Burmese Salad {The Silver Spoon #4}

carrot salad 3This 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.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-large carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1 mild-medium hot green chilli, thinly sliced
  • 2 generous tablespoons of chopped coriander/mint (I like to use a few sprigs of both)
  • 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoons fried shallots (go here to find the Fried Shallot Oil recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons shallot oil (as above)
  • 2 teaspoons dried shrimp powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (to taste, beware it’s quite salty! I usually just add a quick splash)

How to

  1. Combine the carrots, chilli, coriander/mint, peanuts and lime juice. Mix well and the carrots will start to naturally soften due to the action of the lime juice.
  2. Then add the fried shallots, shallot oil, shrimp powder and fish sauce. Mix well and adjust to taste.
  3. Easy peasy!

carrot salad 1carrot salad 2carrot salad 4

The Silver Spoon #3


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

Right?

Wrong!

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… 🙂

A scone, a scone, my kingdom for a scone! (How-to Wednesday #1)

So the question of the century (or at least of the minute?)…How do you make sure your scones rise and prevent them from coming out of the oven like hot little tooth-breaking lumps? Some people swear by lemonade or even just sheer willpower/prayers/meditation/spells, but my secret is buttermilk!

Ingredients (to make 16 fist-sized or 24 bite-sized scones):

  • 3 ½ cups self-raising flour
  • 2 tbs caster sugar
  • 60g butter (I like to use regular butter rather than unsalted to give the scones that slightly moreish savoury flavour)
  • 1 and a half cups buttermilk
  • Jam and cream (preferably double cream) to serve!

Method:

  1. Preheat oven 200° Celsius
  2. Prepare a regular loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm or 9 x 5 x 3 inches if you’re imperially inclined)
  3. Mix flour and sugar in a large bowl
  4. Add butter (at room temperature) and rub into the flour with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs
  5. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add buttermilk. Stir with a spatula until the dough almost comes together (see pictures below)
  6. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough comes together
  7. Press out to roughly 3cm thickness with a rolling pin
  8. Using a cookie cutter (I actually just use an upturned glass or other round-topped container) cut into 5cm rounds for biggish scones, 3cm for bite-sized
  9. Place scones, just touching, into your tin
  10. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly golden on top and hollow when tapped

Et voila!

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