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Burning for Burmese

With the release of Naomi Duguid's latest book, Burma, and the subsequent hype and interest it has generated, I figured now might be the time to start a thread on Burmese cooking. I for one have become intrigued and delighted by the recipes I've tried out of her book, and am now thirsty for more! I've been looking around for tidbits of information on ingredients, dishes, preparation methods, etc, and there isn't much out there in chow-world, and what little there is of it is scattered thoughout the boards.

Here we could discuss and review recipes, offer other Burmese cookbooks of note, tips, etc. related to cooking this cuisine.

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  1. Ooh, nice idea for a thread. There is a Burmese restaurant near to my home that I have been meaning to try, but I hate going to a place where I have no clue how to approach the food. This thread will help me take the plunge and go.

    Not to lead this thread too far off track, but oddly, I have eaten Burmese food in Pakistan, as there is a community of Pakistanis in Karachi who have roots as settlers from India in Raj-era Burma who ended up in PK after Partition, and somehow a couple of their dishes have made it into urban Pakistani popular food culture. The two dishes that I have tried are Pakistani style khao suey (surely adapted to PK palate just like the Chinese foods and pizzas are adapted), and something called "burmi dish" which is a beef or mutton stew filled with channa daal, potatoes, eggplant, perhaps some other veg., and a ton of fresh fenugreek leaves, and cooked down until it is a mushy amalgamation. I have always wondered what Burmese dish this "burmi dish" is based on, and if this is a dish of ethnic Burmese or perhaps a dish of some community of Indians living in Burma. Khao suey is pretty much a standard menu item in many Pakistani restaurants in major cities, and there are even restaurants named Khao Suey Express and Khao Suey Palace. I have also seen a dish called "khawk suey" and "khao sa" or "khaosa" and wasn't sure if it is the same or different than khao suey. I know there are lots of Indian nationals with roots in Burma, as well, but I am not sure how widely popular Burmese foods are in Indian popular food culture. I was able to find some hits from googling, but it seems to be much more widely popular in metropolitan Pakistani cities.

    I was able to dig up this old article from a PK English language newspaper on khawk-swe (spelling in the article), some interesting info for foodies: http://archives.dawn.com/weekly/dmag/...

    Here is a home recipe for an adapted Pakistani khao-suey. I have had it served like this before at a friend's house, but at a restaurant in Karachi what I had was more of a stir fry: http://miansari66.blogspot.com/2011/0...

    2 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima

      Digression or no, I really enjoyed your post and the links. When Mr. QN gets home I'll have to show him your post, especially the part about the "burmi dish", it sounds suspiciously, to my ears anyway, like a dish from his childhood that he has told me about. If you ever see a recipe, I'd love to know more. I'll also ask him if he remembers whether it is a Burmese Muslim dish (somehow that's what I remember him calling it, but my memory ain't what it used to be...) or one from the one of the raj-era Indian communities in Burma.

      1. re: luckyfatima

        My dad and his family left India for Burma during WWII. He lived there for 30odd years, until he gt married and came to the US. My mom cooks a couple of Burmese dishes, like the khao sway (noodles in a chicken coconute curry broth) and salad. My aunts cook more dishes since they grew up there and learned the cooking. The food is a cross between Indian, Thai and Malaysia IMO. Very flavorful.

      2. Hi Allegra... I hope you'll add this thread to the Non-COTM cookbook reporting links so we can have updates in a timely fashion.

        Burma by Naomi Guguid holds great interest for me but I haven't done much about it yet since I'm waiting for the Elephant Walk Cookbook, Cambodian cuisine, to be delivered. There are a couple Burmese recipes in Charmaine Soloman's book, The Complete Asian Cookbook, that I've made and that we liked very much so I'm looking forward to reports to this thread. Thanks for starting it.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Gio

          Funny, I just ordered the Elephant Walk Cookbook a few days ago!

          I have Soloman's "Asian Collection" which also has quite a few Burmese recipes, though they are very difficult to locate within the poor index and so must be found by flipping through the pages.

          1. re: Allegra_K

            A few years ago I cooked the Pleah Trey (fish salad with lime and crunchy vegetables) out of the Elephant Walk Cookbook as part of a "ceviche around the world" dinner. It was absolutely delicious. Lots of intense flavors and funk from the fish sauce, which I loved.

            I've always meant to cook more from that cookbook, thanks for the reminder!

            I also just purchased Burma so I will be following this thread with interest. I love burmese food and enjoyed Duguid's other book (Hot Sour Salty Sweet).

            1. re: greymalkin

              I just got my copy of Elephant Walk Cookbook so I am so glad to see all the enthusiasm this book is generating. Maybe one day soon we will have a Cambodian thread? In the meantime, I am enjoying learning about Burmese food and am trying to decide if I need a book on Burma too.

              1. re: dkennedy

                Of course you need a book on Burma, dkennedy!
                Heh, heh....

        2. A question for the wise out there regarding tua nao....as a substitute, Duguid suggests miso paste in "Burma", though I looked through "Hot Sour Salty Sweet" and the same author(s) recommend dao jiao in its place. Is one more favourable than the other?

          4 Replies
          1. re: Allegra_K

            Hmmm, you are probably fine with either, so why not go with the one you like better. For me that would be miso, but I'd watch the salt content. Dao jiao, along with natto, is just one of those fermented bean flavors I can't excited about. But if you like those flavors, it would probably work.

