Story of a Yangon pork stick seller

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U Win Swe and his partner.

Skewered pig offal dunked into a communal cauldron of bubbling murky broth may not be to everyone’s taste, but Yangon sure seems to love it.

U Win Swe took advantage of the city’s appetite for wat thar dote htoe (or pork sticks) in 1993 when he scrapped trishaw driving and selling vegetables from a cart to set up a stall on Sanchaung Street.

“It’s a better business,” considered the 53-year-old grandfather. “You can get more profit compared to the other jobs.”

Any profit is still modest, however, with broken sticks costing 50 kyats and unbroken sticks 100 kyats. Each one has a special porky treat at the end: intestines; cartilage; eye; liver; kidney; esophagus; tongue; heart; lung; fried blood; or just a plain old cut of meat.

U Win Swe buys it wholesale from a supplier in Sanchaung Market at 6am every day besides Sunday, his day off. Then he thoroughly cleans the offal at his house and brings it to his spot, unfolding a table leaned against a G & G convenience store.

Pork intestine dipped in chilli sauce.

Of course, it wasn’t always a G & G. The building opposite wasn’t always a teashop, either. Over the 25 years U Win Swe has sat there, cutting offal, he has seen the whole place transform.

“Before the road was bad and narrow,” he said. “Now it is concreted over. There is so much more demand. I’m very happy about it.”

His stall stays open until the meat runs out, usually about 8pm. Seldom are the little plastic seats empty—a hygienic stall is a busy stall—and customers also help themselves to slices of boiled egg, bowls of garlic and chili, and chili sauce poured from a jerry can.

So busy has the stall been lately that his wife of 28 years has come to help. They spend most of their days beside offal. “When I’m sick the smell irritates me,” U Win Swe admitted. “But when I’m not it’s fine.”

Rainy season, a time spend indoors for most, is bad for business, but that changes come Tazaungdaing Festival, which marks the end of the monsoon.

Why do people flock to his stall? “Kindness,” he smiled, sipping tea. “I have a lot of kindness for my customers and everyone.”

Many foreigners are put off by wat thar dote htoe, but a popular stall serving quality offal can quickly change any preconceptions. U Win Swe will be open for a while to come, or “until my body gives up,” he added. Like blindly grabbing a pork stick, “health is unpredictable.”

Address: Corner of U San Nyunt and Sanchaung Street, Sanchaung Township.

Opening Time: About 3pm-8pm.

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