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*August 2010 COTM - COMPLETE ASIAN: Burma

Our cookbook for August is The Complete Asian Cookbook, by Charmaine Solomon.

Please use this thread to discuss recipes from the chapter BURMA

There are a variety of editions and publishers of The Complete Asian Cookbook, although it appears that the recipes for the most part are unchanged between them. Please mention the edition you are using along with the page number when you report on recipes.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Tha Hnat (Cucumber Pickle p. 282)
    Peel cucumbers, halve, seed and cut into strips. Cook cucumbers in a boiling mixture of malt vinegar, salt and water until transparant and then cool. Fry thin sliced garlic in mixture of peanut oil and sesame seed oil. Drain, reserve garlic searately and reserve oil and cool. Dress cucumbers with cooled oil, add dried onion flakes (can also make fresh, but I used pre-made), garlic and toasted seasme seeds.

    This is one of three pickle recipes I made. I had a surfeit of cucumbers and a love of pickles. This was a very different pickle for me. The texture was not the crisp, crunchy cucumber, but softer and more pliable. It was also more savory, than sweet or sour. Although different, I did enjoy them. The garlic and onions add a nice savory, crispy element. I will have to try the real thing to compare them to those that I made.

    1. Akyaw, Pg. 284, 1992 Edition

      Basically, this is a vegetable stir-fry with a list of 18 potential veggie ingredients from which to choose. We chose eggplants (5 small Asian ones), a handful of green beans (trimmed and cut into bite size pieces), broccoli stems (sliced into matchsticks), 2 carrots (sliced into rounds), about 7 oz. bean sprouts, 2 celery ribs (sliced thinly on the diagonal). Sesame and corn oils are heated in a wok, 2 onions sliced thinly and 2 chopped garlic cloves are added and stir-fried. The other vegetables are added sequentially and are cooked till al dente. Season with salt & pepper then add a bit of fish sauce. We liked this dish, especially the use of sesame oil in the beginning and the hit of fish sauce at the end to boost the flavors. I served steamed broccoli, steamed Jasmine rice and Taukwa Dan Taugeh from the Malaysian chapter, pg. 233. Altogether a satisfying and tasty vegetarian dinner.

      20 Replies
      1. re: Gio

        what kind of sesame oil does it call for? surely not roasted???

        1. re: jen kalb

          No Jen, not toasted. She just lists "Sesame oil." This is what I used:

           
          1. re: Gio

            The oil in the pic is made from toasted seeds. - ive not seen it used in SEA/South Asian cooking before except maybe in Singapore with all of its chinese heritage people.. the kind of sesame oil used in cooking in india, say, is light colored. made from unroasted seeds. It makes me wonder about Burma.

            1. re: jen kalb

              Jen... that photo does look dark, however, I assure you, I did not use toasted sesame oil. Asian sesame oil is amber. I've chosen a few other recipes from the Burma chapter...now I can't wait to make them.

              1. re: Gio

                its the Kadoya right? that is made from toasted seeds. The south asian sesame oil lacks that extra flavor (itis fairly neutral, think about the oil that rises to the top in tahina - thats sesame) so I sort of cant see why she specified a blend of oils here), its very interesting in a nerdy sort of way. burma is terra incognita to me, cooking wise.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  I think she uses both oils to compensate for the low smoking temperature of the sesame oil.

                2. re: Gio

                  Like Jen, I've always understood Kadoya as made with toasted sesame seeds, that's why it's so dark. Regular sesame oil has a neutral flavor and is a pale color.

                  I did find this:
                  "The golden variety of sesame oil is sometimes referred to as gingelly or til oil and is typically used in Indian cooking.The very pale variety is sometimes referred to as cold-pressed and is used as an agent for frying rather than taste. This type is most common to Burma, where it is known as hnan zi. The dark variety is found in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cooking and is added to impart its nutty flavor.

                  http://www.ehow.com/about_5079189_ses...

                  I do wish the book went into more depth about some of these ingredients, especially for lesser known cuisines.

