Slice into a succulent steak at Yangon’s top hotels or fine dining establishments, savour its flavour and texture, then send a prayer of thanks to Marbled Black Co.

Founded by Htoo Maung, a jovial and youthful man, Marbled Black Co. is Myanmar’s first official fine food importer. It specialises in premium beef and pork products such as Wagyu steaks and Kurobuta Berkshire roasts, which the company sources directly from ranchers in the US, Australia, and Brazil. Among other products are Per Se caviar from Spain, one of few organic caviar available in the world, and dried spices & herbs – lavender, Tellicherry black pepper, Applewood smoked sea salt, and Murray River Gourmet Salt.

Upon graduation from SHATEC” The International Hotel and Tourism School in 2007, Htoo Maung joined his new venture Artisan Fine Food, a premium fine food import company in Singapore. When he returned to Yangon in 2012, Htoo Maung began exploring Myanmar’s food and beverage market and related government regulations.

“At that time, the government didn’t allow companies to import meat and wine, but some were doing it illegally through the back door. I started talking with the Myanmar government about how this kind of quality fine food product needed to go with country’s tourism and hotel development; that five star hotels and fine restaurants needed high standard products.”

Myanmar authorities resisted, fearing that companies like Marbled Black Co. would push local meat producers out of the market. Htoo Maung had the monumental task of convincing them that “we are not coming with just US beef and competing with the local market. The US has a different standard and quality, and this is about education and raising local meat production.”

American Beef Ribeye from Double R Ranch, graded as Prime.
American Beef Ribeye from Double R Ranch, graded as Prime.

Htoo Maung spent the next two and a half years in discussion with the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries, and Rural Development about importation licenses. During that time, he also studied international health and safety protocols for meat importation, storage, and transportation, as well as opened discussions with US livestock authorities.

His persistence and commitment to transparency paid off in January 2015 when Marbled Black Co. was awarded Myanmar’s first import permit for US meat products. Their inaugural shipment of over 500 pounds arrived in mid-February. Included in the container were ribeyes, tenderloins, and a smoky, meaty Kurobuta Berkshire bacon.

“We were the first and still the only one to import premium beef and pork products direct from US producers,” said Htoo Maung, who is exclusively importing into Myanmar from Double R Ranch in Washington state and family owned and operated Snake River Farms in Idaho. Snake River Farms is one of few American ranches that raise American Wagyu beef, which take four times longer than traditional cattle, and is celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck’s preference over Japanese Kobe.

After successfully bringing in the US shipment, “we also saw there was potential for Brazilian beef, which is good for mid to low-end restaurants and hotels and for local consumers.”

Marbled Black is aptly named for their products. Marbling refers to the fat found in a cut of meat, running like rivers between muscle fibers. The more fat, the higher the quality.

American Kobe Mignon from Snake River Farms, graded as Wagyu MB.
American Kobe Mignon from Snake River Farms, graded as Wagyu MB.

Htoo Maung tacked on “black” as the best beef generally comes from black coloured cattle, such as the Black Angus and Japanese Black.

Recently added to Marbled Black Co.’s products are Australian raised beef from Jack’s Creek, one of the finest F1 Wagyu, 100% Black Angus and Angus beef producers in the world. The ranch’s Wagyu is 450-day grain fed, free of antibiotics, and EU and Halal accredited. This past October, it won best in show at the World Steak Challenge out of 70 of the world’s top producers from ten countries.

“We’re growing slowly, so that’s why we work directly with producers who want to grow their brand. Mostly, we bring in products from family-owned farms. They don’t produce massive quantities; they are selective and of the finest quality.”

Htoo Maung’s company takes the anxiety out of buying meat at wet markets and retail markets for top-notch establishments, where meat must taste like meat, without an underlying gamey stench and above all, keep patrons clear of restrooms.

When I shared that numerous shoppers lament the graying pork sold at supermarkets that give off a decaying odor only 30 minutes between the cart and fridge, Htoo Maung remarked, “We need to improve our local production. The first thing is animal feeding and breeding, and the second is that the processing plant slaughtering system should be upgraded and improved for health and safety. We need to upgrade the cold chain system, not only in retail centers but also the wet markets. Meat cannot be defrosted then frozen again. And there must be expiry dates.”
Marbled Black Co. employs dedicated teams at all points of entry that liaise with customs officials to ensure the products are cleared for entry quickly, as the products are perishable. The products are transported using refrigerated trucks and special foam boxes with dry ice that can maintain cold temperatures for up to ten hours to their cold storage unit.

The company is again facing resistance, and Myanmar authorities are calling for all importers to also operate a farm. Illogical and unrelated, this move merely sets out to protect local producers. However, it could be the springboard from which Marbled Black Co. launch food health and safety training programs that enable policy changes in all food outlets.
Until that is sorted, treat yourself to one of Marbled Black Co.’s premium imported steaks or Kurobuta pork loins at outlets such as Governor’s Residence and Le Planteur in Yangon and Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw.

Htoo Maung’s recommendation?

“It depends on the cut. For Korean and Japanese style cooking, like teppanyaki and hot pot, the rib eye roll, short rib, and strip loin are good. For Western cooking, it really depends on dish you’re creating. If you want to deliver a very good piece of steak, it should be a Tomahawk or Cowboy Chop, which are bone-in. My favorite for grilling and serving is the Tomahawk, which is served at the Park Royal Hotel.”

Marbled Black
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 09 972235889, 09 974924910, 09 972235991

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Mimi originally hails from the Washington, DC area. Having lived on four continents, she recently moved from Uganda to Myanmar to work as an entrepreneur, consultant, zumba instructor, education trainer, and editor. A dangerously excitable foodie, Mimi also loves dancing and has a debilitating weakness for (black) cats.


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