Myanmar official newspaper Myanmar Times advocates the promotion of gastronomy tourism to foreign markets.
Myanmar has the world’s most diverse food culture because of its many ethnic groups, each of which has its own specialties and flavours. With proper and sustained support from public institutions, Myanmar’s cuisine, whether from sidewalk stalls or indoor restaurants, could easily be promoted to the top of international menus, competing head-on with those of Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Now that the country has opened up to the outside world, Myanmar cuisine is being discovered and is increasingly part of a tourism experience. With more tourists coming, the reputation of Myanmar cuisine is mainly spreading through word of mouth.
The tourism authorities want to welcome more visitors by using Myanmar cuisine as a new promotional tool. But to succeed in the field of gastronomy tourism, the best and most cost-effective strategy is to improve the country’s food safety and sanitation standards.
Dishes like mohinga (fish-based noodle soup), laphet thoke (fermented tea-leaf salad), Mandalay mee shay (pork noodle), buthi kyaw (gourd fritters) and ohn no kauk swe (coconut noodles) are must-eat menu items for tourists. But their overall quality is uneven. Foreigners prefer to eat food that has predictable taste and not much variation, as in the case of mohinga and laphet thoke.
In Southeast Asia today, street food has become a magnet for tourists. Given the current state of the global economy, tourists are very careful with their money. They like to spend it on quality goods and food at reasonable prices. Food must be clean, delicious and safe.
This week, Michelin awarded one and two stars to 17 Bangkok-based restaurants (none of them got the much-coveted three stars however). The world’s most famous food guide has been wise to come to Southeast Asia in search of excellent eateries, and soon it will be in China. In the near future there will be more Southeast Asian restaurants with Michelin stars because of the rise of the middle class and its desire to spend on lifestyle activities such as food. Japan was the first Asian country to get a Michelin rating.
Singapore has cleverly set aside numerous central locations for restaurants of all leading national cuisines and promotes itself as the world capital of good food. Even the most famous dish in Singapore has a foreign name, Hainanese chicken rice.
For Thailand, after the Tom Yum Goong economic crisis in 1997, Bangkok had to think of quick ways to improve its devastated economy. After all, the government could not keep on borrowing money. So, it decided to promote Thai food. At the time, the Thai political atmosphere was democratic, so it was easy to promote Thai cuisine internationally.
Myanmar needs to map out long-term action plans to promote its national and ethnic food. Michelin said in a press release that the Thai capital’s culinary scene was as “diverse as it is surprising”. Well, apparently its star-giving staffers have not yet sampled the street food of Myanmar, which is even more diverse than its Thai neighbour.
(Source: the Myanmar Times)