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May 31, 2013 02:32 PM

Cookbook of the Month June 2013: BURMA Basics, salads, soups, vegetables

We've decided to cook from BURMA: RIVERS OF FLAVOR in June.

This is the reporting thread for the first four chapters of the book:

Basics, p19
Salads, p43
Soups, p75
Mostly Vegetables, p101

Please remember that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

As always, have fun, and I look forward to hearing your reports.

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  1. Broccoli Rabe with a Hint of Pork, Pg. 108

    Duguid wasn't kidding when she said "a hint of pork." It's 1/4 pound of the meat costing all of $0.57. However that little bit flavors and seems to mitigate the bitterness of the rabe which makes the dish a pleasant addition to a meal. The other ingredients are peanut oil for the stir-fy, garlic, lemongrass (thanks to my area peeps we found it), dried red chilies, fermented soybeans (I used the alternative brown miso paste), a little water, salt which can be omitted so I did, and the broccoli rabe.

    It's a simple wok stir-fry of the aromatics first, then the sliced pork, adding miso that was mixed w water, then adding the trimmed chopped rabe for a covered short braise. There's a vegetarian version that utilizes mushrooms that would be good to try especially with the suggested portabellos.

    Both of us liked this particular rabe combination. Rabe has been in rotation here as one of our preferred vegetables so we are happy to have another tasty variation. One did taste the bitter greens but with the sweet pork and hot chilies the dish became more complex.

    I served egg noodles as the picture on the opposite page shows and a chopped tomato and shallot salad with lime juice/soy sauce/cilantro/rice wine vinaigrette. It was a very welcome introduction to the book.


    3 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      Thanks Gio, I had a look at this but wasn't sure about the broccoli rabe, I've only had it a few times and it seemed like an odd combination of flavours. Your summary gives me a better idea of what to expect

      1. re: Gio

        This sounds like a nice dish Gio. I've found a number of Chinese recipes that also call for a very small amount of pork so I now get my butcher to portion it out and heat seal the pkgs for me so I only need to defrost the amount I need. What always surprises me is how so little meat adds so much flavour.

        1. re: Gio

          Broccoli Rabe with a Hint of Pork, Pg. 108

          I made this a few weeks ago. I liked it ok, but I found it a bit bland compared to the accompanying dishes. I may re-visit this though bc I do love rabe. Next time, I would increase the aromatics as well as the miso. I would probably also use less water.

          C ate the leftovers the next day and liked it. I wonder if a night in the fridge deepened the flavors.

        2. Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher, Pg. 220

          Two little vegetable recipes so far and nary a sign of a main dish. Guess I'm working my way up. The dish, called a refresher, was a delightful adjunct to a whole roasted chicken seasoned with Burmese ingredients.

          The cabbage I used was Napa but there are other options as well. It consists of very thinly sliced shallots; equally thin cabbage strips; chili - I used jalapeno, one of the options; fish sauce; and lime juice. Marinate the shallots for 30 minutes in lime juice/chili/fish sauce then proceed to put it all together. The photograph shows how it looks. I couldn't get the Napa quite that thin but the taste was the same I'm sure. Tart, savory, slightly spicy from the chili. Definitely refreshing.

          I had every good intention of making the Village Boys Chicken but decided, because I don't have a cleaver to chop up 15 pieces, to roast the chicken whole but use all the ingredients anyway. Absolutely Fabulous. I'm going to make it at some point and simply use already butchered chicken...

          9 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            Great review, I'll have to look at this recipe again, it just so happens I have a head of Napa in the fridge.....

            1. re: Gio

              Gio, I'm looking forward the review on the chicken recipe; it sounds wonderful!

              1. re: Gio

                Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher, Pg. 220

                We had this as an adjunct to Shrimp Curry. I followed the recipe as written, happened to have Napa cabbage and fresh cayennes so those were my choices.

                I agree that this was refreshing, but it didn't knock my socks off. I wanted something else there--maybe cilantro? roasted peanuts? more chile? Or maybe I just didn't get the seasoning quite right.

                I'd make this again--so easy--but I'd want to do some tinkering.

                1. re: Gio

                  The ingredients sound great Gio. Is this a hot or cold dish?

                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                    It's a cold refreshing dish, BC. More like a relish than a salad.

                    1. re: Gio

                      Thanks Gio, that's very helpful!

                  2. re: Gio

                    Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher, Pg. 220

                    There's nothing more to add here that hasn't already been said, just that I too loved this dish! I used napa cabbage with a fresh Thai chili, and just adored the fresh flavours that came from this simple and exciting little side. The cabbage was crisp and delicately crunchy, and really went well with a side of rice. I could have eaten this whole thing on my own for a light lunch; as it was we were all fighting over what remained in the bottom of the bowl. A keeper!