            1. re: qianning

              Great, thank you! I did a side-by-side taste comparison this morning (not so great with coffee, btw) and think I also prefer the miso; the dao jiao seemed saltier and more pungent, though I did like its chunky texture.

              1. re: Allegra_K

                I haven't had a chance to cook out of Duguid's Burma book yet, but I, too, had wondered why she didn't say anything about dao jiao as a substitute for tua nao. Realistically, I'm not going to get around to making tua nao for...oh, probably years. Was your side by side comparison of miso and dao jiao in the context of a certain dish, or just straight up?

                1. re: mary shaposhnik

                  I have the best intentions to make the tua nao, but like you, it will probably remain on my 'to do' list for an embarrassingly long period of time, eventually all but forgotten.

                  The taste-test was indeed straight up. Silly me, should have done it in a dish. That makes much more sense!

          2. I used to go to Cafe Mingala in NY a fair amount, and it led me to try to recreate their wonderful Ginger Salad. This is close: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Ginger+...

            1. So this evening after much procrastinating, I realized that I was very behind on the dinner front and needed to make something fast. Flipped through "Burma" and selected the Shrimp Curry on p.136, and its suggested counterpoint, Smoky Napa Stir-Fry on page 115.

              The shrimp curry started out in the apparently usual Burmese way of adding turmeric to hot oil, and then stir-frying a small pile of shallots with a touch of garlic to soften. Chopped tomatoes are tossed in and simmered to break down, then water, fish sauce, and some shrimp go next. Once cooked, minced chiles are stirred in w/salt, poured to a bowl and topped with cilantro and optional lime wedges.
              This was incredibly easy and quick, especially because I used frozen, peeled shrimp (always kept on hand for days like this) and a large handful of frozen mixed cherry tomatoes. It was an agreeable dish, though the flavours are fairly similar to some other recipes in this book; perhaps it's time for me to select some different taste profiles for next time. It didn't knock my socks off, but I would turn to this again for another quick tasty weeknight meal.

              On to the smoky napa cabbage dish..... this recipe was a huge winner! And the simplicity of it makes it all the more appealing. It consists of shallots, dried chiles and ginger stir-fried in (what else) turmeric-laced oil, tossed with shredded napa cabbage and stir fried to wilt. A touch of diluted oyster sauce is stirred in, and that is all, folks.
              This is probably one of my favourite discoveries from the book, one of those better-than-the-sum-of-its-parts classics. The cabbage was beautifully fried, just a tinge of dark around the edges, giving it a fantastic wok-hay flavour, with a tiny bite of ginger in the background. The chiles offered not too much heat which can easily be changed, though I suspect it would be a nice side to have next to spicier dishes. Just fantastic (apparently so good I'm fresh out of synonyms). We all lapped this up instantly, and I regret not buying a larger head of cabbage for more the next day. It was just marvelous.

              From start to finish, dinner took 30 minutes to complete (with a side of jasmine rice) and offered lovely contrasts in texture, visual appeal and best of all, taste. I would call it a resounding success.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Allegra_K

                Foolishly, I'm posting without the book in front of me, but on the shrimp curry, it seems like Duguid's recipe is missing something, namely the paste made from the slowly cooked shrimp bodies. This really is a main flavor component in Burmese Shrimp curry.

                It's time consuming to prepare, and requires good fresh whole shrimp, but, and this is the great part, if you don't have access to the right shrimp, or have the time, there's a great "cheat". Bay Lobster Pate, the type we buy is a Canadian product, comes in little 4 oz. or so cans, added to the curry before the tomatoes go in, will make a huge difference to the results, without too much difference in cooking time or ease.

                1. re: qianning

                  I'll have to look into this magical product you speak of; thanks for the tips, as always!

                  1. re: qianning

                    Is this the pate you're talking about? I sure hope so, 'cause I should readily be able to locate it (just have never tried before); CloverLeaf is in every grocery store around here.

                    So how does it work, do you use the whole tin for one recipe?

                    1. re: Allegra_K

                      exactly, even the same brand we get. the cans are pretty small, one per curry is about right.

                2. Last night my son and I cooked the Shan village khaut swe (p 266, "Burma") for dinner; we also prepared two of the toppings suggested by Duguid, the chopped roasted peanuts and red chile oil.

                  The chile oil is pretty straightforward - reconstitute a packed cup of dried red chiles, remove any stems, blitz in the food processor, then add to a cup of peanut oil and bring it to a boil. Let it cool, and if you like you can strain the oil or you can leave in the little bits of chile. It's got a significant kick and comes out a very pretty rose colour. This is a real winner & we are all looking forward to trying it out with other foods.

