Sunday, May 24, 2015

Burmese Htamin Kyaw - Burmese Fried Rice

Burmese Htamin Kyaw
Thai and Chinese take-out joints are very generous with their rice portions and there's always a lot left over. Customers have the option of asking for fried rice in place of plain, steamed rice (sometimes for an extra dollar). The rice is simply fried with some soya sauce and not much else. Packed in a ziploc bag and flattened down to a disc, it goes straight into the freezer until it's time to make fried rice.
Fish Sauce




Shrimp Powder with Chili
    
Two essential ingredients for cooking south-east Asian cuisine are shrimp powder and fish sauce. The fried rice I made would have been the run of the mill Chinese fried rice except for the addition of these two condiments that add umami to any dish.

Burmese Fried Rice
Fried rice tastes best if day-old rice is used because most of the moisture in the rice has been absorbed and each grain separates from the others and develops an al-dente texture. This Burmese fried rice sets itself apart from other fried rice because of its umami-saltiness from the shrimp powder and fish sauce, a pungent spiciness from green chilies and faint sweetness from caramalized onions used while frying the rice and as a garnish.

This dish is very simple and easy to make, took under 15 minutes to prepare and goes well with soup or salad. Burmese shrimp fried rice is another fried rice that is a meal unto itself for lunch.

Ingredients:
2 cups day-old rice
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 green chilies, diced
1 Tbsp. dried shrimp powder with chili
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. soya sauce
4 + 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
2 stalks green onions, chopped
deep-fried onions for garnish

Directions:
  1. Mix rice with 2 Tbsp. oil, soya sauce, fish sauce and set aside.
  2. Heat remaining oil over medium-high heat and stir-fry onions, garlic, chilies and shrimp powder until onions caramalize.
  3. Add rice and mix thoroughly, reduce heat to medium and leave rice to brown on the bottom.
  4. Stir and make a well in the center, add beaten egg and allow it to set.
  5. Toss rice with egg to scramble and garnish with green onions & deep-fried onions before serving.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mum's Dhonepata Tetul er Chutney - Cilantro & Tamarind Chutney


Cilantro & Tamarind Chutney
Mum always set aside some fresh cilantro so she could make her favorite chutney with tamarind. The tetul-er chutney often served with samosas was a staple in her fridge which, blended with fresh cilantro along with a few other ingredients, makes a super chutney.

Ingredients:
1 bundle cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup tamarind chutney
1 medium tomato, diced
1 green chili, diced (or to taste)
1 lime, washed, zested and juiced
salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Bottle in a clean glass jar and refrigerate for a week or more.
Enjoy as a dip, salad dressing, sandwich spread or by the teaspoon.

Burmese Cauliflower Salad

Baked Cauliflower Salad
There was a main dish already prepared for dinner today and a cauliflower in the fridge that needed to be used up. The first thing that comes to mind when I think cauliflower is the Indian Alu Gobi, but it was too complicated at that late hour. 

Then I remembered coming across a Burmese recipe for a roasted cauliflower salad that was very easy and doable at short notice. 

So here is an adaptation of that recipe which, for my taste buds, used too much shrimp powder, fish sauce and lime juice. So I toned down those ingredients and ramped up the garlic also because I wanted to give vegetarians the option of omitting shrimp powder and fish sauce. The black sesame seeds used as a garnish was replaced with deep-fried flat beans (Burmese: pe hlaw kyaw) because I was out of sesame seeds.

Uncertain what it would taste like, I was pleasantly surprised how very good this tasted. Hubby took a second and third helping, so it may be a frequent item at our dinner table!

Ingredients:
1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
salt to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder

1 small red onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 green chili, diced
1 generous handful cilantro, diced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 Tbsp. dried shrimp powder (optional for vegetarians)
2 tsp. fish sauce (optional for vegetarians)
salt to taste
deep-fried flat beans (pe hlaw kyaw) for garnish

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400*F.
  2. Toss cauliflower florets with next three ingredients and spread in a single layer on a baking pan.
  3. Bake at 400*F for 15 minutes, turn florets over and bake for another 15 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Remove cauliflower from oven and transfer to a mixing bowl, along with remaining ingredients, except fried flat beans.
  5. Toss until well combined, adjust salt to tast and garnish with deep-fried flat beans.
Serve as a side dish with steamed rice.





Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tofu Hand-Tossed in Ta-Dang Chili Paste

Tofu Hand-Tossed in Ta-Dang Chili Paste
The inspiration for this dish came from my best friend I meet for lunch on a regular basis. We meet in the food-court of a mall, but for the last couple of years we haven't needed to buy lunch because she brings all kinds of interesting eats with her. This is one that reminds me of potato chips or popcorn. You can never take just one bite! Every time we have this, I try to extract the recipe from her, but she just isn't into writing down her recipes and neither is she precise with her measuresments of ingredients. So I've concocted my own recipe and while she makes hers on the stovetop, I cooked this in the microwave.

Thai Maesri Ta-Dang Chili Paste
BFF is a vegetarian and uses Sambal Oelek (chili-garlic paste) among other ingredients, but I have this bottle sitting in my fridge that I use in cooking Burmese food. 
The Ingredients
Ta-Dang chili paste has an interesting list of ingredients that goes something like this: dried red chilies 25%, shallots 20%, garlic 14%, tamarind juice 14%, sugar 1%, salt 7%, dried shrimp 5%, anchovy fish sauce 4%, MSG 1 % - no artificial color or preservatives. This worked perfectly, along with deep-fried onions and garlic, which have been mixed together in a microwave-safe dish.

