Culture Lesson: The Karenni Soup Bowl

Most meals taken in a Karenni-Burmese household center around the soup bowl.  Usually a boiling broth with an assortment of vegetables – including the stem, leaf and vine – this dish has several unspoken rules for partaking.

Karenni soup bowl

Save some athurd for me, please!

  • All diners use the same spoon to drink or eat the soup; a concern for germs is unmentioned.  The only polite way to avoid this is to transfer the soup from the common spoon onto your own utensil, before placing it in your mouth.
  • It is rude to take too much liquid, leaving only the dried-out contents, or athurd .
  • It is also uncouth to take too much of the main ingredient, leaving only the flavored water, or ahsur.
  • An old custom among Karenni says that if two people at a table reach for the soup spoons at the same time, a guest will come to the house the following day.   To keep potential visitors away, you must quickly spin the soup bowl so that other dinners cannot grab the fast-moving spoons.
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