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Cookbook of the Month June 2013: BURMA Condiments & Sauces, Rice, Noodles, Sweet Treats

We've chosen BURMA: RIVERS OF FLAVOR for June.

This is the reporting thread for the final four chapters of the book.

Condiments and sauces, p199
Mostly Rice, p223
Noodles, p247
Sweet Treats, p275

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. The seafood noodle stir fry is on the menu for a bit later this week. My first attempt at cooking squid and I am super excited.

    2 Replies
    1. re: delys77

      Cool! Keep in mind when cooking squid that you have to cook it really fast or really slow ... anything in between and you have rubber! So keep your eye on your cook times and don't let it go too long....

      1. re: Westminstress

        Thanks Westminstress. That is why I have always been reticent, but I am a big fan of squid in many different Asian preparations so I figured it was time to try my hand at it.

    2. Seafood Noodle Stir Fry Pg. 272

      This was a big winner at our house. My partner loves noodles, and while I indulge sometimes I am more of a steamed rice person myself. I was quite excited prepping all my ingredients because it has been a long while since I have cooked a protein that was new to me, and in this case we both love squid but I've never made it at home.

      I made a few modifications, but generally followed the spirit of the recipe. I did my mise en place because the stir frying would require all the bits and pieces to be ready. You start by sauteeing some shallots in oil until they are partially crisped then you add a good bit of garlic. Frying it off for a few minutes and then reserving the lot as a garnish for later. Next Ms. Duguid has you add some turmeric, shrimp paste, and shallots to the oil and saute for a moment. My partner came home just as the shrimp paste went in and he remarked that dinner smelt interesting, which usually means bad for him. I perceveared and added the sliced calamari and sauteed briefly, they curled just a tiny bit and took on a beautiful yellow tinge from the turmeric, then in go the musself and the shrimp. In my case I am not a big fan of shucking so I simply steamed the mussels separately and added them at the very end of the seafood cooking process.

      Next you toss in the fermented bean paste (miso in my case) and a bit of water and simmer for just a minute or so. Pour out the contents of the wok into a bowl to reserve your beautiful yellow, umami, seafood mixture, and then wipe out the wok.

      She has you soak your rice noodles for about 10 minutes, I boiled mine according to the package directions and left them a bit al dente. Add some sprouts to your oiled wok and toss for a few moments. Once the noodles are drained they go into the wok with salt and some oyster sauce. Toss for a few minutes then add the chinese celery leaves (or cilantro) and add your seafood mixture to heat through. Finally top with the shallot and garlic garnish and you are good to go.

      All in all this took about 30 minutes including prep and the resulting dish had a lovely savoury flavour that wasn't fishy at all. There were briney elements of the sea and toothsome sea creatures, but no off putting intense fish flavour. The noodles had a great texture and the shrimp and squid were perfectly cooked with the timing she suggested. I also loved the grassy bite from the chinese celery and the indulgent fried shallots and garlic were a great capper.

      I did find that there were too many sprouts for our taste so I would cut back a little. I also enjoyed the squid so much I would likely double it as well as the mussels (which pretty much disappeared into the dish there were so few of them). Overall this was easy and definitely satisfied our noodle craving, along with the added bonus of healthy and yummy seafood.

      Wow just realised how long this post is, sorry for being so verbose.

      13 Replies
      1. re: delys77

        No apologies needed, this is a great review! And that picture is lovely. I guess this dish needs to be added to The List...

        1. re: Allegra_K

          Thanks Allegra.

          I get to typing and usually only realize the length when I've clicked reply, ha ha.

        2. re: delys77

          Lovely report--and the dish looks and sounds delectable. I'll now be adding it to my list.

          1. re: delys77

            Don't be sorry, please! Great, and very useful, post.

            Today I'm making the version of this dish that is down in the corner of the second page, using less seafood (shrimp only, in my case), and strips of omelet. I don't have shrimp paste, so if you're around can you weigh in on a substitute? I have some dried shrimp, I have anchovies, or I could just leave it out. What do you, or anyone else, think?

              1. re: BigSal

                Oh good, thanks. I was thinking the recipe already had fish sauce in it, but it doesn't. (I was thinking of the salad ingredients.) That's what I'll use.

                1. re: L.Nightshade

                  Fish sauce, dried shrimp powder, mashed salt cured anchovies (probably not the olive oil cured one though) would all work. ND also mentions miso (pg 344 of the glossary), which makes sense thinking about it.

              2. re: L.Nightshade

                Sorry LN, I just saw this now. Yes I think fish sauce would surely do the trick.

