Yangon Foodie Forecast: ‘Local food will trend in 2018’

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Popular eatery Rangoon Tea House in downtown. (Supplied)

2017 saw a big move toward affordable eating, according to Htet Myet Oo, co-founder of one of Yangon’s most popular eateries, Rangoon Tea House, along with Isabella Sway-Tin and Simon Sao. “Even the traditionally more expensive restaurants in town tried to come up with ways they could attract customers more toward the middle class,” he said. “There is a lot more competition around the 10,000-15,000 kyats per head mark than there was the year before.”

The end of the year was marked by a flurry of concept establishments, but Htet Myet Oo believes Myanmar and ethnic concepts will take center stage in 2018. “That is great for customers and businesses both. The town is saturated already with bars and western food, so local food is where the next trend will be and long may it last. I think destination eating will also become a thing. Restaurants around the country that are a must-go for people living in and visiting the country.”

The source of the fare served in those restaurants is a topic for debate. Locally sourced ingredients are naturally better for Myanmar but do not always promise quality or even safety. It’s a “price versus quality” game, said Htet Myet Oo. “Every year, the price of imported goods decrease and the quality of locally produced goods have not gotten better. There are obvious anomalies, where farms are going towards chemical free and focusing on quality, but in the grand scheme of things this is very rare. It’s a shame because that would create jobs, empower those in the agriculture economy and also give local produce a global stage.”

More than a particular cuisine becoming popular, he said, “the culture of eating is more popular than ever, so new and improved experiences will be taking center stage, such as night markets.” In smaller brands like his group’s Mr Wok, restaurants may start offering more calorie and nutrition information to customers. And will technology influence the choices of customers in 2018? “Certainly, there is a need for better booking platforms all throughout the country,” said the restaurateur. “If someone can crack the code then this will have a profound impact. Otherwise Facebook is still king.”

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