                  The khaut swe starts out with what Allegra_K mentioned as the apparent standard Burmese method- you heat some peanut oil, add turmeric, sliced shallots and garlic. Then brown off some cubed pork tenderloin and add 2c of chopped tomatoes. The seasonings are where I had to deviate somewhat from the recipe; I thought I had five-spice mix, but it turned out I didn't, so I used the suggested substitution, and I didn't have time to seek out the fermented soybean sauce so I used some miso that was fermenting away in the back of the fridge. Salt and fish sauce complete the flavour combination. It was very easy to cook, and very forgiving. For instance, if your young assistant accidentally puts a pound of dry rice noodles into the wok instead of in the boiling water next to it, and you aren't quite able to fish out all the little noodle bits, it doesn't adversely affect the flavour or texture of the finished product :-)

                  The dish went over very well with my dad, who was visiting and doesn't have the most adventurous palate in the world; my son and husband also liked it very much. I thought it was good, but not outstanding. I'm not a huge fan of pork, and the sauce was (for me) quite meaty. I would probably try making it again with some kind of poultry; the idea of making a duck khaut swe intrigues me. Also, someone earlier in this thread said that they were familiar with a version of this dish that has a coconutty element to the sauce, so I'm intrigued & want to look for a new recipe.

                  1. This book is getting so much exposure, I would certainly like to try Burmese food and purchase the cookbook.

                    1. Pumpkin-Tamarind Curry "Burma" p-103

                      This stewed pumpkin (kabocha for me) recipe didn't really hit the spot like I hoped it would. I found it to be too heavy on the shrimp powder, too one-dimensional. It reminded me of the traveler's eggplant curry that I wasn't very fond of, so perhaps that's another reason it didn't score too highly around here. If I were to make it again, I would definitely reduce the shrimp powder. The addition of cilantro at the end of cooking helped lift the flavours, but there was just something in there that was striking a bad chord with me. Perhaps I'm just not a huge winter squash fan?

                      Since I've been feeling very noodle-y lately, I served this over tapioca stick noodles (an accidental purchase that needed a home) and sprinkled chopped roasted peanuts over the dish, which gave a nice textural difference. Spooning some tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce into the curry certainly made it tastier. I would be interested in seeing other versions for this recipe before completely writing it off. Luckily there are many fantastic recipes in this book that I've really enjoyed, so I'm not deterred and will keep trying new dishes.

                      -A little side note:Between last month's Indian cotm and this recent Burmese cooking addiction, I think I've ruined half my wardrobe with all the turmeric stains I've managed to spatter over my clothes. The linoleum floor also has a lovely spotted yellow pattern around the stove, a permanent reminder of my clumsy kitchen follies....

                      22 Replies
                      1. re: Allegra_K

                        I don't have the book with me, but does this pumpkin/squash curry use any fresh shrimp? Any Thai basil?

                        1. re: qianning

                          No, it's just dried shrimp powder and a touch of fish sauce, topped with cilantro. And, it goes without saying, shallots and turmeric!

                          1. re: Allegra_K

                            Hmmm, what do I know, but the versions I've had always include fresh (or frozen fresh) shrimp, and Thai basil. At least that's the way Mr.QN makes it, it is also the way the Burmese restro in Boston makes it. The squash curry w/ shrimp & basil is one of his more popular dishes among the adventurous, but not too adventurous crowd, who frequent Yoma, i.e Burmese restaurant in Boston. It has gotten great press locally, and I confess I like it too.

                            1. re: qianning

                              Mr. QN's versions sounds much more appealing than this one! I've been searching online for similar recipes and haven't come up with what you described, only ones with beef.
                              On a similar note, are there any other Burmese cookbooks/websites out there that you use regularly? My curiousity has been piqued and I'm very interested in checking out different books.

                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                We have a few....in order of most used:

                                1) from the Periplus World Food series, "Food of Burma" ( I'm not at home, so can't check, but I think this has the pumpkin recipe in it)
                                2) "Flavors of Burma" by S. Chan
                                3) "Taste of Shan" bu P. Bingham
                                4) "Under the Golden Pagoda" Aung Aung Taik
                                5) "Rangoon International Cookbook" (more of a sentimental favorite than one I would recommend)

                                1. re: qianning

                                  Excellent, thank you! Just put a request in for #1 and #4, the only Burmese cookbooks my library carries. I guess I better go stock up on more shallots....

                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                    You're lucky your library has #1. Mine doesn't, so I just checked Amazon and the cheapest used copy is $69.95! Holy cow! I will see if I can get it on inter-library loan. :-)

                                    1. re: geekmom

                                      Wonder why the Periplus books are so steep now? We have a bunch of them, as well as the Burma book, the Malaysian, the Singapore, and the Malaysian Hawker Food, are all good books, that I use often.

                                      1. re: qianning

                                        I guess since they're OOP and so good, they must be hard to come by in the used market! I will be keeping my eye out for the titles you mentioned; thanks :-)

                                        1. re: geekmom

                                          OOP? Took me a while. You will not believe the amount of times I've had to google all of the acronyms I've learned on this website.....zomg.

                                          Oh, there does seem to be a kindle edition if the Periplus book, if that floats your boat.

                                        2. re: qianning

                                          After looking at the cover for the 'Food of Burma' book, I thought it seemed vaguely familiar in layout. Quick scan of my bookshelves affirms that I do have one in the series, the Food of Thailand, that I recently picked up at a library booksale and haven't even cracked open yet! You know you're in trouble when that happens.....

                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                            I have the "Thailand" book too, but never use it.....I do use the Burma book, the Singapore book and the Malaysian books a lot (some favorite recipes in each), the Indonesian once in a while. Mr. QN uses the Jamaican book every so often. We have several more, but the ones I just listed are the ones we use.

                                      2. re: Allegra_K

                                        Lol, get some pre-fried ones for the salads at least, for the curries though you're stuck, endless shallots in those and the pre-fried don't work!

