Meal Packaging: Mohinga?

2 Apr

Perhaps it was Granddad, there’s a head on the beach, a whodunnit set in Thailand (told you I liked ’em set somewhere else here) very much in the now, that brought me to Burma (Myanmar). Author Colin Cotterill, who lives on the Thai border with Myanmar, allows his book to give a voice to the issue of Burmese fishing slaves in Thailand, as related by this book reviewer here.

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Try as I might, I could not find the word used in Burma for our stacked food carrier. An Austrian seller, Golden Rock, calls them Mohinga and offers hand-painted, stainless steel ones like those pictured above. But mohinga is really the term for the traditional Burmese fish+noodle soup, a dish also eaten for breakfast; see here.

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So what did I find? Given Myanmar’s colonial history (the British) it was perhaps not so surprising that I increased my hits using the Anglo-Indian term tiffin. Indeed, you can enjoy a food carrier-served high tea as shown above at the famous hotel The Strand in Yangon (Rangoon) with its classy history.

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I also discovered marvellous bamboo lacquerware food carriers. The single- and four-bowl black food carriers above are from around the early 19th century. Common to many Burmese versions that I saw, the lid can be turned over and used as a cup – a feature that we haven’t come across in the other food carriers covered to date. The second photo shows a very large 11-piece lacquered food carrier with paintings of court scenes and dancing ladies from the early 20th century (an exquisite one from the Dhara Dhevi Collection can be seen in the fotostock catalogue here, though whether Dhara Dhevi refers to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand, or something else, I could not ascertain). The third photo is a very colourful, large Banquet Motif Wedding Basket Style Food Carrier (antique sellers are very into pedigreed names, aren’t they?) with an integrated plate, a tray and a small bowl – suggested use here is for sauces. Would you believe, it is being profanely flogged as a chip-and-dip-server…

pb-121112-hotairBalloons-849p_photoblog900_kleinFor the few travellers that do visit Burma and those that head to Bagan (formerly: Pagan) in the middle of the country, there seem to be some great things to do: you can go hot-air ballooning (see above), you can go visiting a plethora of temples (more than 2.000 of the purported 10.000 pagodas, monasteries & co. once erected around Bagan alone), you can even go adventure-marathoning as of this year 2013. But why I found it and followed it up is because Bagan is also known for its lacquerware tradition, including the making of lacquered food carriers such as this colourful one. After reading up about Bagan I am making it an Official White Rabbit of mine.

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For all the appealing Burmese bamboo lacquered food carriers to be found, they are not the ones being used in ordinary Burmese lives, judging by travellers’ photo galleries and expat blogs. Scottish-born bloggeress Feisty Blue Gecko is working in Asia. Her photos (including the above 3 photos – note the nifty carrier bag in the middle one) give us an impression of some life in Myanmar. The young novice with tiffin below is one of Joshua Groenendijk‘s photos from his beautifully captured travels.

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