Shan noodles are the ultimate comfort food, and with hundreds of variations on offer there’s a bowl to suit everyone. We’ve slurped our way through the streets of Yangon to find what we think are the city’s best.
The simple roadside shop may not look like much from the outside, but Nam Dao Kham has achieved something of a cult following in Hledan among both locals and expats alike. So much so in fact, that whatever time of day you visit, finding a free stool can be difficult.
Located on a quiet side street off Hledan’s main road, the inconspicuous restaurant serves a simple menu of Shan dishes, and has gained a reputation among foreigners who live in the area for serving some of the best – or even the best – Shan noodles in the city. In fact, word has spread so fast that the restaurant’s friendly owner, Nang Phoung Kham, has had to create a version of the menu in English.
Nang, as she is known by customers, returned to Myanmar in 2013 after five years spent working in London’s Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan. There can’t be many Shan noodle shop owners in Myanmar with experience working in Michelin- starred restaurants, and Nang’s experience abroad means she not only speaks perfect English but is also pernickety about cleanliness – you won’t see anyone sticking their unwashed hands into your rice salad here.
There is no point visiting a Shan restaurant if you’re not going to try the Shan noodles, and Nang’s kau sweh (K1000) is the best I’ve tasted anywhere – including Shan State. Diners can choose from a selection of noodles, but the flat rice noodles make for a hearty meal. The steamed rice flour and spring onion dumplings wrapped in banana leaf (K500) might look a bit weird, but don’t be put off by the gluey texture – this fragrant, fresh-tasting Shan specialty is another must-try and, if you arrive early enough, you can watch the staff carefully folding the banana leaf parcels ready for steaming.
Carb-lovers will enjoy the Shan rice with mashed potato and tomato (K800) – a favourite with vegetarians. Also on the menu is a range of salads including a delicious, fresh papaya salad (K800) and carrot salad (K1000). To accompany your meal, Nang will whip you up a seasonal fresh juice of your choice – the avocado is a favourite with her expat devotees.
Even if you’re not a Shan food fan, it’s worth a visit to Nang Dao Kham for the yogurt. In some parts of the world, homemade yogurt is only to be found in trendy health-food cafes or expensive artisan food shops. Nang’s homemade yogurt is the thickest, creamiest you will ever taste. And it’s a steal at only K600. Order with htan nyat, a rich dark palm sugar syrup, for a deliciously sweet-but-not-too-sweet treat.
As Yangon’s burgeoning food scene sees the arrival of an ever-growing number of expensive “gastro” and “bespoke” restaurants, places like Nam Dao Kham remind you that it’s possible to eat a bloody good meal in Yangon for less than K2000 – and make you feel like a fool for spending US$34 on that steak last week.
Nam Dao Kham
10/12 Zay Yar Road (next to Hanna Beauty Salon), Hledan, Yangon
Star rating: ★★★★★