                                        1. re: qianning

                                          I've always thought it was a waste of time to slice veggies in my food processor, until I came across "Burma" and its endless cups of thinly sliced shallots to be prepped. Luckily they're easy to peel.

                                          1. re: geekmom

                                            so funny, i have no problem slicing shallots, but i hate peeling them! one man's meat....

                                      3. re: qianning

                                        I discovered this beautiful and very intriguing book on the www, wondering do you or any others have experience with this one?

                                        Hsa*ba Burmese Cookbook by Tin Cho Chaw...there's a pretty extensive 'look inside' feature on the website and it appears to be lovely! Would love some input..

                                        eta: this was supposed to be in reply to the book recommendations listed far above....

                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                          we've looked at it, and it is a nice enough book, can't remember why we didn't buy it. Published in the UK, yes?

                                          ps--just flipped through the pages via the link, and really i can't imagine why we don't own this.

                                          1. re: qianning

                                            Heh, heh...just fueling the fire.

                                            Really, though, it seems like it's out of print or unavailable through but a minute number of sellers. A shame.

                                            OT, but--as of this morning, in anticipation of Burma as the COTM, the process for home-spun tua nao has commenced!

                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                              LOL, I'd wait 'til the voting is over....

                                              Meanwhile, the Burmese restaurant in Boston, Yoma, used to have copies of Hsa*ba for sale in their gift shop (gift cabinet, really). Next time I'm near there I'll look and see if they still have some copies. If/when Burma makes COTM maybe we can do a companion thread for other books.

                                              1. re: qianning

                                                You're right, of course; it's a pretty tight race so far.

                                                Definitely down with the companion thread idea as it provides the sometimes much-needed variety and interest. Again I'm way ahead of myself and have spent the morning thumbing trough all the Burmese cookbooks I have out from the library, making mental notes and shopping lists....but maybe I should be preparing my mediterranean pantry instead!

                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                  LOL....would advise against buying perishables.

                                          2. re: Allegra_K

                                            This has been on my Amazon wish list forever, since I saw an enthusiastic write-up once in Time Out.

                              2. A_K, where is your write up on the carrot salad? Can't seem to find it, and not sure if I've already added this to it, but, we both loved the grated carrot salad and it is a wonderful addition to our "usual" rota of Burmese hand tosses. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, I probably would have flipped right passed it if I hadn't had your appraisal in mind.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: qianning

                                  Here's our earlier reviews/recommendations from an old thread, which includes the carrot salad and others.

                                  I'm so glad you liked it! Even the carrot-fearing one in the family (Mr.A) really enjoyed this.

                                2. what sensational timing i just bought this book. I had very little exposure to Burmese food previously but have an ongoing love affair with South East Asian food generally and have always appreciated the light and citrus elements to it, especially the Thai and Viet cuisines. The book was a fantastic eye opener to a very different type of food from the region with such strong Indian traditions of the use of legumes, tumeric, and besan flour with the addition of shrimp pastes and fish sauces and lime and all those old friends from SE Asian food I've come to love. I made the noodles with pork and coconut sauce and my God it was stunning! I subbed mince for shoulder, because i'm just mad for minced pork, and it was amazing. I'm so glad she wrote this book, I'm just thrilled to find a whole new cuisine and to get exploring.

                                  Has anyone made the shan tofu yet? That's next for me and any good tips on technique or unexpected things to watch out for would be appreciated.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Samuelinthekitchen

                                    Oh Shan Tohu, that old bete noire of mine. I tried Duguid's recipe and didn't like it (too thick and too "green" tasting). This link is to the best home recipe I've found, it is a project and a PITA, but it does work. I usually make a half recipe, somewhat more manageable. Be careful not to over cook at the end.

                                    1. re: qianning

                                      Wow, you're not kidding about the process being an ache in the posterior!
                                      For a half-recipe, what size pan do you generally use for the mold (loaf, methinks?) and how thick should the finished product be? Do you find the lining of the pan with cloth to be a crucial step, or would you say parchment would work as well?
                                      This recipe looks interesting, and I'm thinking of giving it a shot soon. At least there's not too much active cooking time...
                                      Thanks once again for your assistance!

                                      1. re: Allegra_K

                                        it is definitely an ache. loaf pan for half is spot on. butter cloth or cheese cloth lining, or nothing, parchment would be a mistake, i think. texture/moisture is still a challenge for me, i usually over cook (having in the past under cooked, which is worse--sludge!).

                                        1. re: qianning

                                          Beauty! Of course, when I try this, I'll really have no clue whether or not I've got the right texture or firmness, having never been exposed to the real deal before(or any deal, come to think of it). Kind of like living your entire life on crappy coffee and never knowing that it can and should taste better.....I'll just be blissfully ignorant.
                                          The chickpea/water blend is nearly ready for straining. Fingers crossed. I'll try to avoid sludge, if nothing else.

                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                            good luck with the stirring!

                                            ignorance is bliss......

                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                              I can't wait to hear how this turns out. Take photos, if you can!

