Tokyo to Tap Myanmar?

Food & Drink News & Views - May 22nd, 2012

Myanmar food could soon be on the menu in Tokyo, that is if new trade talks between the nations go well.

Thai food, and more recently Vietnamese, has long been a fixture in the dining plans of Tokyo, particularly amongst lunching ladies who enjoy the health benefits, it seems. As young people seek new fashions in dining, South Asian cuisine has grown. In Tokyo, you will never be far away from a green curry, some fish sauce or a stick of lemongrass.

With Myanmar and Japan in starting negotiations on a “bilateral investment treaty” today, could we see another South East Asian cuisine on the menu?

Firstly, to business – and indeed politics. Foreign affairs and economic ministry officials from Japan and Myanmar will meet in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw. Japan hopes to sign a treaty with the previously closed economy, envisioning a potential market for Japanese firms, which they hope will invest. Then, maybe, we could see a flow of business in the opposite direction.

The rush towards the largely untapped market has already started, with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak visiting Myanmar on May 14 and the US lifting the ban on new investment in Myanmar last week. Myanmar is the only ASEAN member Japan had not signed an investment pact with and is targeting the treaty’s signature on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in November.

So what is Myanmar food? Influenced by Chinese, Indian and Thai cuisine, it is heavy on herbs and seafood. As you might expect, high on the agenda will be freshness and all manner of goodness, but we are intrigued by danyin thi, a dogfruit which is dipped in salt, oil and coconut fat. Will it make it to Tokyo’s tables any time soon?