                    1. re: Gio

                      Everyday Cabbage-Shallot Refresher, Pg. 220

                      I loved this. It was refreshing and so satisfying. I used a regular green cabbage since I had half a head in the fridge. For the chiles, I used red thai chiles and I also added sliced almonds to give it that additional crunch. I think chopped up radishes would also add a great flavor and texture to this salad. I foresee eating this later this summer, especially when the weather gets hot, humid and almost unbearable.

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        Oh good idea about the radishes, beetlebug! I have a green cabbage in the fridge, radishes from Wilson's, and come to think of it both almonds & roasted peanuts so I'll choose one of them to add. .

                    2. Tender Greens Salad w/ Crispy Fried Shallots, pg. 49

                      Made a half recipe of this with tiny baby bok choy, blanched just until the water returned to the boil. Drain and strain the veggies, then mix with slice shallots, fried garlic (home-made), shrimp powder (Mr. QN saw me measuring out the shrimp powder--"add more" says he, so I did), chopped peanuts (Planters!), toasted chickpea flour, Shallot Oil (ooops, no shallot oil, I subbed Garlic Oil, fine by us), lime juice, fish sauce, all mixed with hand into the veg, the top with Crispy Shallots (what can I say, home made crispy shallots are for special occasions, I used the pre-fab ones from the Asia store--but they were the good quality ones, shallots and oil, no preservatives).

                      Yum. Even not always enamored of bok choy Mr. QN had seconds, and used up the last of the sauce onhis rice. The only adjustment I'd make is to add a bit more fish sauce (made a note in my book 2 tsp's fish sauce per tbs lime juice), but that's probably just our whacky taste. I'll definitely be making this again with all kinds of bitter greens.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: qianning

                        Happy to hear that this is a winner! I have a bag of baby bok choy in the fridge that I planned on using for this recipe tonight. Sounds swell!

                        1. re: qianning

                          Lovely-sounding dish qianning and your photo looks so enticing. Thanks for pointing this one out.

                          1. re: qianning

                            Tender Greens Salad w/ Crispy Fried Shallots, pg. 49

                            Made a full recipe of this, and though I quite liked it, I was the only one at the dinner table who did. I was nearing the end of the batch of fried shallots, and so didn't add as much as was called for, and kind-of missed them in the dish. Same as qianning, I longed for more fish sauce in the dressing. I may not have squeezed the veg dry enough, as there was plenty of extra liquid in the bottom of the bowl, so that may have diluted it a bit, but I would definitely add more fish sauce, and possibly more lime juice for next time. Lots of textures and flavours going on in this one; a very nice salad.

                            1. re: qianning

                              Tender Greens with Crispy Fried Shallots Pg. 49

                              My turn for this one last night. Qianning does a good job of describing the process so I will just point out the modifications we made.

                              Firstly we left out the shrimp powder. I'm sorry, I may try again at some point, but the memories of the powder in a cooked dish were still too fresh and we decided to skip it. From my perspective the dish was still very good so I think if you fear the shrimp powder you are ok to omit it.

                              I also lightly pickled the shallots by soaking them in a little rice vinegar then rinsing as I wanted to avoid any issues with bitter raw shallots.

                              Overall I think the results were very well balanced with the sweet and crisp shallots balanced by the salty acidity of the dressed greens. I would definitely recommend this one.

                              One last thing, it looks a bit more like tender whites with crispy shallots as the market was out of baby bok choy so I had to go with a full sized bok choy, which I cut then blanched as opposed to blanched and cut according to ND. Overall it worked quite well.

                            2. Okra-Shallot Stir-Fry, p. 102

                              I will preface this report by saying that I love okra. Not everyone does. Okra just started showing up last week at our farmer's market, and Mr. MM had bought some, but not enough for gumbo, so this recipe was a great option.

                              The okra is sliced into 1/4" pieces. You heat up a wok, add oil, then some turmeric. A cup of sliced shallots goes in next, and you fry until they just start to brown. Then some minced ginger gets added. Now the okra goes in, and you stir-fry until it is cooked. Finish with green chile, fish sauce, and salt. Stir-fry until the okra is starting to brown.

                              I've cooked okra many ways, but never stir-fried in the wok before. The high heat of the wok is an excellent match for okra. This recipe makes it to my top-five list of ways to prepare okra, and will be repeated often, riffed on, and absorbed into my repertoire. We enjoyed this as a side to the Easy Grilled Chicken on p.163.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: MelMM

                                Fresh okra isn't always easy to source here Mel and as a result, I don't serve it often and when I do it forms part of a gumbo or other stew-like dish. I'd very much like to try this recipe and will keep it in mind if I see nice okra. Thanks for your enticing review.