                                    2. Hearty Pork and Vegetable Soup, Burma, p.88

                                      This is a tangy and wonderful soup that was extremely quick to pull together for a harried lunch. It contains just enough shrimp paste to give it a hearty, savoury flavour without being overwhelming. I must confess that my eating companions have been begging me to stop using shrimp paste with such frequency, so I was going to cut down on the amount even further, but still use some, hopefully without their knowledge. I've since discovered that no matter if you use a scant 1/4 teaspoon or 2 heaping ones, the resulting pungent odor is the same and there is no disguising it, alas. After that revelation, I tossed in the remaining amount, caution to the wind!
                                      I used the optional lemongrass and was happy with the extra dimension of flavour it provided. The tamarind in this soup is a perfect amount, nice and tart but not lip-puckeringly so.
                                      As usual, I upped the veggies, about doubled , using a combo of bok choy and napa cabbage, which to me was a great meat-to-veg ratio. For the broth I used a mix of frozen block assortments from the freezer, which I think was veg and chicken, topped up with water. Not completely sure though, because when I tossed the filled freezer bags into my sub-zero appliance, my permanent marker was nowhere to be found. No worries, I'll remember exactly what everything is, no need to label, I said foolishly. Hah! I can't tell the difference between any of those similar little baggies. Beef stock or tamarind water? Pumpkin or mango puree?
                                      Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. Served it over leftover tapioca noodles and it was a great meal-in-a-bowl. I did douse my own serving with a generous portion of sweet-tart chile garlic sauce to amp up the heat along with a splash of fish sauce, and can imagine another condiment would work as well, maybe one of the chutneys?
                                      The only thing that I would do differently is if I knew ahead of time that there would be leftovers, I would add the greens to the amount that I expected to be consumed on that day only, saving the others for a last minute throw-in upon reheating. They lost their colour and crispness after sitting in the hot broth for too long.

                                      1. So I went to reach for my chile oil yesterday, the one I had made following Duguids instructions, and it was mouldy! It was less than two weeks old. Although I opted not to strain the chile pieces from the oil (I have other recipes that utilize those delicious greasy flakes), this still shouldn't have happened. I can only guess that it's due to the reconstituting of the dried chiles, and maybe I didn't thoroughly squeeze them dry? Either way, I will stick with Dunlop's version after this, which dirties less dishes and is much speedier, while yielding a deeper red hue and a toastier flavour.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                          Uh oh - mine is sitting out on the counter, too! I did strain the chile bits out of mine, but I certainly didn't thoroughly dry the chiles after reconstituting them. Do you suppose I should move my oil into the fridge?

                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                            Moldy chili oil, very strange. We never strain ours, the sediment at the bottom is highly prized in certain uses, and always leave it at counter temp, but then again we never re-constitute/wet the chilies.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              I thought that was a strange, unnecessary step....

                                              1. re: qianning

                                                How do you make your chile oil - do you just let the dried chiles sit in the oil for a while?

                                                1. re: geekmom

                                                  Well, it isn't really "my" chili oil, 'cause Mr. QN always makes it. He makes it as part of his belachaung recipe; it is kind of a by-product so to speak. And I pretty much pay no attention, other than making sure the ingredients are available, and reminding him when we need more!

                                                  1. re: geekmom

                                                    Do you own Fuchsia Dunlop's book, Land of Plenty? If you don't, go buy it NOW! (Sorry for shouting. I'm just looking out for your culinary well being, you understand.) But until then, this is the 'recipe' from her book, on p 56....
                                                    Heat 2 c. peanut oil to smoking temp, with optional hunk o'crushed ginger, allow to cool 10 mins(remove ginger), pour into waiting glass jar that contains 1/2 c dried chile flakes, w/seeds. Ta daa! Luscious, deep red, tasty oil.

                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                      Oooh, this sounds good. I like the idea of adding some ginger! And I don't own that book; must correct this yawning gap in my cookbook collection ASAP...

                                                      1. re: geekmom

                                                        I like the way you roll, geekmom! You won't regret it, it's one of my absolute favourites. It was also a COTM some years back (alas, before my time as an active member) and there's heaps of info in those threads.

                                              2. Simmered Cabbage, Shan-Style p.116

                                                Another excellent vegetable dish to add to the repertoire! I enjoyed this recipe just as much as the Smoky Napa Cabbage on the previous page, but both were so different from one another that they could be served in the same meal.
                                                This dish was rather dry, which was a bit unexpected coming from a recipe with 'simmered' in the title, but no matter. The spicy, deep yellow curry flecked with red made for a fantastic light dinner. I had made some rice to go with the cabbage, but ended up eating it on it's own--a recipe that doesn't need a starchy side is a definite keeper around here! I just loved the depth of flavours that the toasted tua nao provided; it offered a subtle richness with nutty background melodies. The roasted peanuts were cooked long enough to lose their dry crunch, but provided a crisp texture instead.

                                                Oh boy did I ever love this one--a definite repeat!

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                  Wow, this sounds pretty awesome! Where did you end up finding tua nao? I completely forgot to look for it at the "weird food" shop the other day, though I did score some fresh methi.

                                                  1. re: geekmom

                                                    It was really good! The tua nao is seemingly unavailable in my area, so a very kind and thoughtful fellow food nerd hooked me up. I liked it so much that I will definitely be making a batch of my own in the future to have on hand at all times! Hopefully you can locate it in Vancouver; I love the variety of 'ethnic' shops available there.

