Fresh seafood is one of life’s simple pleasures. There’s nothing like the feeling of the sand between your toes as you crack open the shell of a crab, the sound of the ocean lapping the shore a coconut’s throw away from your table.
The traffic choked streets of Hledan in Yangon, on the other hand, probably don’t conjure visions of a premier seafood destination. But with its famous nga gin (grilled fish) market and some of the city’s best seafood restaurants nearby, it’s one of the best places in the city to enjoy a taste of the ocean – without actually being near the ocean.
A short walk from Hledan train station on Baho Road, Hein Seafood is a stuffy roadside restaurant that will displease discerning aesthetes. Groups of noisy diners sit around stainless steel tables, sweating in the stifling heat while unappetising-looking crustaceans glare down at them from the walls. Service is friendly but chaotic, and none of the staff speak English, though the menu has helpful pictures and English translations.
But for this food it’s worth braving a bit of chaos. The fisherman’s curry of crab, king prawns, butterfish and squid in a fragrant, slightly sour broth, is a fresh, light departure from the usual oily curries, and the prawn soup has an inimitably sharp flavour which delights the tastebuds in ways that cannot be explained. The crowning dish, however, is the prawn curry: fat, meaty prawns in a rich, fiery curry cut through by hints of sharp citrus and garlic. Though I am usually cautious in my use of superlatives, I can say with confidence that it is the most delicious curry dish I have ever eaten.
I’d also be willing to bet that Hein serves some of the best-value seafood in the city. As with most seafood restaurants, prices vary and aren’t listed on the menu, but a prawn curry typically costs around K2500, a fisherman’s curry for two will set you back K4000 and side dishes such as fried vegetables start from around K500. Fish soup is complimentary (though the smell won’t be for everyone).
It may not be sexy, but Hein is a must visit for prawn lovers. Heck, if you close your eyes, feel the dust between your toes and listen to the sound of the open sewers flowing outside, maybe you’ll even be able to convince yourself that you’re on the beach.
Or yeah, maybe not.
Baho Road, Hledan, Kamaryut township
Perfect for… when you can’t afford a beach holiday
FBWT star rating:★★★★★