Developed By Modern Nobody
I’ve tried about half of Myanmar’s ethnic cuisines – Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Kayin. I had yet to try Mon food, which I heard was similar to Thai food because of its proximity to the border. That is until I decided to try one of the most famous Mon restaurants in Yangon, Mawlamyine Swel.
When it first opened a year ago, Mawlamyine Swel was mostly a breakfast destination but in time it has grown to a bustling hub of both Mon and Thai food as well as local seafood.
I initially heard about the restaurant from their Facebook page, on which they post photos of their delicious-looking dishes almost every day.
Upon arrival however, the restaurant isn’t as exciting as their social media page suggests. The decorations are rather stark and there’s no sense that this is a Mon restaurant as opposed to any other kind.
The menu is rather confusing, with so many sections to choose from – Mon, Thai, traditional Myanmar. My eyes land on the “Mon homestyle cooking” page and I select a typical lunch of rice, soup, and a variety of small plates and salads.
Though the Thai and seafood selections also intrigue me, I refrain myself: I came here to try Mon food and get a sense of this tropical neighbouring state to the East.
In total, my companion and I order five dishes: nga shint mayan pyar (stir fired eel with plums, K6500), pyaung bu htaung (maize salad, K1500), kyauk pwint thote (seaweed salad, K1000), Mon shrimp balls (K4500), and seafood pyote lat thote (Mon style soup with seafood, K5500).
The food here was quite tasty though I’d like to raise my complaints first. The maize salad was a bit salty for my taste and the way the chef cut it was too large and clunky. To my palate, the salad reminded me of Thai papaya salad but not sweet enough.
I was also disappointed with the seaweed salad because the weeds were limp and rather tasteless. I expected more from this dish after seeing beautiful, airbrushed photos of it on Facebook.
The Mon shrimp ball was tender and well-seasoned with a spicy kick, thought it is more suitable as an appetiser.
The stir fried eel, however, which was big enough to feed a family of four, was a surprise to my senses. The meat was boneless and tender so it was easy to eat and melted in my mouth. The eel was soaked in the sour taste of marian plums which reminded me of some pungent Kachin dishes I’ve tasted in the past.
The seafood soup was the main attraction at Mawlamyine Swel with the sour taste of lime, bitter coriander, and plump, fragrant shrimp transporting me back to the Kyaik Htee Yoe pagoda I visited in Mon state just this past year.
Overall, throughout my meal, the waitresses were very friendly and helpful, as was the owner. For what you pay, Mawlamyine Swel is quite a bargain and should be known as one of the key Mon restaurants in the city, rivaling Jana Mon, in Bahan township.
If you’re looking for Thai-infused flavours from one of Myanmar’s southern most provinces, then Mawlamyine Swel is your place.