                                                2. Peanut and Rice Porridge p.234

                                                  I started out by having most of this cooked up the night before so that I could enjoy it for breakfast the next morning. Raw peanuts are cooked in their husks, and rice gets tossed in later. The deep pink of the papery coating on the nuts leaches out into the liquid, staining the water a pale mauve colour that gets soaked up by the rice, so that they too are a lovely light rose hue. This all gets turned to a smooth puree, aided by a food processor. At this point I stopped for the evening, saving the remainder for the morning.
                                                  Next (after reheating) a healthy dose of shallot oil gets stirred into the pot. Ladle out to individual bowls, top with desired toppings, which include but are not limited to: chili oil, blanched pea shoots, roasted chopped peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, chile garlic sauce. I used all of the above.
                                                  I really, really liked this. The shallot oil imbues the slurry with a delighful unctuous mouthfeel and a deep mellow flavour that is just wonderful. The rice/peanut mix tasted just as one would expect, hearty and filling. It was a very satisfying and comforting bowl to kickstart one's day.
                                                  The rest of my family was rather lukewarm in their reception of this dish, but they seem to be very particular about their choice of breakfasts, and chile, garlic, and peanuts do not belong in that meal group. Their loss. Although later in the day, after a morning of tobogganing and snow-filled boots, they were more than happy to gobble this up as a quick, nourishing filler to bring up the body temperature. I will make this again, but maybe hoard it for myself (at least for breakfast!). I have a lot left over, and I may try freezing it in portions to see how it works out.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                    After dropping my new camera down a couple flights of stairs, I finally have my replacement and couldn't resist adding this pic, even though there's one in the book.

                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                      Way too pretty!

                                                      Are you a Chinese congee fan too?

                                                      1. re: qianning

                                                        Thanks! Shamefully, I've never had congee, but I have no doubt that I would love it. I must fill this gaping void in my life!

                                                      2. re: Allegra_K

                                                        This looks delicious - love the way you've posed it for the photo too! I'm off to look for some peanuts now...

                                                      3. re: Allegra_K

                                                        I made the peanut & rice porridge from "Burma" yesterday. Cooking the peanuts ahead of time was very helpful as the rice cooks up quite quickly and you can serve it almost immediately after whizzing the rice & peanut soup in the food processor.

                                                        The texture after blending was quite gluey, even after adding an additional cup of water. I loved this - it was so much like oatmeal in texture and that stick-to-your-ribs warm and nourishing feeling, except way more tasty in my opinion. I served with chile oil, shallot oil, fried shallots, and ground peanuts. My family didn't really go for it, even though it seemed rather bland and inoffensive to me (what's not to like about peanuts and rice?!) my son didn't finish his. So definitely mixed reviews here in the geek house.

                                                        1. re: geekmom

                                                          I'm so glad you liked it as well as I did. Your sentiments are identical to mine! I've been slowly polishing off the leftovers as the week has progressed. It's nice to have a stockpile of filling and delicious breakfast for the whole week..

                                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                                            Agreed. Did you try freezing it? I'm curious whether that would be successful. I don't know if my daughter would go for it as a gluten-free breakfast option, since oats are usually contaminated, but it would be lovely to have containers of this stuff in the freezer that she could heat up & add some water to in the morning.

                                                      4. Chicken Aloo pg. 170

                                                        Made this for dinner the other night, with a little bit of tweaking, and we really enjoyed it. It made a nice change from our usual Burmese chicken curry with potatoes, and has the added plus of being really direct, -no marinating, no pre-frying, no paste- dumb-nuts cooking; perfect for a week night dinner!

                                                        Put chopped on-the-bone chicken; a mix of thigh, drumstick and back some with most w/o skin in my case, with peeled shallots, salt, tomato, turmeric, cayenne powder, powdered toasted tua nao, and lemon grass stalks into a stove top casserole. Drizzle with oil and cook for a few minutes, stirring a few times. Cover and cook a few more minutes. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce heat cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add potato pieces, continue at a medium boil half covered for 10-15 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and scallion greens. Serve.

                                                        My tweaks: too watery for us, so I removed the chicken and potatoes, and boiled down the sauce by about half. Not enough tua nao for us, I upped the amount by about double, adding the extra just before boiling down the sauce. Next time I'd just add extra tua nao, and about 1/2-2/3 the called for amount of water. Don't skimp on the cilantro or scallions, they are integral parts of the flavor, not just garnish.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                          I have been avoiding this recipe because it had the word 'aloo' in it, and I immediately thought Indian flavours, of which I've had an excess recently. But this sounds wonderful, and not at all like what I imagined! I'll have to try it, keeping your suggestions in mind.

                                                        2. Made the crispy fried shallots this morning. Mine didn't exactly crisp up, but they look heavenly. Now I'm not sure how to store them. The oil is supposed to go in a "cool dark place" but aside from saying you should store the shallots themselves in a jar, Duguid doesn't offer any suggestions about where to put them. So -- do I keep them on the counter at room temperature? Or do I put them in the fridge?

                                                          4 Replies
                                                          1. re: geekmom

                                                            room temp, i think. we often put a crumpled paper towel in the jar to absorb any excess oil and help the shallots stay a little crisper.

                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                              Thank you - I've left them on the counter top, and will try the paper towel idea.

                                                            2. re: geekmom

                                                              I just keep them in a jar on the counter, but only after leaving them out overnight in a colander to crisp up.