              3. re: delys77

                Seafood Noodles with Egg, page 273 (and 272).
                I've appended this post to the Seafood Noodle Stir Fry, as the Seafood Noodles with Egg is just a variation note at the end of that recipe. I chose to use only cut up prawns, and the strips of omelet, as we had chicken as our main course, and this as a side.

                Delys describes the recipe in wonderful detail above, I have made only a few alterations. I made a very thin omelet, and cut it into strips, added that in near the end, as described in the note. In addition to the mung sprouts, I added a handful of sunflower sprouts, and a couple handfuls of sliced spinach. These were added just because they needed to get used! I did not have shrimp paste, so I mashed up a salt-cured anchovy in a little fish sauce. delys had suggested fish sauce, and qian ning had suggested either anchovy or fish sauce as a replacement, so I used a little of both. I did have, and used, doenjang, which was such a flavorful addition. Everything else was as written in the seafood recipe. I served it with lime wedges and chile oil.

                This was a wonderful, complexly flavored dish. The 3/4 pound of dried rice noodles makes a huge amount, for which I'm thankful for today, as it will be dinner again.

                  1. Fried Rice with Shallots, p. 226

                    I played around with this quite a bit, but I'll report anyway. Why not? The recipe calls for English peas as an optional ingredient, but I used asparagus instead, and changed the cooking order to allow for the longer time required by the asparagus. I also decided that I wanted a little more flavor than what 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric will provide, so I added an additional teaspoon or more of curry powder.

                    This goes together very quickly in the wok.The recipe has you heat oil, add turmeric, and then fry the shallots. I fried the shallots first, then added the turmeric and curry powder. The recipe would have you add the rice next, but I added my asparagus (cut into small pieces), and stir-fried it for a bit to get it cooked, then added the rice. The recipe would have you add the salt and peas (if using, I wasn't). The dish is finished with some additional fried shallots, and garnished with lime wedges (optional).

                    She suggests this as a breakfast rice, which I will surely do sometime as I like fried rice for breakfast. As a side dish with dinner, I wanted a bit more flavor, so that was the reason for the spice addition. We enjoyed this, and I would make variations of it again. Sorry I can't give a more accurate report, but at least I was "inspired" by the recipe in the book.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: MelMM

                      Fried Rice with Shallots, p. 226

                      Had leftover rice so decided to try this (I realized I have never made fried rice before--why???). Incredibly easy and absolutely delicious, this accompanied our grilled chicken and long-bean salad last night.

                      I followed the recipe exactly as written and would make it again in a heartbeat; will also try variations--love MelMM's sub of asparagus and can think of lots of other desirable add-ins.

                      1. re: MelMM

                        Fried Rice with Shallots, p. 226


                        We made the recipe as written. It was quite simple to put together. Since the rice was already cooked and I had already had fried shallots, the only prep was slicing the shallots. We served this with a fried egg, extra fried shallots (these are so addicting) and lime wedges. This made for a nice, but not great dinner. If I were to make another fried rice dish from NG, I'd choose Thai Fried Rice from Seductions of Rice.

                        1. re: MelMM

                          Fried Rice with Shallots, Pg. 226

                          My Sunday afternoon on a hot Summer day was spent shelling peas on the porch and slicing shallots for dinner. Lots and Lots of shallots, wonderfully fresh and sweet as candy podded peas.

                          For all the recipes this month I have increased the amount of turmeric to 1/2 and sometimes 3/4 t. It smells so aromatic as it heats in the hot oil and adds a subtle funky flavor that we love. We used jasmine rice and followed the recipe exactly.

                          Loved the addition of peas and the lime wedges brightened the remarkable freshness of the ingredients. The finished fried rice was delicious and it's something I will definitely make again.

                        2. Perfumed Coconut Rice, p.237

                          I served this with Golden Egg Curry, and the two went together beautifully.

                          This rice recipe is definitely "perfumed", rather than "flavored", as the clove, cinnamon & coconut didn't really overpower the rice at all. The only taste of sweetness, in fact, came from bites of the sauteed shallot. I only made 1/2 recipe, (didn't rinse the jasmine rice ahead of time), and trusted that I had enough liquid by skipping the index finger in the water test. I obviously needed to use one clove for the 1/2 recipe but it wasn't noticeable. I've made coconut rice in the past that called for sauteeing minced garlic, ginger & onion together with the rice, then using chicken stock for the liquid instead of water, so this recipe does lend itself to many variations. But it's delicious as is, too, and would compliment many dishes in the cookbook (actually wish I had made it to go with my Kachin Pounded Beef).