                                1. re: MelMM

                                  I love okra too, Mel, and even planted some in the garden for the first time; though the nasty weather will most likely kill it all :( I love Indian stuffed okra and also make a stew-like dish with spicy tomato sauce. What are your top five? The stir-fry sounds delicious - will have to try it soon.

                                  1. re: herby

                                    Okra is a real space-hog in the garden, so I haven't planted it for the last decade or so.

                                    My top five, in no particular order:
                                    1. In Gumbo
                                    2. Dipped in cornmeal and fried in the traditional Southern fashion
                                    3. Fried without batter until completely crisp, with turmeric and basil leaves (from Madhur Jaffrey)
                                    4. Grilled with a lemon dressing
                                    5. Stewed with tomatoes
                                    6. Stir-fried as in the Burma recipe

                                    I'm listing six, because it is arguable whether or not gumbo counts as an okra dish. It's kind of it's own thing, and needn't always have okra in it.

                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      Thank you Mel! Grilled with lemon dressing and fried with turmeric/basil both sound great and new to me. Must find Jaffrey recipe - is it from her vegetable book?

                                      1. re: herby

                                        It is from World Vegetarian. The key, I think, is to realize you are not sautéing the okra, but really frying it (shallow frying, as the okra is sliced up small), and it gets totally crisp. It makes a great beer snack - better than popcorn.

                                  2. re: MelMM

                                    Okra-Shallot Stir Fry, p. 102

                                    I made a half recipe of this dish last night as I had a small amount of okra and a bunch of shallots that needed using. I loved this dish. I loved the texture of the okra prepared in this manner. Also, I was surprised by how much flavor this dish had given the few ingredients involved. (I did prepare it in a pan that had previously been used to fry shrimp for the shrimp salad, so that added an extra layer of umami flavor, but I think it would have been just as good without that).

                                  3. Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, p. 36

                                    I made this some time ago, but since I've kept it in my fridge and served it as a condiment for the Easy Grilled Chicken (p. 163) last night, I thought I'd post something about it.

                                    The recipe is available online here:
                                    So I'm not going to summarize it.

                                    The vagueness about the type of chile to be used sent me looking for guidance elsewhere in the book, and particularly, to the few paragraphs under the title "Chile Choices" on p. 27. From reading this, I realized I could take great liberties with the chiles used.

                                    This turns out to be an extremely tasty and versatile condiment, which could vary a lot from cook to cook depending upon the chiles used. It keeps beautifully, and is a great accompaniment to anything fried or grilled.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: MelMM

                                      So good to read your reports, Mel. Two recipes I have on my list. I even went searching for the definitive chili reference as you did and agree. Duguid does often give alternatives in the recipes for choices...that's one of the things I like about the book. That and all the flavors.

                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        Another "must-try"...thanks Mel!!

                                        1. re: MelMM

                                          Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, p. 36

                                          Thanks to MelMM for inspiring me to make this although I admit questioning my own sanity as I tediously stemmed and seeded a "packed" cup of dried chiles (a mix of Thai bird and "Indian" in my case), knowing several jars and bottles of various chili-garlic pastes and sauces were already languishing in my fridge!

                                          But, ah, yes, this homemade concoction is definitely better--and very little effort once those chiles are prepped. I loved all the things going on here and really enjoyed it with Easy Grilled Chicken (although my chile-wimpy husband found it too hot), and know I'll love it with many other things. Glad to have it in the repertoire.

                                          1. re: MelMM

                                            Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, page 36.

                                            Thankfully MelMM did the legwork and concluded that liberties could be taken with the type of chiles used. I used New Mexico, Arbol, and Noras.

                                            I found this sauce absolutely hypnotizing. I kept wanting to taste it over and over. It is all the things it says it is: sweet, tart, garlicky, and hot. Complex. So much better than many sauces that end up tasting too one-note. Love this.

                                            1. re: MelMM

                                              Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, p.36

                                              These reviews have been in the back of my mind for awhile, and even though I don't usually reach for the "hot sauce" I knew I would eventually pull Burma back off the shelf to try it. So glad I did! The addition of fish sauce gives it a much deeper and interesting flavor than than anything I've had that's been store-bought ... and I simply used bagged "dried red chiles" from my Asian grocer! I did use the blender rather than the food-processor which is neither here nor there except that possibly the chiles were more finely minced. I totally agree - this is a great sauce!