                  1. re: Rubee

                    Good info on this site as well

                    http://www.bitesizecooking.com/knowle...

                    with suggestions for how to imitate gingelly or til oil using a neutral-flavored oil plus the dark Chinese sesame oil. Looks as though it would be a good compromise--especially with grapeseed oil.

                    ETA: For anyone who might be interested, Kalustyan's sells gingelly oil.

                    http://kalustyans.com/searchcatalog.asp

                    1. re: JoanN

                      Based on the descriptions in your link, Joan, I am inclined to believe that Solomon's called for combo of corn and sesame oil is meant as an approximation of the flavor of gingelly/til. It is frustrating, though, that she isn't specific about the type of sesame oil.

                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                        I posted that link without even looking at the recipes in the Burma chapter. I'm sure you've hit the nail on the head. Although frankly, I still think I'd prefer the neutrality of grapeseed over corn.

                        I spent a couple of days in Burma (Myanmar) and the food was pretty awful. I'd just come from Thailand where the food was extraordinary and was in a rather poor part of Myanmar (I guess nearly all parts are). Been avoiding that chapter. I need to get over it and find out what the food is really supposed to be like.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          Solomon's mother is from Burma, and she was born there, so I'd bet she has a good handle on the cuisine!

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Joan, I haven't been to Burma/Myanmar, but do have a friend who came back from a trip to SF raving about Burmese food, so we sought out only of the only establishments in LA and it was very interesting -- even though we weren't in a premier place (which was also *not exactly in LA*) and friend said it wasn't nearly as good (SFers chime in here). Kind of a cross between Indian and Thai. Was looking in CAC for a fermented tea leaf salad that we had that was outstanding and I gather something of a standard, but haven't seen it yet. Very interested to get into these recipes and admiring those who have jumped right in!

                        2. re: JoanN

                          its available at most indian supermarkets too. To me not a distinct flavor (it is really used more as a neutral oil for frying than as a big flavor component like coconut or mustard)but I try to use the oils called for in local cookbooks to get closer to the original flavor if possible. Unlikely it makes a lot of diff.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            Great info indeed.

                            I've ordered from Kalustyans in the past...their shipping is slow I find but I'm ordering the gingelly oil and a few other things.
                            Here's the link to the oil page:

                            http://kalustyans.com/catalog.asp?men...

                            1. re: Gio

                              Herewith a bow in the direction of Gio. Its been an interesting discussion but based on an erroneous assumption on my part.

                              (1) In her Glossary, Solomon is explicit that her references to sesame oil in the book mean the ASIAN oil, made from toasted sesame seeds

                              (2) I pulled my other burmese cookbook , Burmese Cooking, by Aum Aum Taik, last night and her recipes using sesame oil explicitly reference dark colored asian variety, not the light indian or cold pressed varieties. She also has several recipes using quantities of toasted sesame seeds.

                              (3) the blending is probably as Gio surmised, to raise the smoking point in frying, since the dark sesame oil has a low smoking point.

                              SO this dark oil appears to be the burmese preference and taste. Maybe the influence from China, maybe independently developed there. Whatever. Seems like the gingelly oil would not be correct here, tho surely it would work for frying if you had it.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                Thank you jen, Gio, and others for this discussion and for sharing your insights, including drawing from other sources and your personal experiences. To me, these ingredient discussions are some of the most helpful each time we tackle a new cuisine for COTM.

                                Having the right soy sauce, oil, bean curd, etc can really make or break these dishes and if you don't have a lot of experience in some of these cuisines (as I don't), it's hard to feel completely confident about what you're doing. Or worse, you might feel completely confident not realizing you're way off base (that's where I often find myself. Whoops.)

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  TDQ, I so very much agree on how helpful these discussions are. I can't tell you how often I've gone back to the Dunlop discussions for help.

                                  I feel like this book was written when a lot of ingredients we can find today we're so readily available, and she offers a lot of substitutions (or just plain assumes we won't be able to find stuff and subs something else). Maybe I'm wrong, though, because there are definitely things in this book that I'll have a hard time finding without using mail order.

