ayin state, home to the Kayin ethnic people, is famous for its amazing limestone caves, mountains, and green rice fields. There are many things to explore in Kayin like local traditions & customs, exotic places, and endless delicious traditional foods to try.

Kayin Food Culture and Satuditha Tradition

In Kayin culture, food plays an important role. Kayin people love to eat all kinds of vegetables which they put in everything they cook and eat. An interesting thing related to Kayin food culture is that travelers are offered free food in most attractions of Kayin State. This tradition is called Satuditha, a word which is derived from the ancient language Pali. ‘Satu’ means ‘fourth digit’ and ‘Ditha’ means ‘east, west, south and north directions’. For this reason, Satuditha is a way of donating food to people from all directions. It doesn’t matter who you are and where you are from, you can come to Kayin and eat until you are full is the essence of this tradition. You can find this tradition all over Myanmar especially during Thingyan and Tazaungdaing Festivals. However, the type of Satuditha varies per area.

Kayin Satuditha, Generosity of Kayin people

The uniqueness of Kayin Satuditha is that they offer free vegetarian meals during all seasons. The budget for holding Satuditha comes from the donation of visitors and local people. As for the labour, many Kayin youths volunteer in cooking and serving the foods in the Satuditha pavilions.

In Satuditha, they usually serve rice and vegetable curry. A large bowl of rice and local bean paste with assorted boiled vegetables like eggplant, gourd, jackfruit, and watercress is a must-try while visiting Kayin. Even during the Covid-19 period, some places are still opening to offer free vegetarian food even though the financial situation of the local people is heavily affected. The generosity of the Kayin people is very remarkable.

Kayin Traditonal Satuditha Meal Set
Kayin Traditonal Satuditha Meal Set

Kayin Attractions with Free Food Offerings

List of some attractions where you can try free Vegetarian foods in Kayin;

1. Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda

2. Taung Wine Mountain

3. Tharmanya Mountain

4. Yathaepyan Cave

5. Lo Ta Ya Cave

6. Thaunt Pa Tain Lake

Lo Ta Ya Cave, offers traditionally Kayin food to visitors
Lo Ta Ya Cave

Traditional Foods of Kayin State

Talabaw Soup

A must dish to try while visiting Kayin State is Talabaw soup. It can be made with some dried meat, fish or shrimp and vegetables. Firstly add meat or fish in boiling water, then add rice, bamboo shoots, and chopped vegetables when the meat or fish is soft. It looks like porridge with some vegetables and the taste is sweet and delicious. But most Kayin people like a spicy taste; So they usually eat the Talabaw soup together with extra spicy fish paste.

Talabaw soup can be found and ordered in most Kayin traditional restaurants. Some restaurants serve the soup as a side dish and some are sold as a main dish according to the ingredients. Since the recipe of the soup is not very difficult, most local people can cook it at their home.

Homemade Kayin Talabaw Soup with Fish Paste
Homemade Talabaw Soup with Fish Paste

Kayin Mont Tee - Kayin Mont Hin Gha

Another famous Kayin traditional food you should try is Kayin Mont Tee – Kayin Mont Hin Gha. Unlike the Myanmar Mont Hin Gha that contains beans, fish, and banana pith, the main ingredient of Kayin Mont Tee is Fish. Local people eat Mont Tee together with assorted vegetables and dried chilies. They mostly use fish and shrimp as their main ingredient that they catch in the Thanlwin River, one of the four main rivers of Myanmar, that is flowing through Kayin State.

Where to try Kayin Traditional Foods in Hpa-An

Here is a list of some restaurants in Hpa-An where you can enjoy Kayin and Burmese traditional foods –

1. San Ma Tau

2. Shwe Kyat Pha Restaurant

3. Veranda- Youth Community Café

4. My Hat Bar and Restaurant

5. Hpa-An Paradise Bar and Restaurant

6. Hpa-An Night Market

Small Vendor Shops - The best place to taste Kayin Authentic Dishes

Before the Covid-19 period, during festivals in Hpa-An, many vendor shop sellers from nearby villages would come and sell the Kayin Traditional dishes. Some shop owners cannot speak the Burmese language very well. Therefore, they display the available dishes on the table and you can choose whatever you like to eat. I recommend you to try Kayin authentic dishes at the small vendor shops at the Hpa-An Night Market or stalls during the festivals when Covid-19 is over. 

When times are getting better, do take the opportunity to visit Kayin and taste the wonderful traditional food.

May 8, 2021