It's the hip new thing to go to Burma/Myanmar these days. Luckily, I managed to go in November moments before the hordes descended, giving me the right to yawn and say, "Oh, Burma is so over," whenever anyone mentions wanting to visit the country.
In Rangoon/Yangon the big, touristy market is called Scott Market (by the British) and Bogyoke Aung San Market (by the Burmese). There, on the east side of the market near a Molly Fabric sign, was a girl selling noodles and salads.
We immediately noticed her because despite the touristy nature of the market, local women were lining up, chomping at the bit to taste her wares. She had a dozen ingredients, with which she could make seemingly endless variations of noodles and salads.
We started by pointing to what the woman next to us was having, and we gestured that we wanted one too. The perfectly balanced noodle salad, khauk swe thoke, made my knees weak with delight. It's made with wheat noodles, shredded cucumbers and cabbage, cilantro, garlic, chili, peanut oil, fish sauce and lime juice and has just the right combination of hot, sour, salty and sweet.
By the time we finished hoovering the khauk swe thoke, we realized that the noodle seller, a girl in her early twenties, was not a one-trick pony. We stood there for a few minutes as middle-aged women in longyis crushed us, trying to get their orders in. It was clear from the giant bowl of ingredients the girl carried that once she ran out, she was done for the day.
So as quickly as we could, we ordered two more dishes, pointing wildly at what the women near us had, while they tittered under the breath, presumably at how uncouth we were. We had another noodle dish that I think was similar to nan gyi thoke, but with thinner rice noodles and chickpea flour. Our final meal (by this point the girl thought we were insane) was a cabbage salad served with crumbled, fried chickpea fritters and thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves.
The girl was clearly a culinary genius, each dish was delicious, hearty enough to be a good afternoon snack, without the heaviness that many associate with Burmese cuisine. I vowed then and there to learn to make all of these dishes myself, and unsurprisingly, I haven't yet.