                                  All that said, I sometimes feel that lack of confidence too, but heck, as long as it tastes good, I'm happy. Might only serve it to my family though! : )

                                2. re: jen kalb

                                  I wonder if you have a different edition of the book? In my edition the glossary entry for sesame oil refers specifically to Chinese cooking and says the oil is used in small quantities for flavoring, not as a cooking medium. But in the recipe Gio made, the akyaw, the oil (the recipe calls for either sesame or corn) is very definitely being used as a cooking medium. I'm not convinced that what Solomon has to say about sesame oil in the glossary pertains to the sesame oil used for stir-frying in the Burma chapter.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    My edition is the 1992 and clearly talks about the asian version of the oil. Since she has the simple term sesame oil in her pantry lists for the burmese cuisine I have to believe she is referring to the same thing as in the back of the book glossary, since she is very logical in her presentation. Especially, as I said my other book is even clearer that the asian version (and not the clearer version)is what is intended in a whole number of burmese dishes. Note Paik uses the sesame oil in stir frying only in a blend with veg oil.

                  2. re: Gio

                    Sounds like a great way to use up a random assortment of garden/CSA/farmers market vegetables!

                    (P.S. I'm feeling very behind this month.)

                    ~TDQ

                  3. Chicken Curry With Gravy p276 of 1993 edition

                    I wanted to try this one as I've done a Burmese chicken curry I liked from The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. Well strictly speaking it was a chicken variation of a pork curry. I think I liked this one better. Frying the pureed onions, garlic, ginger and lemongrass until they are dry was a good start, it gave a good foundation for the curry. I made it with cauliflower, there was a lot of sauce, good for those who like a soupy curry. My son complained about all the bones but chopping up the chicken pieces to expose the bone marrow really gives the curry a lot of flavor.

                    I served it with Coconut rice p266. This was rather too rich even though I used light coconut milk. I think I would have preferred plain rice.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: JaneEYB

                      Bummer about the coconut rice, but the curry sounds fantastic! Do you think the coconut rice would go with something more plain, steamed veggies or something?

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Yes, I think it would go well with something plainer or maybe even with a dry curry. The sauce for the curry was quite rich, though not spicy, and it was too much (for me) with the rice.

                        1. re: JaneEYB

                          I'm making the coconut rice today to serve with Indonesian "Grilled Chicken with Hot Spices" on p.184. What do you think if I cut the coconut milk in half?

                          1. re: Rubee

                            You know, having looked into it a bit more I think the issue may have been that I used canned coconut milk whereas CS uses her own home-made coconut milk. She pours hot water over desiccated coconut then squeezes out the liquid (for thick milk) and repeats the process with the same coconut for thin milk. So for the coconut rice recipe, which calls for coconut milk without specifying thick or thin, you would use a mixture of the two. She explains this on page 11.

                            I think by using canned coconut milk I made it richer than her recipe should be. I did dilute it with water to make one can up to 2.5 cups (I was doing half quantities) but I think it was still too rich. If you try it the proper way, let me know what you think. I'm going to try it again doing it properly when I have the time (an irony of setting up EYB is that I have less time than I ever had for cooking).

                            1. re: JaneEYB

                              Oh thanks for pointing that out. I'm actually going to use canned too, so I will take your advice and dilute it. I'm going to halve it too. I have one of those smaller 5.6 oz cans of coconut milk, so will use that.

                              1. re: Rubee

                                In my copy of the book, there is an Introduction to the Revised Edition where Solomon says where thick coconut milk is called for one should dilute the bought product with half its volume in water (1 c canned coconut milk to half cup water) and where coconut milk is called for it should be diluted in an equal amount of water. Thin coconut milk should be diluted with 2 parts of volume by water and coconut cream is undiluted.

                                1. re: BigSal

                                  Excellent, thanks!

                                  1. re: BigSal

                                    Thanks for that - I obviously didn't dilute it enough as the can was 400 ml and 2.5 cups is 625 ml so mine was 1/3 water, 2/3 coconut milk which would have been too rich. I will try it again diluted properly (or if I have time, make my own milk) as i do like coconut rice in restaurants.

                                    1. re: JaneEYB

                                      We've started with pina coladas so I decided no math for me. ; ) The small can turned out to be about 3/4 cup and I'm going to use water to make 2-1/2.

