Myanmar Tofu Salad – A Different Kind of Tofu Experience

By Mark Wiens 26 Comments
Myanmar street food
What is that thing that looks like a wheel of cheese?

If you’re like me, you might think it’s a wheel of cheese.

On my first visit to Myanmar, back in 2011, I was puzzled for a number of days, as to what exactly was that wiggly round of yellow matter, that people were eating on the streets?

To cure my curiosity, I sat down at a street food stall and ordered it (or pointed to it).

The answer: chickpea tofu

Don’t let the word tofu turn you off, this is not a chunk of soft flavorless matter, or a tofurkey dog, THIS is a much different kind of tofu experience…

Yangon street food
There’s always something to eat in Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon street food stations

Fast forward a few years, and I’ve eaten Myanmar style tofu salad, known in Myanmar as “tohu thoke” quite a number of times, both on the streets of Yangon, and even in Bangkok.

Tohu thoke (or I’ll probably spell it as tofu thoke) is one of the many staples of Yangon street food, an original Shan tofu salad.

Burmese street food
Shoulder pole street food stalls

Shoulder pole street food stands

You’ll normally find Myanmar tofu salad at small portable street food stalls, the ones that are setup from shoulder poles carrying baskets on either end (I think there should be a better English name for this).

This allows the vendors to drop their stand, and set up shop and be ready to serve customers in the busyness of Yangon in minutes.

A small wooden ledge, smaller than some of the bar counters I ate off in Tokyo, is your table, and the chef, sits in the middle of the restaurant.

A set of low to ground plastic stools are placed around the vendor, and you just sit down for a quick bite on the go.

Street food in Myanmar
A few piles of assorted noodles, and that wheel of cheese.

This particular vendor I visited, also had a few extra expansion plastic tables, so I sat down at one with a little extra knee space.

The same vendors who sell tofu thoke also normally sell a few other dishes, especially hand-mixed noodle salads, cabbage salad, and papaya salad (another dish I ordered at this particular pit-stop).

Burmese street food
Burmes tofu salad and green papaya salad

I didn’t order any of the noodle dishes this time, as I had actually just eaten a larger meal, but I did order another salad, the Myanmar version of green papaya salad.

Aside from the shreds of green papaya, it was very different from a Thai style green papaya salad.

Burmese salads
Sitting on miniature furniture, you have a nice bird’s eye view of your salad.

Tofu thoke

As soon as I ordered, he got to work mixing the first salad.

A small pile of the block of tofu had already been chopped up into one inch bite sized pieces.

I’m not totally sure everything he mixed in, but there was a handful of finely shaved kaffir lime leaves, cilantro, and a seasoning of some type of oil (perhaps peanut oil).

Finally, a good handful of deep fried shallots were sprinkled on top.

Tofu thoke
Typical plate of tofu thoke, or yellow tofu salad in Myanmar

Chickpea tofu

Chickpea tofu is not really anything like soybean tofu.

It’s much more creamy, and almost like pudding in texture, just one notch firmer. The flavor is actually quite neutral, just like a chickpea or bean would taste, and so it takes on whatever it’s combined with.

I loved the creamy softness of the tofu, and the light dressing, plus the wonderfully fragrant shallots. For spice, I garnished with alternating bites of fresh chilies (available at most stalls), and raw cloves of garlic.

Burmese green papaya salad
Thinbaw thi thoke- green papaya salad in Myanmar

Green papaya salad (thinbaw thi thoke)

The green papaya salad (thinbaw thi thoke) included a handful of green papaya, mixed up with dry chili flakes, and a dressing that had a really nutty flavor to it.

I thought the flavor was comparable to a Japanese miso salad dressing, but I think it was perhaps peanuts, mixed with oil, and a bit of tamarind juice.

Burmese green papaya salad
The green papaya was fresh and crisp

The thing I always love about green papaya, no matter what country I eat it in, is its wonderful fresh and crisp texture.

I really enjoyed this Myanmar style of green papaya salad (thinbaw thi thoke) as well (though I’m not sure if what I ate is the authentic recipe, or the everyday quick street food version).

Street food in Yangon
The always entertaining street food atmosphere in Yangon, Myanmar

Just like all street food in Yangon, the atmosphere, the chaos, and the overall action and elements of surprise, all play a part in the enjoyment of dining. This is the reason I think eating is always one of the top attractions when you visit a city like Yangon (or any city).

I couldn’t be much happier, sitting on a 6 inch stool, slurping down plates of Burmese salads from friendly vendors.

Burmese street food
Find a stall like this (with that sign), and pull up a stool

If you have a few minutes, click play below to watch the full video (you’ll get a much better feel for the atmosphere and emotion!)…

(If you can’t see the video, watch it here: http://youtu.be/2qXGyAKcOEs)

I don’t read Burmese, and I barely speak a few words (food related), but when I see the round wheel of cheese, I know tohu thoke is waiting.

Where can I eat Burmese tofu salad?

