Rice as Currency in Myanmar
Rice is of significant importance in Myanmar. Historically, it has even been a factor in the foundation or collapse of kingdoms or used as currency instead of money. During the year of the “Burmese Way to Socialism,” a foreign embassy official reported that their household staff preferred to be paid with rice rather than money.
An anecdotal story experienced by two Germans in the 1960’s supports this story. The two Germans went to see a carpenter to ask him to build some new furniture for their empty house. They found the carpenter sitting on the balcony of his house, reading the newspaper. After listening to their request, he put his newspaper aside, and looked into a large pot sitting next to his armchair. He then looked up and said he wasn’t interested in the job because he still had enough rice.
Rice, in its various stages, is called different names in Myanmar. Rice growing in the field is called zan. Prepared in the Burma kitchen, it is called htamin. While traveling in Myanmar, travelers will encounter a variety of rice dishes. At luxury resorts, while breakfast buffets are well stocked with every possible food that caters to Western tastes, in Myanmar, one will also find white rice or fried rice commonly served for breakfast. In many places, fried rice is something usually enjoyed for lunch or dinner. However, a portion of fried rice with an egg on top and garnished with some chillies and diced onions is a simple meal for anytime of day. A Khiri Travel Myanmar employee, on his first visit to Myanmar, was dining on a plate of fried rice with chicken. When asked if he liked Burma, he answered, “I shall return.”
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