                                       
                      2. Ohn Htamin (Coconut Rice), p.266

                        Thanks to all the helpful hints above, this came out perfect - a subtle taste of coconut without being overwhelming. I halved the recipe and used a small can of coconut milk. It ended up being about 3/4 cup and I added water to make 2-1/2 cups total. I might even try 1 cup of coconut milk next time. It was a great side dish to Ayam Panggang Pedis (Grilled Chicken with Hot Spices), p. 185 and Korean Cucumber Salad.

                         
                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Rubee

                          Oh gosh, sounds delicious.

                          ~TDQ

                        2. Hmo Kyaw Kyet (Mushrooms Fried with Chicken, Pg. 283, 1992 Edition

                          Well, this was very nice indeed...! We had a large white onion, half a left over roast chicken, and lovely large white mushrooms. The mushrooms were sliced into 8ths, chicken meat sliced into strips, onion sliced thinly. Fry the onion in hot oil till golden. (we used peanut oil) The recipe calls for the chicken to be added and fried for 2 minutes on high heat then covered and cooked for an additional 3 minutes. Add light soy sauce and a bit of salt then the mushrooms. Cover the pan and simmer for about 4 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high and cook till all the liquid has evaporated. (we added the chicken and let it heat through so both the mushroom and chicken juices mingled) Deliciously simple. I served Veggo's SIL's corn off the cob sauté as a side dish and a fresh peach cobbler for dessert.

                          1. Weetha See Byan (Dry Pork Curry), Pg. 277, 1992 Edition

                            Absolutely Delicious...! The only complaint I have is that I didn't double the recipe. The first step is to puree onion, garlic, ginger, chili powder, and turmeric. That paste is then fried, covered, in a bit of oil till "well cooked." Next, cubed pork is added and simmered till tender. I used pork loin. Finely chopped lemongrass, tamerind juice, fish sauce are the last ingredients. All of this is cooked till the liquid has evaporated. As per directions additional ingredients we added were more chili powder, Madras curry powder, chopped cilantro and chopped spring onions. I also served steamed brown Basmati rice and Thanatsone (Mixed Vegetable Salad) on page 283. We loved this dish and can't wait to make it again.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Gio

                              Yeah! Glad to see you're having some great successes after a couple of dubious recipes. This pork curry sounds great.

                            2. Thanatsone (Mixed Vegetable Salad), Pg. 263, 1992 Edition

                              Using the ingredients in this recipe as a starting point I made a salad to go along with the main course of Dry Pork Curry on page 277. Four cups of sliced vegetables included bean sprouts, shredded Napa cabbage and iceberg lettuce, shaved carrots, spring onions, sliced cucumber and chopped cilantro. All this is tossed together with a dressing of sesame oil, rice vinegar, turmeric, and a bit of soy sauce. The original recipe calls for boiling the vegetables for a couple of minutes then tossing them with fried onions and garlic and the dressing. However, since I wanted some crunch to go with the curry, I didn't do that. What I did put together went very well with the curry and steamed brown basmati rice.

                              1. nga tha lauk paung, pg 272 "steamed shad" (corrected--per CM below) "Soused Fish"
                                A question.....I don't have the book....but if anyone who does have it happens to see this, I'd love to know how long CS recommends cooking the fish, and is it steamed or boiled/simmered?.

                                We just made this using the recipe in the Periplus "Food of Burma" book, fabulous, but the bones weren't completely soft and we are looking for some other points of reference for the timing.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: qianning

                                  qianning, CS calls this dish "soused fish," and suggests using herrings, mackerel, "or similar fish." She has you put the whole fish in a lidded casserole, top it with onion, garlic, ginger, peppercorns, salt, and chile, add vinegar to cover, then seal the casserole with a flour-water dough and cook it in a 225F oven for 6 hours.

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    Thank you!

                                    We steamed our shad for 3&1/2 hours or more, but I think 5 would have been more like it. There seem to be various translations for the Burmese name, literally Mr. QN says it is "shad steamed", but the sine qua non ingredient is acid, usually vinegar, so "soused" really is closer to the flavor profile.