The Silver Spoon #3

Most people I meet surmise that my folks hail from somewhere like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong…



Then they go along the lines of Japan, Korea…? Still wrong! And then they get desperate and start flinging out random places like Africa, Scotland, Mongolia…? The survey says…? Beeeeh, wrong answer!

My parents moved to Australia in the mid-70s from Burma! You’re right in thinking that we’re of Chinese descent though. Our family tree is somewhat sketchy, but yes somewhere along the way we must have emerged from China. There are some interesting stories about some great-great-great-grandfather of my mother’s being the ophthalmologist to the emperor during one of those decadent dynasties. Well, this great man had multiple wives and concubines as you did back in the day, and we sprang forth from one of his Dutch wives! Fancy that!

Well the point to that rather convoluted and definitely accurate tale is that we have grown up eating a fine mix of Chinese and Western cuisines, admixed with all the other amazing cultures found in Australia (Greek, Italian, Japanese, Lebanese, I could go on forever…) but my favourite and most unique dishes come from Burma. Yes, I could eat noodles and dumplings until I pass out (just watch me) but give me one of my mum’s fine Burmese salads or curries and that char kuey teow is left to go cold.

Burmese food is somewhat best described as a marriage between Vietnamese, Thai and Indian cooking, with its quintessential combination of herbs and spices in a cuisine rich with salads, noodle dishes, curries and more. There’s interesting usage of essential ingredients such as dried prawns crushed into a powder to add an incredible depth of flavour to a dish, or tamarind for that perfect sour but sweet tartness that no lemon or lime can deliver. Adding fresh coriander and a drizzle of oil infused with fried shallots transforms a basic salad into something inexplicably more-ish. But to really get to know the food and its specific and delicious palate, you’ll have to come over to my mum’s place…or get cooking yourself!

Burmese people love their salads. And once you get the hang of the few staple ingredients generally used to make a “dressing” of sorts, you’ll start mixing and matching like a pro. These are tasty and quick to whip up, and perfect for our upcoming summer days. I still eat them in winter, but serve them with some fluffy white jasmine rice to ward off the cold and jack up the “comfort food” factor.

Burmese-style chicken salad (tick of approval from Mumsy)

  • 3 chicken thighs or 2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I use chicken thighs out of personal preference and boil them til they’re just cooked)
  • 1/2 cup shallots thinly sliced and soaked in cool water to mellow them down
  • 1/2 cup chopped coriander, throw in a sprig or two of mint as well if you like!
  • 1 mild-medium hot green chilli sliced into strips
  • Juice of half a lime (around 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (to taste)


Fried shallot oil

  • 2-3 large shallots thinly sliced
  • Peanut oil (or any other vegetable oil except olive oil)


How to

  1. Make the shallot oil first. Now the traditional way to do this is to fry the shallots on low to medium heat in a wok until they’re light brown and crispy (not burnt!). My mum taught me the cheat’s way to do this since I hate cleaning the oily wok afterwards. Place the sliced shallots in a small microwaveable bowl and add oil until the shallots are just covered. Then microwave them for one minute, stop and stir, then keep repeating this until you get brown crispy shallots with lightly fragranced oil. Too easy! It usually takes a total of about 6-7 x 1 minute periods of microwaving for me.
  2. Add the chicken, raw shallots, 2 generously heaped tablespoons of fried shallots (these are the star), coriander/mint and chilli together in a mixing bowl and toss gently.
  3. Mix together the lime juice, fish sauce and 2 tablespoons of shallot oil to make a dressing, then pour over the chicken mixture.
  4. Mix again!
  5. Serve with extra fried shallots (because you never can get enough of these).
  6. Other options – feel free to add a sliced tomato or a cup or two of chopped iceberg or butter lettuce.

Eat eat eat!

If you have any questions or suggestions, leave me a comment! I’ll get back to you… 🙂

4 Comments on “The Silver Spoon #3

  1. hey Sa, a burmese friend of mine recently took me to the Belmont oriental store …where i can get the burmese tofu! so i can make them at home now! …will need to discuss more about burmese cooking soon!! need to get you/aunty to check if i pass though! ;O hahahha

  2. Pingback: The Silver Spoon #4 « The Silver Lining

  3. Pingback: Burmese Salad {The Silver Spoon #4} | The Silver Lining

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