                                                              1. re: naomiduguid

                                                                Thanks - good idea! I'm about to make another batch tonight, so your reply is timely.

                                                            3. Allegra, I just wanted to say a big thanks for all you have posted so far, and to encourage you to continue to add to it! I am definitely going to be returning to this thread after the holidays, and really appreciate hearing the results of your (and everyone else's) experiments.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: mary shaposhnik

                                                                Thanks for the kind words! I would like to keep contributing to this thread, let's hope the motivation lasts......hope to see your reviews up here as well!

                                                              2. Burmese-Style Tofu (half recipe)


                                                                Thank-you to qianning for the link to tohu. I wish that I could proclaim that this one was a huge success, but alas, it was not to be.

                                                                The lengthy process begins with one adding a small amount of chickpea flour to many cups of water, whisking to smooth, and letting sit overnight. This mix is then strained through a thin cloth, the gritty remaining sediments discarded. Let sit for several hours more. Very carefully, the user is then to gently ladle off the top half of the liquid, making sure not to disrupt the settled mix on the bottom half, and toss the scooped-out portion. I must have been too thorough in the straining part, because the remaining liquid (after ladling out the required 3 cups) was just barely half of what I should have had--3 cups liquid when it was supposed to be 4 1/2. A great start! I let the discard mix settle for a few more hours and repeated the process with that portion so as to obtain the amount I should have had. So really, I was setting myself up for disaster....
                                                                This mix is poured to a pot, retaining the 'sludge' at the bottom of the bowl for the thickening of the curd later on. The actual making of the tohu went fairly smoothly--boil and stir constantly for a half-hour. I found that constant mixing wasn't necessary, though I did need to make frequent trips to the pot to keep from sticking. After the 30 minutes, the chickpea 'sludge' from the bottom of the bowl is added, which immediately thickens the blend up to a nice gloppy texture. It looked so much like pudding or custard at this stage that the nutty lentil-like aroma coming out of the pot just seemed wrong. Now I appear to have an insatiable desire for vanilla pudding that must be filled!
                                                                After 10 minutes of vigorous, constant stirring of the glop, the tofu pudding is scraped out into a pan to cool and set. A cloth-lined loaf pan was just right for a half recipe. At this point, I was feeling pretty good about myself and was rather pleased with the outcome thus far.
                                                                Fast forward to the next evening, when the grand finale--the self-congratulatory unveiling of the cooled tofu from its mold--was about to occur. With bated breath, I gently lifted the tofu out of the pan. It had firmed up to a nice consistency, much like traditional-style bean curd--a touch jiggly but delicate, cracking slightly if jostled too enthusiastically. It easily cut into large cubes. Insert whoops of joy and glee. Since I had some oil out for frying already, I thought it would be fun to try the tasty deep-fried tohu snack from Duguid's book. After lowering a couple of test cubes into the hot oil, the fat starting hissing and sizzling dramatically, so much so that I had to step back out of harms way. After the smoke cleared, so to speak, I peered into the wok, and found that my tofu had quite literally dissolved into thin threads of what was now entirely-too-crispy (well, okay, burnt) strands of molten chickpea batter. It oozed as one would expect a peice of fresh mozzerella to react. Sigh.
                                                                For the remainder of the tofu, unfortunately after sitting out at room temperature for a couple of hours, it also started to melt with gusto. The disfigured cubes sat in a puddle of their own juices, not a very appealing sight. I made the terrible mistake of tasting one of the cubes before it got to near-liquid form, and I must say that I wasn't too heartbroken to lose the batch. It was very soft in the middle, offering up no resistence and nearly dissolving upon the tongue. I threw the lot into the rubbish, my arrogance at once beaten back into submission.

                                                                I'm sure this had something to do with my early-on error in the straining of the batter and lack of knowledge on how the consistency should be when adding the sludge. I'm willing to try again, but first I'll allow some time for my ego to heal.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                  Poor you. I know only too well the ego defeating aspects of Shan tohu. But the picture above looks fantastic, so you are probably pretty close. On the other hand, this may well be one of those, it is not worth the trouble ingredients, 'cause really although I like it very very well when we get the "real" stuff at a restaurant, I would never bother to make it at home if it weren't for Mr. QN's deep affection for tohu.

                                                                  1. re: qianning

                                                                    Well this is the 'before' photo....a couple of hours later it was not such a pretty, well formed sight, but thank you!
                                                                    And I may have to agree with you: this is one of those things that I'm glad I tried, but there is no burning desire (or need) to perfect it. I'm interested in trying Duguid's recipe, if for nothing else than to compare the two, and maybe get a better idea of the texture.....it certainly is faster and less involved.

                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                      I wish I could offer more advice than empathy in the making of tohu, but my end product turned out very similar to yours, tofu-like when cold, mushy goo when warm or fried. Burmese restaurants around here usually serve very thin (1/4-1/2 inch or so) fried Shan tohu. If your next batch still only rtains texture at refrigerator temps you could make it into a Shan tofu salad.

                                                                  2. re: Allegra_K

                                                                    Pale Yellow Shan Tofu, p. 126, and Deep-Fried Shan Tofu, p. 128 - Burma, by Naomi Duguid

                                                                    If anyone has success with this recipe - that is, the fried one - I want to hear about it.

