Myanmar cuisine – A Tasty Journey (Part Two)

June 13, 2015

A dish which can be found on every menu is Hin; this is what curries are called in Myanmar. All dishes which include the word hin are curry based. Burmese curries are only moderately spiced, they are mostly prepared in the morning and are sold all day long. Due to the long cooking, an oil skin will develop at the top, which effectively protects it from pollution.

The curries themselves are easily made. A beef curry consists of beef. If you are hoping for a variation of vegetables, you are wrong and you probably should order some vegetable as a side. What you should definitely taste, if you get the chance, is garlic or cashew curry (please let your kissing partner eat some of it as well!).

Mouth watering at the thought of it? In the following, you will find a recipe for pork curry. However you can also use different types of meat.

900g pork meat (diced in small pieces)
2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soya sauce
3-4 garlic cloves
1 tbsp freshly chopped ginger
¼ cup or rapeseed oil
1 onion (diced)
2 tbsp paprika seasoning
Coriander for garnishing

Marinate the pork meat by placing it into a bowl with turmeric, fish sauce, soya sauce, garlic and ginger and mix well. Sauté the onions in a pan on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. It is ok for the onions to turn a little brown. Mix the paprika seasoning to the onions so that all onions are seasoned evenly.

Now add the meat and mix well. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 45 minutes until the meat is tender. Keep an eye on the temperature, the meat should not get burned. Season to taste at the end and add salt if necessary. Now garnish using the coriander. As a side, Jasmin rice is recommended.

Without meat? No problem, the‘tha’lu will do (free from killing animals)

Vegetarians do not have to starve in Myanmar. Different variants of dishes are likewise available as vegetarian dishes and are served with tofu. However, it may happen, the base ingredients of the dish is prepared with either fish sauce or meat broth.

The country has a large variety on vegetables. One of my highlights is water cress; cooked in broth I can eat a ton of it. Another snack-addiction which I have developed an addiction to is roasted cashew nuts.

For pescetarians the coast of Myanmar is a mecca - either in the south around Dawei and the Myeik Archipelago, or on the Bay of Bengal coast. Here you can get seafood nonstop. From huge fish, which you can easily divide by four, to lobster, fish lovers can be served whatever they desire.

Also, people who enjoy raw vegetables, will be able to enjoy the tastiest dishes. Their order can be of yummy seaweed or tea leaf salad. The tea leaf salad, Le-Pet Thouk in Burmese, is a favoured dish and usually doesn’t cost more than 1.000 Kyat at the restaurants. It is a salad which is made of fermented tea leaves. There are many different ways on how to prepare the salad. Traditionally, the green tea leaves are stuffed into bamboo roots and buried in the ground for half a year. Less strong teas are softened by steaming them, kneaded together and the liquid squeezed out using hands. The consistency of the tea is like spinach. The leaves are seasoned to taste using dried prawns, garlic and oil. People often add in spices and nuts themselves.

As you can see, this salad is somewhat a piece of art. If you feel to have enough patience, definitely try it out. However: it will take several days.

1 cup of dried, loose green tea
1 cup of finely cut kale
½ cup coriander (chopped)
½ cup spring onions (cut into small rings)
1 tbsp garlic paste
2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
2 green chillies (finely chopped)
Juice of 1 lime
1 pinch of salt
3 tbsp peanut oil
1 whole garlic head (all cloves finely chopped)
2 tbsp lightly roasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp roasted peanuts
3 tbsp beansprouts
3 tbsp roasted pumpkin seeds
½ cup finely cut tomatoes
2 tbsp dried prawns (if required, soften in water for 10 minutes and drain)
1 tsp fish sauce
1 lime cut into slices

The fermentation and preparation of the tea leaves
Pour four cups of water over the tea leaves. Stir well, until the leaves have straightened and softened (about 10 minutes). Drain the leaves and remove hard leaves or any stem. Squeeze the liquid through a sieve. Place the leaves back into the lukewarm water and press down using your hands. Now drain the liquid again (this time however catch it and place to the side) and press out the leaves. Repeat the procedure for a third time and add the water which was placed aside back in. Let the tea rest in the water for an hour but preferably overnight. The more time you let the tea rest, the less it will taste sour or bitter. Now drain the water for the last time and squeeze leaves to get rid of any excess water.

Using a bowl, mix in the tea along with the kale, coriander, spring onions, ginger, garlic paste, the pinch of salt and the juice from the lime. For the extra kick, add in the chillies. Cover up the mixture and place the bowl into a cool dark place for two days. After the two days you can place the salad into the fridge, it is now ready.

Before serving, the other ingredients can be added. Heat up a big pan on medium heat. Firstly add the sesame seeds into the pan and roast for 3-4 minutes. Shake the pan every so often so that the seeds don’t burn. Take the seeds from the pan and place them on a plate to cool.

Now heat the peanut oil until it is really hot and add the chopped garlic. Let the heat cool a little and fry the garlic on medium heat (about 5 minutes). Fish the garlic out of the oil and place to the side. The oil is later used for the dressing.

The salad can now be mixed together, or served with the individual ingredients. In any case the tea leaves should be mixed along with the garlic oil. Add a splash of fish sauce and the juice of a freshly squeezed lime. Taste the salad one more time before serving, then add the nuts and seeds.

Evelyn Narciso

Did you know you can book Shan cooking classes on our Inle Lake page? See booking options on right sidebar of that page. 

Find out more about food and eating out in Myanmar here

Look out for the third part of this blog, including different styles of rice and drinks, in the coming months!

This blog also featured on Landmeedchen - the food and travel website.

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