Tuesday, May 19, 2015

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.

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