Posted on December 5, 2012
This week I decided to make a somewhat vegetarian version of the Burmese chicken salad I previously made. When I say somewhat I mean that there’s still fish sauce in the dressing and also that the dish is given an extra flavour kick with the addition of dried shrimp powder. This is another essential ingredient and quite unique in the way it’s used in Burmese cooking in that its purpose is generally as a raw ingredient added to salads.
It may be difficult to find it in its powdered form but you should be able to source dried shrimp from any good Asian/Chinese grocery store. Use your blender to pulverise it into a coarse-ish powder and voila! If you’re hardcore you can use a mortar and pestle to get similar results but you may be there for some time…
This dish is yet another one to be enjoyed on a hot summer’s day, but also makes a great accompaniment to curry and rice on not-so-hot days. The carrots and lime juice pack a crisp punch and all the other ingredients add their textural elements to create a tasty and surprisingly substantial little dish.
Posted on November 28, 2012
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)
Fried shallot oil
If you have any questions or suggestions, leave me a comment! I’ll get back to you… 🙂