shan noodles in nyaung shwe

nyaung shwe

taken from hsa*ba, burmese cookbook

After a day in the back of a car, travelling along bumpy roads with hardly any loo-stops, we arrived at Nyaung Shwe, a town at the edge of Inle Lake. This fresh water lake is in Shan State, a place my mother remembers fondly. Before I was born, she lived in the Shan hills with my father for a couple of years before returning to Rangoon.

Inle Lake is on most tourist circuits, known for the water villages where Intha people live in houses built on stilts and fisherman have a unique way of rowing a boat with one leg. After a day of sightseeing, my focus was back on food and on top of my list was Shan noodles.

The following morning, we walked around the small town looking for a place to eat Shan noodles for breakfast. As with most places in Burma, there were no obvious signs to indicate a restaurant let alone what they served. It required local knowledge. We stopped by many shops to ask and each person directed us to the same street off the main road.

We followed the directions and found the nondescript store, which we would have mistaken for an ordinary house, if not for the steaming pot of soup on a charcoal stove and a crowd of people inside. We found two empty seats next to a group of local women, who studied us curiously.

A young woman appeared from the kitchen to take our order. We ordered Shan noodles. Two hot bowls of flat rice noodles seeped in clear chicken soup, topped with chopped tomatoes, crushed peanut, spinach leaves and spring onions, appeared shortly. A side dish of pickled mustard greens and bamboo shoots made our tongues tingle with the spicy sourness. It was a wonderful way to start the day and I could see that this dish could equally make a satisfying lunch or dinner. I pulled out my notepad and started to jot down the ingredients.

The young woman noticed my interest and beckoned me to join her in the kitchen. I wished I had time to spend the whole day with her. There was so much to learn. She invited us to come back again so she could show me more Shan recipes. I thought this sounded like another book in the making!


Check out my recipe for Shan noodles


  1. Khemar on December 16, 2008 at 6:14 am

    My favourite noodles-more than mohingar or ohnokaukswe!! I ask my mum to make these whenever I go up to visit my parents. I remember eating them in Maymyo on my only visit to Burma many years ago and having real Shan pickles with them. Yummmm…

  2. Cho on December 17, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for your message, Khemar. I do love Shan noodles and would love to go back to Nyaung Shwe and learn to cook it. Perhaps you mum will share her recipe with us?

    – Cho

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