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: lesliej

                            Perfumed Coconut Rice, p. 237

                            I made this coconut rice to go with the lemongrass fish, and the two went well together. This rice has a lovely mild flavor and a very pretty yellow color from the turmeric (of which I used a bit extra). I made a half recipe, which was plenty! I followed the cooking directions, didn't add extra water after the index finger test (which is how I normally do it). Checked the rice about 5 minutes before dinner and it was dry and crunchy. I added about 1/2 cup more water and put it on low heat for another 5 minutes, after which it was perfect. I do find that I have to add extra liquid when I make coconut rice as the rice doesn't seem to absorb the coconut milk as easily as it does water. So a bit of trial and error was needed, but overall, this is a nice rice dish if you are looking to add a little something special to your Burmese dinner.

                          2. street-side seductions, pg. 294

                            This was a second attempt making these. The first try included an improperly seasoned pan, an at the time new to us book, a house full of company, and no back up plan for dessert. In other words recipe for disaster. Having finally recovered from the trauma, time to try again.

                            First the pan, years ago in an Indian grocery store, we picked up a pan that looks just like the one in the book. Problem was we didn't have a recipe for these sweets, and we didn't know how to season the pan. I think I am finally making some progress in getting the pan in proper condition (it does not like water at all), although a good non-stick saute pan with a lid would probably be easier; but the recipe is still giving me a bit of trouble, but getting closer.

                            So the batter, rice & AP flour mixed with water, salt, sugar (I subbed palm sugar--will not do that again, white sugar in the batter next time, for, fingers crossed, better browning), baking soda (I measured a tad heavy, a tad scant would have been a much better idea). Rest for 30 minutes.

                            The filling, coconut milk, sugar (again palm sugar in my case-- here in the filling I would use palm sugar again), rice flour, and more (!) baking soda, whisked until smooth.

                            Oil pan, add batter, swirl, cover pan, cook for a half minute, uncover, add filling, recover pan and cook for a minute (mine needed more like 2 minutes) until the filling sets.

                            OK, so it worked, which was a big improvement over the last attempt, but there was too much baking soda. so I tried making some with plain coconut milk rather than the mixture--no go, it won't thicken. then I tried some coconut milk mixed with just a little bit of the batter and a little extra palm sugar--much better, this helped reduce my excess baking soda issue and the coconut milk still set nicely. In the future I'll either skip or greatly reduce the baking soda in the filling, but some thickener is essential, either rice flour or batter.

                            As you can see from the pictures, still not ready to open up my own stall, but at least these were edible.

                            1. Semolina Cake, p. 276

                              This is a not-TOO-sweet dessert... not a cake (as ND points out in her preface). In fact, I expected it to be a bit sweeter, and there is really no coconut flavor that I could discern. But I was intrigued by it and was happy I made so as to familiarize myself with Burmese desserts.

                              Begin by toasting the semolina flour - I sauteed mine until it was the same color as light sand. I did let it cool after transferring it to a mixing bowl (it stays pretty warm after removing it from the skillet) so I wouldn't accidentally curdle the eggs. Then the sugar (I used 1/2 white & 1/2 brown), salt, coconut milk, warm water are added, then the eggs. The mixture is covered and set aside for about 30 minutes.

                              DO use a cake pan larger than 8" - mine was 9" and the mixture filled it to the top. (I also buttered the bottom a little just because I didn't know what to expect as far as "sticking" issues. I don't know if it made any difference, but the cake did not stick at all).

                              After heating oil in a large skillet (she frequently warned of the mixture sticking to the pan so I used a heavy, non-stick Calphalon skillet with no probems) the semolina mixture is poured in (the mixture displaces the oil so be careful when beginning your stirring to avoid spashing. The oil will eventually be incorporated into the batter). I began mixing with a whisk because I was again afraid of the eggs curdling (which may have happened, but just the tiniest bit), then finished up with a wooden spoon. MY mixture, at least from what I could tell having never made anything like this before, cooked up in about 10 minutes instead of 20, and had the consistency of "play-doh" (I am attaching two photos of the progress - mid-way through stirring, and when I finished and added the raisins).

                              If you like golden raisins I do recommend adding them as they provide a nice contrast to the texture. The only other issue I had was drizzling the melted butter over the top of the batter prior to baking - the batter is so dense the butter stopped "sinking in", so I stopped drizzling at about 3T. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top (don't skimp!) and bake for about 20 minutes. The cake puffs a little and browns, but I did turn on the broiler to brown the top & almonds a little more. And just to be safe, you might want to put the cake pan on a cookie sheet in case the melted butter bubbles over a bit (mine did, but again, the batter came up to the top of my 9" baking dish).

