Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Burmese Dinner

Clockwise from Top Left:

Burmese Tomato Salad - Kha Yan Chin Thee Thoke

Burmese Tomato Salad
This is a light and refreshing salad that is always polished off by our guests in the blink of an eye. It could be because it's served as a first course and the crowd is hungry, but I think the soft texture of the tomatoes contrasting with the crunchiness of the onions, deep-fried beans and lettuce have a lot to do with this being a favorite at our Burmese table.

Line the salad dish with finely sliced romaine lettuce and mound the tomatoes and other ingredients over the lettuce so that the juices from the tomatoes and dressing can drain to the bottom, leaving the tomatoes from getting soggy.

This salad is best served chilled for at least an hour. The dressing can be poured on the salad just prior to serving.

1 romaine lettuce heart, sliced thinly
1 small onion, peeled, halves and sliced in thin crescents
5 medium tomatoes, halved and sliced in thin crescents
1 handful cilantro, 1/4 left whole and the rest minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. fish sauce (optional for vegetarians)
salt to taste
2 Tbsp. deep fried beans (if available)
2 Tbsp. roasted peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. deep fried onions
1 tsp. deep fried garlic

  1. Soak sliced onions in cold water for 15-20 minutes and drain.
  2. Combine sliced tomatoes, onions, minced cilantro and season with salt.
  3. Chill until ready to serve.
  4. Line salad dish with lettuce and mound tomato mixture on top along with juices.
  5. Whisk lime juice and fish sauce together and pour over tomatoes.
  6. Garnish with last 4 ingredients and serve.

Burmese Toh Zya - Vegetables & Dip

Toh Zya
When we were growing up in Burma, I and my siblings spent a lot of time at our neighbor's house. They were a childless couple and, from what I can remember, enjoyed our company. We were always welcome to join them for a meal and one staple at their table was always some form of tangy dip with fresh, steamed or parboiled vegetables. 

Toh Zya in Burmese refers to anything that can be dipped into a sauce. The dip varies, but this particular one is a favorite of mine because of the incredible umami imparted by the shrimp paste and fish sauce. This dip is made from a puree of tomatoes, blanched onions, lots of garlic, chili paste, paprika, fish sauce, shrimp paste and a generous amount of oil. It cooks on the stovetop for close to an hour because all the water from the puree has to cook off, leaving a thick, almost syrupy sauce in which the oil floats back to the surface.

Any crunchy vegetable is ideal for dipping in this sauce. I especially like cucumbers and the bottom part or ribs of romaine lettuce. Sweet little rainbow peppers also taste great for dipping.

2 beefsteak tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, blanched and drained
1 pod of garlic, segmented & peeled
1 tsp. Kashmiri mirch or paprika
2 tsp. roasted chili paste
1 tsp. shrimp paste/ngapi
1 tsp. fish sauce
salt to taste
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil

  1. Puree all the ingredients, except oil, in a blender.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat and pour pureed ingredients into oil.
  3. Bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer for close to an hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. When all the liquid is absorbed and the sauce thickens and reduces by half, adjust salt to taste, stir well and continue to simmer until the oil resurfaces and floats to the surface.
  5. Bring to room temperature and serve as a dip with vegetables.

Burmese Roselle Leaves with Bamboo Shoots & Shrimp - Chin Baung Kyaw

Chin Baung Kyaw
Roselle leaves have red stems and grow on a bush. Stir-fried like spinach, roselle leaves have a distinctively tart and tangy flavor. In India the leaves of the roselle bush are called gongura and are cooked with lentils or pickled with spices called 'pachadi'. It is available in the Indian markets in North America under the label gongura.

Roselle Leaves Gifted By A Friend
In Burmese cuisine, roselle leaves are called chin baung ywet or sour leaf. It is perhaps the most widely eaten and popular vegetable in Burma. The leaves are fried with garlic, dried or fresh prawns and green chili or cooked with fish. A light soup (hinjo)made from roselle leaves and dried shrimp is also a popular dish.

My husband was trying this for the first time and since the tart flavor can be a bit overwhelming, I combined it with some spinach.

1 bundle roselle leaves, washed and chopped
1 (8 oz.) pkg. bamboo shoots, fresh or pickled and sliced
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined (optional for vegetarians)
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
8-10 cloves of garlic, diced
1 green chili, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 tsp. shrimp paste/ngapi (optional for vegetarians)
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
1 Tbsp. fish sauce (optional for vegetarians)


  1. Marinate shrimp in fish sauce and turmeric for 15 minutes and set aside.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat and fry garlic, onions and chilies until onions turn translucent.
  3. Add tomatoes and shrimp paste and stir-fry until tomatoes break down and oil resurfaces.
  4. Add roselle leaves and bamboo shoots, mix thoroughly and simmer over medium heat until roselle leaves are cooked and all liquid is absorbed.
  5. Add marinated shrimp and cook for another 5 minutes.
Serve with steamed rice.