onto our table at Kaung Thant Cafe

My absolute favorite dish here is the mutton curry (although the beef is a close second) and I wouldn’t personally stray from these 2. These (along with the chapati) is what they’re famous for. The curries here are a completely different style to those at Indian Tadka; they have more of a broth-like base and are slow cooked for hours allowing the meat to tenderly fall apart. This cooking method along with the expert blend of spices makes for a deliciously rich meal, happily mopped up as much chapati as you can handle. Alongside your main curry (as in most Burmese meals) you’re provided with a selection of smaller dishes free of charge – in this case a simple dhal curry, along with curried cauliflower, and chutney.

The price of all filling, tasty food? Less than 5,000 kyat (around $3.75)  for 2 people. If you’re a foodie it should be firmly on your list – whether you’re on a tight budget or not.

“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity” – Jonathan Safran Foer

 

 

 

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Restaurants in Mandalay – Golden Shan

Get more than your money’s worth of scrumptious Shan food at this popular buffet…

Golden Shan is a very well-known restaurant in Mandalay and a regular haunt for many expats, locals and tourists alike. It has moved to a new location – still on the West side of the moat but on 22nd (Pinya) Street, corner of 90th. As local motorbike and taxi drivers are very familiar with the old venue, make sure to double check they’re headed to the right place. Being lost can be fun, but not while you’re hungry.

Quick Info – Shan People & Food

The Shan are an ethnic group of Southeast Asia. They are mainly based in the state of Myanmar that bears their name; however there are significant populations of Shan people all over the country and neighboring countries of Thailand, Laos and China.

“Just like other ethnic groups within Myanmar, Shan people have their own distinct culture, language, food and dress”

Just like other ethnic groups within Myanmar, Shan people have their own distinct culture, language, food and dress. They have experienced a difficult past when it comes to their relationship with the government; despite these political troubles Shan State has always remained a favored place visit. The area is famed for its hosting of the Balloon Festival in Taunggyi (Taun-gi), hiking in Hsipaw (Si-po) and the breathtaking Inle (In-lay) Lake.

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Ah! The hot air balloon is on fire! Oh no, my bad. There’s just fireworks exploding from it (Taunggyi Balloon Festival)

Shan food is an incredibly popular style of cuisine across the entire country – you’d be hard pushed not to find Shan Noodles for breakfast in most towns. General characteristics of Shan food are that it’s full of vegetables, not too spicy, and shares similar flavors to Northern Thai food.

So what’s the deal at Golden Shan?

The Golden Shan is a buffet which offers a literal feast for only 4,000 kyat (less than $3). You pay, head up with your plate, and then gorge on delicious Shan cuisine to your heart’s content. There are usually around 30 dishes on offer at any one time, and thankfully the English-speaking staff are kind enough to help you out if you haven’t quite got your Burmese down yet (so no mystery meat or super spicy curries unless you want it). If you want no meat of any kind then fear not – a lot of Shan food is vegetarian so they have a ton of options.

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As with any self-respecting restaurant in Myanmar, there’s cold beer on offer to wash the food down (2,000 kyat), as well soft drinks. Another bonus  – if you haven’t adapted to the sometimes 35°C+ temperature, upstairs has AC. All the dishes are authentic and made onsite by the friendly family that run it, who are incredibly proud of their Shan heritage.

“if you haven’t adapted to the sometimes 35°C+ temperature, upstairs has AC”

There’s a hugely diverse range of food on offer; spicy and mild, veggie and meat. It would be impossible to list them all, but expect to find a variation of the following:

Meat

  • Sweet pork (a favorite of mine)
  • Pig intestines (a little spicy for my taste)
  • Spicy pork
  • Pigs leg (excellent)
  • Sweet and sour chicken
  • Fish curry
  • Chicken curry with mustard seeds (delicious)
  • Chinese-style chicken
  • Fried pork or fish

Veggies

  • Bamboo curry
  • Egg curry
  • Bean sprouts and tofu
  • Fried, crispy mushrooms (really tasty)
  • Lotus
  • Aubergine
  • Fried Spinach and tomato
  • Okra
  • Chayote  fruit and shoots (a member of the gourd family)
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Because one curry is never enough…so 20 will do

The best thing about Golden Shan is actually not its diversity or authenticity; it’s that there’s always someone on hand to guide and explain. Perfect if you’re travelling through or have recently made Mandalay your home.