Travel Tuesday: Checking out Kalaw (Burma) and discovering Shan noodle soup

Kalaw, the small hill-town, founded by the British who retreated there when the Burmese plains got too hot for them was one of the most charming places we visited on our recent trip to Burma. Although it’s definitely a gathering place for serious hiking enthusiasts, it also boasts a charming morning market (best enjoyed as it’s opening up, around 6.30-7am)…

I wrote about the the Kalaw Market here.

If you’re not a huge hiking enthusiast or if you only have a day or a half-day, there are plenty of ways to organise a shorter walk (day or half-day) around the area. Since we were pressed for time a little, we opted for a 2-3 hour hike (mostly on dirt roads or clear trails, not terribly challenging but perfect for a stroll around the countryside before the midday sun bore down too strong to be out in it. And the countryside is stunning…

It helps that the sky was so blue (you can tell it was going to be a hot day!)…

We watched the locals picking and packing oranges

And along the way in one of the little villages, we stopped and were offered tea, oranges and bean crackers for a delightful mid-morning snack.

Oranges bean crackers and tea on the road near Kalaw

And we saw all manner of transportation along the way…

After an early morning at the market and a walk in the increasingly hot sun, we’d worked up quite an appetite so we headed for a local specialty – Shan noodles – at a tiny restaurant we’d discovered the night before, Pyae Pyae, specialising in Shan noodles.

Shan-style noodle soup is basically chicken broth filled with rice noodles and chunks of chicken or pork and vegetables (spicy or not, as you choose). Light and fresh but filling too.

It’s a simple dish but one I could eat over and over again (pictured above is a vegetarian version). With so few ingredients, it’s important to start with high-quality but it’s not a complicated dish to make. You can find a great recipe for Shan Noodle Soup here.  One of our friends tried the Shan noodle soup with Shan tofu – pale yellow in colour and made with chickpea flour, this dissolved into the broth to make a creamy base for the noodles – intriguing, delicious and unlike anything we’ve tasted anywhere else.

On the table, simple condiments such as pickled chilies and ginger were available for you to help yourself… Below, spicy Shan noodle soup with chicken…

For just over one dollar per bowl, this was definitely one of the tastiest, best value meals we enjoyed during our time in Burma – and the noodle soup is a perfect match for the climate in Kalaw.

Of course, if you need a little extra heat, there are always chilies…  As well as inside the restaurant to accompany your meal, outside Pyae Pyae, you’ll find even more chilies drying…

This is the sort of restaurant you find on your travels and are loathe to share the address with others for fear that it will be overrun with tourists. The fact that this tiny noodle restaurant makes the Lonely Planet means it’s not exactly a hidden gem but both times we were there it certainly felt like it. Highly recommended.

(for what it’s worth, the address is Union Highway, heading in the direction of Thazi – or #17 on the Lonely Planet map ;))

You might also like:

The cats of Inle Lake (Burma)
NamPan Market (Inle Lake, Burma)

A trip to Thandwe Market (Burma)
Ngapali Beach (Burma)
In and around Inle Lake
Morning market in Kalaw (Burma)

* Canadians – did you enter my Green & Black’s chocolate giveaway yet? Closes Thursday, March 28th at 6pm EST. Details here.

14 thoughts on “Travel Tuesday: Checking out Kalaw (Burma) and discovering Shan noodle soup”

  1. Oh, I am reading this at lunchtime and about to lick my screen. The Shan noodle soup sounds a little like pho, and I’m totally intrigued by the vegetarian version with chick pea flour. Thanks for a little armchair trip to Burma, Mardi!

  2. Cathy, am I not right in that it was you and I who were determined to trudge up the road, while Miss Mardi declined? Do we not get honourary side credits for this blog entry? 😉

    Paired wonderfully with the local beer!

  3. Fantastic pictures… Especially the food. I’m starving now…

    Burma has never really been on my list of places I desperately want to go – don’t know why, just never thought about it. The pictures makes me want to see more.


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