Mix Tofu with Chili Paste Gently by Hand
To preserve the integrity of the tofu, everything was mixed together gently by hand. That's one reason I decided to do this in the microwave because tofu is so delicate and it was one way to leave the cubes whole and unbroken.

After Microwaving for 1 Minute
The tofu was cooked on high power in the microwave for one minute and then taken out and stirred with a fork.

Microwave for 2 Minutes More
After microwaving for 2 minutes more, it was ready to eat! This will taste great with steamed rice, but tastes just as great eaten on its own.

Ingredients:
1 block of extra-firm tofu, cubed
2 tsp. Ta-Dang chili paste
2 Tbsp. deep-fried onions
2 Tbsp. deep-fried garlic
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Directions:
  1. Mix all ingredients gently by hand in a microwavable dish.
  2. Microwave on high power for one minute, remove from oven & stir with a fork.
  3. Return to microwave oven for 2 more minutes and it's done!
Serve on its own as an appetizer or with steamed rice.










Burmese Kya Zan Chet - Bean-Thread Vermicelli Soup

Kya Zan Chet
This is a hearty soup made from chicken broth and bean thread vermicelli with tofu and eggs for protein and a variety of pickled vegetables that add a tart and tangy flavor to the soup.


Bean thread noodles are a staple at Asian markets. It comes in bundles of dry, almost plastic like threads, eight bundles to a package. When they are submerged and softened in boiling water, the threads plump up and turn transparent, which is why these noodles are often referred to as glass or cellophane noodles. Used extensively in South East Asia, these noodles are gluten-free and made from mung bean starch. They are used in soups, stir-fries, salads and spring rolls. In Burma, the name is kya zan. Chet simply means 'cooked'.

Chinese Preserved Vegetables
The other prominent ingredient in my soup was one-quarter of a package of salty, sour and spicy Chinese vegetables. preserved in red chili paste and oil. One package goes a long way so after opening the package, I generally divide the contents into four tightly covered containers and refrigerate them. From what I could make out, the vegetables include cabbage, turnip, stems of mustard greens,  and wood-ear mushrooms.

Tofu & Garnishes
A slab of cubed tofu was added for protein and deep-fried onions and garlic garnished each bowl of soup.

Ingredients: (serves 2)
6 cups chicken broth
1 bundle mung bean thread vermicelli
1/2 block extra-firm tofu, cubed
1/4 pkg. Chinese preserved vegetables
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. chicken powder
salt & pepper to taste
2 eggs, beaten with salt
deep-fried onions
deep-fried garlic

Directions:
  1. Rinse preserved vegetables to get rid of excess salt, drain, chop & set aside.
  2. Bring chicken broth to a boil and add vermicelli.
  3. Transfer vermicelli to a plate after it softens and cut into smaller lengths.
  4. Return vermicelli to soup pot and add the next 4 ingredients.
  5. Simmer over medium-high heat for 10 minutes until vegetables soften.
  6. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and remove soup from heat.
  7. Beat eggs with salt and pour in a thin stream while stirring the soup in one direction.
  8. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with deep-fried onions & garlic.
Serve immediately.

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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
  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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
  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.

Ingredients:
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)

Directions:

  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.




Monday, May 18, 2015

Kid-Friendly Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Mini Chicken Pot Pie
One of our three grandsons has dinner with us once a week and it's always a challenge to come up with something palatable for them. Today I made these little chicken pot pies that can be made in under 30 minutes. It took me 10 minutes to assemble them and 15 minutes to bake in the oven. And they're just the perfect size for children to hold in their little hands. Serve them with a side of salad or fruits and a stress-free dinner's ready in no time flat!



The crust was made from Pillsbury crescent rolls dough that were coaxed into each compartment of a muffin pan.The filling was made with diced fajita chicken strips (any cooked chicken will do), frozen mixed vegetables consisting of carrots, peas, celery, potatoes and corn and a can of cream of chicken soup. I used Campbell's cream of chicken soup because I was in a hurry, but homemade cream of chicken soup is really easy to make. 


Each package of dough contains 8 crescent rolls and I used the 'grand' or big sized rolls.


The broad side of the triangle of dough was stretched to cover the bottom and sides of each compartment and the pointed end was wrapped around the top with a hole in the center to allow steam to escape.


Cooked until the tops were golden brown, these little pot pies were done in just 15 minutes. Note that the empty compartments were filled with water.


Needless to say, it was a hit with our Grandboy this evening!

Ingredients:
1 (8 rolls) can Pillsbury Grands! Big & Buttery Crescent Rolls, separated
1/2 (16 oz.) pkg. frozen mixed vegetables for soup
1 (10 oz.) can  or homemade Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 (16 oz.) pkg. fajita chicken strips, diced
salt to taste
Pam butter-flavored spray

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375*F and grease muffin compartments with Pam spray.
  2. Microwave vegetables (without water) on high power for one minute or blanch in boiling water for 1 minute and drain.
  3. Combine chicken, vegetables, soup and season with salt to taste.
  4. Line muffin compartments with broad side of crescent roll dough, leaving pointed end hanging over lip of compartment.
  5. Fill with chicken mixture to mound over the top and wrap the pointed end of the crescent roll around the top, leaving a space for steam to escape.
  6. Fill empty compartments with water and bake at 375*F for 15 minutes until tops are golden brown. 
Serve with a side of soup or salad.