$0.20 Cents Will Buy You a Dosa in Yangon

By Mark Wiens 28 Comments
Yangon
Streets of Yangon, Myanmar

In-between dodging raging buses and strolling through the energetic streets of Yangon, one of the most popular activities is to eat street food snacks.

In Yangon, you’re bombarded with so many street food stalls on every corner, that it’s almost overwhelming. However, you do have to be careful eating street food in Yangon; Not everything looks too fresh, or is served hot.

Yangon street food
Market on the side of the road in Yangon

On top of that, some of the street food snacks are fried in oil that looks like it came from a jeep oil change after many thousands of overdue kilometers.

But one street food snack that you can see being cooked hot and fresh, and that seems to be healthier than many of the deep fried snacks available, is a dosa.

The real name is a “kaut mote“, two words that mean folded snack, and it’s kind of like a filled pancake or snack, that’s folded up to be eaten as a handheld treat (Thank you to Khin for this update).

Anawratha and Pansodan Street
After dosa snacks on the corner of Anawratha and Pansodan Street

On my first trip to Yangon, I ate a dosa, which was almost identical to an Indian style masala dosa – it was big and round, filled with a mixture of masala potatoes, and served with a variety of side chutneys and curry sauces for dipping.

But on this trip, I found another type of Yangon street food dosa – perhaps less Indian in flavor – and more of a Burmese street food style dosa.

Dosa in Myanmar
Dosa in Myanmar

The vendor was selling her dosas on the corner of Anawratha and Pansodan Street in the late afternoon, and there was a good continuous crowd of people ordering from her.

She worked fast to prepare dosas as quickly as she could, using a small charcoal grill with a hot iron skillet on top. While cooking, she poked the coals every few minutes to bump up the heat from the flaming charcoal below.

There were two different versions of dosas she was making, one savory type, and one sweet kind.

Ying and I decided to get one of each.

dosa in Yangon
Sweet dosa

Savory dosa

For the savory dosa, she first spooned a ladle of rice pancake batter onto the hot skillet, and spread it out like a crepe.

After a few seconds, she squirted on a bit of oil from a plastic bottle, which slowly sizzled onto the thin pancake base.

dosa
Making a Myanmar dosa

After allowing the pancake to cook for a few seconds, she sprinkled on a handful of pre-chopped cabbage, carrots, beans, bean sprouts, and tomatoes.

pè byouk
Boiled peas, known as pè byouk

A few more moments of cooking, and she added a scoop of boiled peas (pè byouk), all before wrapping it up like a small burrito.

Price – 200 Kyats ($0.20225)

Burmese dosa
Here’s the sweet dosa

Sweet dosa

The sweet dosa began with the same rice flour pancake batter base, but instead of the vegetables being added, instead she first scraped on a few spatulas of buttery roasted palm sugar.

Next step, she added a handful of fresh shredded coconut (right out of the shell, which she had pre-grated), and finally some small beans (which I didn’t even notice she had added until I started eating it).

Price – 200 Kyats ($0.20225)

Street food in Myanmar
She handed it to me in a piece of colored newspaper

Newspaper serving

As soon as she finished cooking the savory dosa, she wrapped it in a piece of colored newspaper, smiled, and instructed me to hold it from the top, as the bottom would be scorching hot (I tested… it was!).

I’m not sure how healthy it is to eat out of newspaper, especially colored newspaper, but I’m guessing it’s not the healthiest thing to do.

Yesterdays newspaper is a common street food vessel in many countries, but especially when it’s something hot like this dosa, definitely a bit of ink rubs off on your food.

I only wish she had been using leaves to serve her dosas in, like the green pea man in Varanasi. Next time I might bring my own napkin.

Yangon street food dosa
Colorful and tasty Myanmar dosa in Yangon

How did they taste?

The savory Burmese dosa included a nice mixture of ingredients, and I enjoyed the sliced fresh vegetables inside. The boiled peas added a wonderful, almost creamy, and rich component to the dosa.

It was quite salty, and didn’t include too much other flavors than what the ingredients provided.

The sweet dosa was good.

The palm sugar gave it almost a chocolatey or roasted caramel flavor, and the fresh shreds of coconut were fantastic. The little beans were a little odd, but surprisingly went well with the mixture, and added kind of an extra filling dimension.

Myanmar
The streets of Yangon, Myanmar

Watch the video…

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/9k3PysRpF7o)

Conclusion

I have to admit, they weren’t the best dosas I’ve had in my life. But for $0.20 per dosa, it was very good value, and for that price, I don’t think one could expect too much.

The savory dosa would have been improved by being complemented by some coconut sambar – that would have given it an extra beautiful touch.

The sweet dosa was really good, though I personally don’t eat much sweets.

But one more thing…

The lady selling the dosas was doing a superb job, and I was happy to see her dosa stall thriving with customers in the busyness of the afternoon in Yangon.

When it comes to eating street food when I travel, it’s not always about the lavish and delicious foods, but it’s about the reality of life and about connecting with people on a daily basis who are living life.

I’m always touched by vendors who work so hard to earn a living, this time, dosa by dosa.

Do you love dosas?