                                                                    Duguid's recipe for the Shan tofu is much simpler than what Allegra did. You whisk up some chickpea flour, salt, and water. Strain through a sieve if needed, but mine came out perfectly smooth from just whisking, so I didn't bother. You then boil some water, and add the chickpea flour mixture. And then stir, and stir, and stir. It is supposed to be done in five minutes, and some clues are given: it should be smooth, thickened, and have a "silky sheen" to it. I don't know... mine seemed to meet the requirements after a minute or two, but I kept on for for the full five. At which point it had thickened maybe a tad more, but really didn't look that much different.

                                                                    You are supposed to pour this into oiled pans. Pie plates, she says, but then recommends square pans if you are making the deep fried version. I used an 8" square pan and a 6X9 rectangular pan. But the batter only filled each pan to about 1/2". Not quite like the picture in the book. Set both pans in the fridge for a few hours.

                                                                    I unmolded one pan onto a plate to make the fried tofu. It had gelled up nicely, so I was optimistic. But in the fryer, the squares of tofu fell apart into little shreds, much as Allegra describes. I decided this must be because I only refrigerated it for the minimum time.

                                                                    So the next day, I tried again with tofu that had been in the fridge for about 20 hours. The results were not that much better. I did have a few pieces come out intact, with a crisp skin and soft interior, and they were delicious. But that was only a few pieces. Most of it fell apart just as before.

                                                                    Maybe we need to press and drain, as we would with soy tofu before frying?

                                                                  3. Coconut Sauce Noodles, Burma- p.251

                                                                    All this talk about Thai food on the cotm nomination thread these days has had me dreaming of coconut milk and noodles. Flipped through Burma and settled upon this one as a simple lunch.
                                                                    I made a half recipe of this one, using leftover roasted chicken that I just tossed in with the minced shallots and garlic after they were done cooking, and added some fish sauce to the broth in place of a marinade. This recipe uses a LOT of minced shallots, and mine were very, very potent; eyes were stinging and streaming the entire time it took to complete the job. I used some homemade chicken broth, slightly diluted, and added some ginger coins and shallots to add more flavour.
                                                                    This curry was a thickened, dull grey-ish yellow slurry. I kept adding sprinklings of turmeric in order to change its unappetizing hue, but gave up before adding too much earthy bitterness. It never really helped.
                                                                    The cooked egg noodles are served under a generous portion of sauce, topped with hard boiled egg slices, chile powder, raw sliced shallows, fried noodles,and lime (also optional: fish balls, which I omitted). I added the juice of about a half a lime in an attempt to punch up the flavours, but it never really worked. It was, to be frank, rather boring in taste. In the defense of the recipe, I think what I really was expecting was a toned-down version of khao soi, which it was not. Are there other, tastier versions of Ohn-no Khaut Swe out there? Would love to see what could be done to make this more interesting. I would not repeat this recipe as written.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                      So funny, Ohn-no Khaut Swe is usually the one Burmese dish that "foreigners" really really like. That said Mr. QN made Duguid's recipe for some company right after we got the book, and we both thought it wasn't the best. But then neither of us loves Ohn-no Khaut Swe that much anyway, we both prefer Khao Soi.

                                                                      1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                        Did the recipe not call for chickpea flour (aka "besan" in hindi)? Ohno Khaut Swe is a chickpea flour based sauce/soup. Very odd that there was no chickpea flour. Normally you saute your onions/garlic/ginger, then whisk in your chickpea flour mixed with water, then add your chicken pieces and turmeric, along with some chilli (my dad's family uses red chilli flakes, so that's what my mom uses) and simmer. The sauce thickens up from the flour, and then you add in your coconut milk and fish sauce. Then when you eat it, you squeeze lime or lemon, and add more dried chilli flakes fried in oil, more fish sauce, sliced onions, cilantro, dal fritters, hard boiled egg, etc.

                                                                        It sounds like this didn't call for a lot of the bold flavors the dish usually has.

                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                          Yes, there was toasted chickpea flour in the sauce which made it nice and thick, but I forgot to mention it. I like the idea of dal fritters in there....and regret not adding more fish sauce to taste, not to mention cilantro. Any of those additions would have given it a boost, but since this was the first time making this, I thought I'd stick to the recipe as much as my palate could handle. Even so, I did find myself piling on the sliced shallots and lime. There are probably just tastier versions out there that I would like over this one. But like QN above, I think I may just prefer khao soi anyway.

                                                                      2. Chicken Salad, Burma Style - Burma, p. 72

                                                                        I had some leftover roast chicken from the Thomas Keller's recipe in Bouchon, and decided this would be a good way to use it. I had to make some components first - the shallot oil, and along with it some fried shallots, and the toasted chickpea flour. Both were easy to do and not a big deal at all.

                                                                        The rest of the recipe comes together in a snap. The picked chicken meat goes into a bowl, along with some thinly sliced shallots (which have been soaked in water for 10 minutes first). A very simple dressing is made out of lime juice, shallot oil, & green chiles, and is then mixed into the salad. Fried shallots, cilantro, and the toasted chickpea flour are added just before serving.

                                                                        Delicious! You have a brightness here from the lime and fresh shallots, along with a deeper, richer flavor from the fried shallots, that really makes this dish more complex than one would imagine. Served on some mixed greens with a wedge of lime for dinner. Meant to have some deep-fried Shan tofu alongside, but that didn't work out too well.