                              My finished cake looked very similar to the one in the book, which, as you can see on the page, has no "crumb". Instead, I would describe the texture (and maybe the flavor, now that I think about it) as what sometimes happens to the center of my yellow cakes when they are a under-baked (and I'm saying this in a nice way!!). A good introduction to Burmese "sweet treats"!

                              1. Mandalay Noodles with Chicken Curry Pg. 270

                                My second noodle dish from this book and it is a definite winner. I could see us tucking into this meal on a chilly winter night with its warm broth and lovely composed noodle dish.

                                Since it was the weekend and I had a whole chicken in my freezer I decided to make the stock from the carcass and use the meat for the curry, as she suggests in one variation. I didn't want to hack the chicken so I simply deboned it as usual and sliced the meat into 2 cm cubes, the result was about 1 lb 10 oz of dark and white meat. The carcass and wings went into a pot with some water, ginger, garlic (double what she suggests) and shallots.

                                Meanwhile I made the chicken curry, which at first blush seemed to have far too few ingredients for those of us accustomed to Indian curries, but once the dish came together I thought the curry was lovely. She has you heat some oil in a shallow pot and add some turmeric powder and shallots, sauté for a bit then add garlic. Once that has softened in goes some fish sauce, a little salt, and water (I think that is it). You simmer this for about 15 minutes. When I tasted the curry I thought it was lovely but a bit salty, that said once I had it with the noodles it was just right as the noodles are unsalted.

                                She does suggest you use round rice noodles. The only one's I could find were called Lai Fen, and I have to say I prefer the regular flat rice noodles that I usually buy as I found the Lai Fen to be far too chewy even when cooked through. That said, I'm sure that was just my bad luck with those noodles.

                                She doesn't suggest skimming or degreasing the broth but I did. Once it was done, my noodles and chicken curry were ready so I proceeded to assemble.

                                You toss the individual portions of noodles with some shallot oil, and chickpea flour, then you top with garnishes. In my case I used some cayenne, fried noodles, peanuts, crispy shallots, lime, and green onion. I tossed on some chicken and added a bit of the curry sauce and there you have it.

                                I think the dish is very well balanced, with lovely crisp and tender notes from the nuts and fried noodles against the rice noodles. The chicken curry give you a lovely hit of umami and salty flavours to counterbalance the rich nuts and sweet shallots. Finally there is a bit of heat from the cayenne that rounds the dish out very nicely.

                                I also liked the broth on the side, it had a nice light flavour (after I seasoned it) and I quite enjoyed it as a separate component. At first I thought it was odd to serve it on its own, but it seems to work.

                                I have one quibble and that is the chick pea flour. I have now used it three times and I thought it was good in the salads as it helps the dressing thicken and adhere to the other ingredients in the salad, but I definitely did not like it in the noodles. I found that it made the already glutinous rice noodles doughy and a bit slimey. This might be personal preference but I definitely would leave it out next time. I also might consider adding a slight touch of fish sauce to the noodles when I toss them to up the seasoning on the noodles by themselves.

                                Otherwise an excellent dish.

                                4 Replies
                                  1. re: delys77

                                    Wow, everything looks so beautiful! Not just the food, but also the place mats and place settings.

                                    1. re: BigSal

                                      That's sweet Big Sal, you are too kind.

                                  2. Fresh Red Chile Chutney p. 203
                                    I made this the other day and have been putting it on most everything. So far my fave is atop chickpea patties and grilled halloumi. Not very Burmese, but very delicious.
                                    The sauce comes together quickly. Mine is quite spicy, but I like it and it has mellowed over the past 2 days. It's spicy and garlicky and neither too sugary or vinegary. Next time, I would add less water.

                                    1. deep forest monklets' sticky rice cake, p279

                                      I love the name of this! Very simple and easy to make. You just cook sticky rice with peanuts and sesame seeds, and some sugar and then put it in a brownie pan. I used what I had on hand, roasted peanuts instead of raw, some Indian palm sugar I had instead of whatever palm sugar we are supposed to get (mine tastes more like molasses than maple, I'd say). The result is a only slightly sweet but nicely nutty soft rice square. I like it but it is kind of plain, not really a wow dish at all. I think the variation ND gives of adding some ginger and fried coconut shavings would make it 200% more interesting, so I would go to the trouble of adding those ingredients if doing it again.