28 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Ardy

    5 years ago

    I love dosas, like so many Indian foods, I think they are really tasty and I love the sauces that come with it. Since half a year I have been living in Yangon now, but I did not dare try the street food.
    I am quite health conscious and I have seen what goes on in the streets, fi on the markets.
    But on the other hand I am also intrigued. I suppose your stomach must have been trained Mark? I will have a go at it maybe another time, though I would not want people to handle my food with their hands…..:-)

  • Stephen

    7 years ago

    Looks slightly different from the Dosai in Malaysia. Those are generally not found on the street but in an Indian cafe or curry shop.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Stephen, cool, thanks for sharing. In Malaysia they serve it more south Indian style, right? Along with curry sauce and sambal? Mmm, so good.

  • Darren

    7 years ago

    Hi mark. When are you getting our own show on travel network? Or food network? Would definitely watch if you did!

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Darren, thank you very much. I’m doing a Thai food show right now, it’s for a Thai cable channel. I’m still not sure where it will be aired, but will let you know.

  • Arti

    7 years ago

    I think I will prefer the Indian Masala Dosa’s as they are a bit spicy (the Masala, the vegetables in the Dosa) and also have the Sambhar along with the chutneys which accentuate the flavour of the Dosa. I am craving for one right now, will probably gorge on one this week 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Arti, I agree with you, hard to beat those south Indian spices and sambars. You’ve got me dreaming about one now too!

  • Darren

    7 years ago

    Hi Mark, love the photos. What has been your favourite dish that has been the cheapest but you’ve really enjoyed eating?

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Darren, wow that’s a tough question! In both China and India, I had some incredibly delicious and affordable snacks / meals. One that comes to mind is the “pani puri” in Kolkata, which are like 4 – 6 per $0.20 – little bites.

      • Darren

        7 years ago

        Wow, so cheap Mark. I cannot wait to start to sample the street food in SE Asia.

  • Rachel @Vagabond Baker

    7 years ago

    Oh my, I love dosa! I never found this lady, if I had I definitely would have tried a couple. The sweet one sounds really interesting, I’m not huge fan of beans in sweet dishes unless they are pureed beyond recognition but they seem to pop up in so many Asian desserts.
    I had some delicious Indian food in Yangon, it was so good and so inexpensive. I love how these are a blend of Indian and Burmese, creating something much fresher.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Rachel, yes definitely if you go back, try to sample of the sweet dosas, I think you’ll enjoy them. I agree, so much great and inexpensive food in Yangon.

  • Sam

    7 years ago

    This brings back so much memories from living in Kerala many years ago. There are few food pleasures like hot crispy dosa with chutney & sambar. I could eat half a dozen (with sweet chai) & still want more.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hi Sam, great to hear that. I have never been to South India, but I can’t wait to visit in the future.

  • Wink Phyo thu

    7 years ago

    Oww, I am very happy seeing these photos. I thought as if I was walking along the Rangon’s streets and buying anything I want.
    I wanna eat this kind of foods at once although I don’t like them too much. Thanks for your sharing!!!!!!!
    Aww, Green pea (Sar Taw Peဲ in Myanmar language) is used in vegetable dosa and black-eyed pea/cow pea (Peဲ Lun in Myanmar language) for sweet dosa.
    Palm sugar in sweet dosa is made from Toddy palm tree grown in Middle parts of Myanmar.

    Kye Zuu Tin Par Tal (thank you)

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hi Wink, great to hear from you, thank you very much. Ok cool, thank you for sharing the names of some of these ingredients. Hope you are doing well.

  • peter

    7 years ago

    Mark, a little unusual for you to be concerned about the cleanliness of street food! I would be alot more concerned with western restaurant food. Since western establishments use refrigeration, they tend to keep stuff around, and people are always getting food poisoning, often from “fresh” salad that has been in and out of refrigeration. I lived over 10 years in Bangkok and never had a problem. I’d take that dosa over a New York deli wrap any day!

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Peter, I agree with you on that. Yah I wasn’t actually too concerned eating it, but I guess just daily consumption from newspaper probably wouldn’t be the greatest.

  • SaravanaKumar

    7 years ago

    I thought Dasa was only available in India, specially in Southern part India. Great photographs..

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey great to hear from you. The dosa has reached many parts of the world, thank you to South India!

  • Lindsay

    7 years ago

    We ate a few of these in Yangon too! They’re easy to find, and I especially like the bean salad mix. They’ll even make it without the oil if you request it.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Lindsay, great to hear that, and good idea about that oil.

  • Jess & Brandon

    7 years ago

    Oh man, that looks tasty. We are heading to SE Asia this winter and I am very interested to experience Myanmar. I’ll be sure to try the dosa.

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hey Jess and Brandon, glad you’ll be coming to SE Asia, and Myanmar is such an interesting place to visit. Definitely try the dosas if you go.

  • Andrea Anastasiou

    7 years ago

    I’ve only ever eaten Indian dosas and while I like them, they’re certainly not my favourite Indian food. I’m a big fan of chaat, though – Indian street food. Ever tried vada pav? That’s my favourite!

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hi Andrea, nice to hear form you. Overall, I agree, with you, I’d usually go for a plate of rice and Indian curry over a dosa, but a dosa does make a wonderful snack. I’ve had vada, but never in the bread like a sandwich. Will have to try it.

  • Brenden

    7 years ago

    Your blog posts and YouTube videos make me want to travel. To Thailand, and to wherever else your travels take you. The food you eat looks delicious!