Since Myanmar opened it’s doors, change has been rapid. Nowhere is this more evident than in Yangon, where if you miss the chance to visit one or two years, you could be in for a shock. That was certainly the case on my last visit and glaring out of the window coming from the airport, I saw jumbo-trons, new malls, and had a quick introduction to Yangon gridlock, which worried me that I should prepare for a completely different experience this trip.
Luckily despite inflation, traffic jams, and a flurry of new restaurants many of the Yangon’s charms have endured. This includes, of course, visiting one of my favorite tea shops Lucky 7. On my first visit to Myanmar a few years back, the Lucky 7 Tea Shop on the road from the airport was my first bowl of mohingya in Myanmar and my original introduction to tea shop. What I loved most about Lucky 7 was the combination of the sip you tea and coffee with snacks pace of life of a traditional Burmese tea stall, juxtaposed against what’s clearly become a successful fast food chain.
On the last trip I visited one of the locations in the city instead (49th Street) and had just as great food. If you do have a chance to eat there you’ll notice there’s a lot happening on the menus and some awful google translate english popping up in odd, hilarious places. I probably don’t even have to tell you not to go for the ‘diabetes coffee’ — right? But besides the Engrish, the food, price, and service is damn good— and it’s always packed with plenty of locals who’d agree.
Part of the excitement of eating and traveling in South East Asia is trying to dissect who exactly influenced who in the world of food superpowers. Unlike places like Thailand and Singapore where you battle modernity and national ego, doing that in Myanmar is a lot more straightforward. That’s true even looking at Lucky 7’s menu, a hodgepodge of local tweaks on mostly Chinese and Indian dishes (with an unspoken nod to the British, because well, tea duh). There’s stuffed spring rolls and plenty of stewed meat on offer, I’ve mostly swayed to the indian side on my visits drinking chai tea with my roti canai or puri platter with mutton curry. There’s chicken lollipops which shocked me before I had ever traveled India and even if you just want a treat, the tea snacks, especially the one stuffed with duck meat is tasty.
Their secret of course does seem to depend on a large supply of poor kids, thrown into the restaurant to serve. Although friendly, their English is usually pretty rudimentary, so be sure to point at the Engrish item you want, smile lots knowing you have no idea what you just ordered, and leave the little guys a tip!
Nothing like a spot of tea served with a side of child labor!
Thanks Yangon, same ol’ colonial charm afterall…