                                      1. I attempted to make the recipe for "Street-side Rice Crepes, Myitkyina Style" on p.240 last night and it was the biggest kitchen fiasco I've come up with in a long time. Hoping for a bit of guidance here.
                                        The problem is that the batter would not hold together, no matter how much or little went into the (non-stick) pan, and no matter the temperature. Every time I swirled it in the pan, it looked to work, right down to the crispy, lacy edges, but soon after it started bubbling and cracking throughout. I would put my toppings on and make a feeble attempt to fold the crepe in half, but it would break immediately into flaccid pieces. Turning it on to a plate only broke it up further and the finished product just appeared to be a mound of scrambled rice noodle odds and ends. I practiced with the entire batch of batter and my last one was just as terrible as my first.
                                        Off I went to google the recipe, and found these helpful youtube videos-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JJqRqU..., http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VOMUEz... (part 1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXJUX0... (part 2). The batter in these ones is thicker by far than the watered-down version I was using. Would adding more rice flour fix this situation? Should I omit the baking soda? I'm using a Thai brand of flour so it shouldn't be the fineness of the grind causing an issue.
                                        I'd really like to try this again to make it work. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Allegra_K

                                          The Periplus "Food of Burma" recipe for this has very different proportions (almost 1:1 rice flour to water). I'll send you a copy, and will also ask the in house expert if he's made it and let you know his results, if any.

                                          1. re: qianning

                                            The perks of having such advice at your disposal!
                                            You are right, of course, about those proportions. It worked much more smoothly when closer to 1:1. Big thanks to you and Mr. QN for the help!

                                        2. Street-side Rice Crepes, Myitkyina Style (take 2), p. 240

                                          After the disastrous first attempt at this recipe (see post above) I still had some topping ingredients left over and thought to give this another go whilst playing with the flour-to-water ratio in the batter. I'm pleased to report that after a bit of experimentation, I can now claim success!

                                          For the batter, rice flour is mixed with water, ginger, baking soda, and salt. For round two I first added 3/4 c water to an equal amount rice flour but found the batter to be slightly too thick. The measurements I liked and stuck with ended up being 3/4 rice flour to 1 c water; it was thin enough to get nice, crispy edges but viscous enough to hold together during flipping. A medium heat seemed sufficient to cook the crepes properly, and a lot of oil to drizzle around the edges (the second youtube video I linked to in the above post about was especially helpful in this regard).
                                          Once I had the batter figured out, I added the toppings: green peas, scallions, cilantro, grated fresh coconut, thin bits of tomato, and a handful of chopped pea shoots (which I had left over from another failed rice crepe project). As per the video, I covered each batch for a minute or two to warm/wilt the toppings, then folded in half, cooking a bit longer to crisp the top if necessary. Next, turn out on to a plate, and devour while still piping hot, slightly greasy, and tantalizingly textured before making the next one. Chili-garlic sauce optional but delicious.
                                          This was very lovely combination of taste sensations once I figured out how to do it properly, and I would definitely make this again. It could easily scale back for a quick lunch for one, street-food style.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: Allegra_K

                                            Gorgeous photo (and plate)! It looks like it could have come right out of Burma. Glad the recipe worked out on the second try.

                                            1. re: BigSal

                                              Thanks, Big Sal--it sure is nice to take photos during daylight again. Loving these longer days!

                                              It really is a tasty recipe once it's figured out.

                                            2. Rangoon Mohinga, p. 260

                                              Another interesting noodle recipe from this book. Duguid describes the dish as a "multi-layered, extraordinary" affair. While I suspect there are better versions out there, this was a good, solid glimpse into the world of mohinga.
                                              The broth--more akin to a ruddy yellow thickened sauce- consists of whole fish (tilapia in my case) cooked with aromatics like ginger, garlic, lemongrass, shrimp paste, and -of course- our earthy old friend turmeric. The broth is strained, the fish is flaked, and the bones go back into the broth to flavour it some more. Meanwhile, the flaked fish is mixed with a cooked paste of shallots, lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and chile powder, and seasoned with fish sauce. The broth is strained once again and then thickened with either toasted chickpea or rice flour--I used the rice--and the fish mixture gets stirred into the pot.
                                              To serve, the curry is ladled around individual bowls of rice noodles, and the diner then selects from an assortment of toppings with which to decorate their meal. Options include fried shallots, chile powder, hard-boiled eggs, lime, fried chayote, fish cakes, scallions and cilantro.
                                              While I didn't use all the toppings, I did offer most of them. I found this to be similar to other southeast Asian noodle dishes like laksa and khao soi -- the toppings really were necessary to pull the recipe together. The best part of those bowls, just as with this one, was nearing the bottom, when all the leftover condiments mingled together for a lovely explosion of tastes and textures in the same bite. I can see why mohinga has been called the national dish--this recipe has a lot of potential and has led me on a quest to find other versions. As it is, we did enjoy it and it was a welcome meal that was somehow comforting yet exotic all at once.