You’ll find nearly identical style street food stands scattered throughout Yangon, just pull up a stool, make an order, and eat. But if you want to go where I did, this is just north of Sule Pagoda, on the Southeast Corner of Sule and Anawratha road, along what’s sort of an access road. There are a number of vendors throughout the day on this street.

Price – 350 Kyats per salad (that’s just $0.35)

Have you tried Myanmar chickpea tofu salad?

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

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  • Vishal

    3 months ago

    Great.

  • Su

    4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing your videos and blogs about the food in my country! The ‘dressing’ for the tofu thoke is usually toasted pea flour, oil (in most cases the oil used to fry shallots in), grounded dried shrimp, tamarind, fish sauce (or salt), msg, and fried shallots, all mixed together. Actually, these are the base ingredients for most of the salads in Myanmar 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      4 years ago

      Hi Su, great to hear from you, and thank you for all the information, that’s very helpful. I’m a huge lover of the salads in Myanmar!

  • Nancy

    5 years ago

    Just FYI, although you did mention that this is Shan, you should be aware there actually IS a Burmese tofu salad made with fried soybean tofu and a different flavor profile. So references here should really all be changed to Shan tofu thoke. The best kind of salad is a mix of fried and non-fried Shan tofu with the garlic and chilis already mixed in.

    Love your site, have come across it in the past (memorably, the SANDWICH post about Savannakhet) but am currently in Kolkata and my googling for food info kept bringing up your links!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Nancy, great, thank you very much for the extra information. I would love to taste the version with both fried and non-fried tofu. Hope you’re enjoying Kolkata!

      • Nancy

        5 years ago

        Already home now (which is also in Thailand), but loved Kolkata so much I’m planning a return trip in February!

  • Sonja

    5 years ago

    I love your pictures! Great impressions, unfortunetly there is no “smell” function to have the over-all experience. So I have to plan my trip to Myanmar for 2015!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Sonja, great to hear from you… haha, that’s right, there’s still a few things left to experience in person. Hope you can visit in 2015.

  • Elaine

    5 years ago

    That had me fooled (thought it was cheese too!), but chickpea tofu sounds intriguing to me. I’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for it when I get to Burma!

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Elaine, yah definitely check it out when you’re in Burma, it’s a great salad.

  • Baguio

    5 years ago

    You’re right the first time i saw tofu thoke i thought it was a block of cheese! The salads looked awesome, is their papaya salad resembles that of Thailand’s version?

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Haha, yes Baguio, glad that you thought so too!

  • Dale

    5 years ago

    Being vegan these days I’d thought I’d begun to try my far share of the worlds tofu, but it seems this ‘cheese’ looking block has escaped me. Would love to try it, and judging from the video the whole meal should be vegan too (excluding the salty fish soup).

    Just found a recipe to make our own chickpea tofu too so I really must thank you for highlighting it.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Dale, good to hear from you, and glad you found a recipe for chickpea tofu. Let me know how it turns out!

  • Cyra of Gastronomic Nomad

    5 years ago

    I have never tried any kind of tofu except for regular soybean tofu (nor have I known of it’s exsistence!)

    But it definitely sounds interesting! I didn’t get to watch the video as my internet connection is bad but I will have to come back to that one. Though streetfood in Myanmar sounds interesting, I am thinking about heading over at some point in January/February so I am looking forward to trying some chickpea tofu.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Cyra, great to hear that you’re thinking of going to Myanmar soon. Definitely keep an eye out for the chickpea tofu, it’s very good. I also, before visiting Myanmar, had only had soybean tofu, so it was a surprise and interesting to try this for the first time.

  • Nash

    5 years ago

    Hi Mark, the Salads in Myanmar will make your eyes fall back in your head they are so scrumptious and delectable, so savory and a delight in every bite, its like poetry for your mouth.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Nash, haha yes indeed the will. Glad you love them too!

  • Brandon @ TheYogaNomads

    5 years ago

    I saw a local guy order a tofu salad mixed with a noodle salad. Same sauces and fixings. GAME CHANGER ha ha.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Brandon, oh nice, that sounds delicious!

  • Amélie

    5 years ago

    Yum! I haven’t been to Myanmar yet, but I sampled some Burmese break­fast in Mae Hong Song’s market a few months ago! It was noo­dles and Chi­nese cab­bage swim­ming in rich and creamy chick­pea por­ridge topped with caramelized gar­lic, sugar, peanuts, chopped cilantro, hot pep­per and deep friend Burmese tofu. It was freaking heaven. The deep fried tofu reminded me of McDonald’s french fries a little… In a good way. 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hi Amélie, thank you for sharing, glad you had a delicious Burmese breakfast in Mae Hong Song. Haha, I thought the same thing about the deep fried Shan tofu, they really do taste like McDonald’s french fries!

  • Kip

    5 years ago

    I just had an ace Shan tofu salad yesterday in Yangon that I’m in love with. The dressing was more vinegar than tamarind, with a slight anise undertone. I can’t wait to get back to my kitchen to recreate it! I must keep an eye out for the papaya salad. Thanks for the tip.

    • Mark Wiens

      5 years ago

      Hey Kip, great to hear from you, thank you for sharing. That sounds delicious!