I’m always interested in learning about different cultures’ cuisines, so when I spotted Naomi Duguid’s latest cookbook, Burma Rivers of Flavor, in our local library last week, I picked it up, eager to learn about the food from this Southeast Asian country that is now called Myanmar.
Burma (or Myanmar) is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, and is surrounded on its borders by Indian, China and Thailand. In fact, it is actually 30% larger than Thailand and has a population of about 60 million. I was really surprised to learn that it is such a large country.
From perusing through Naomi’s cookbook, Burmese cooking seems to use lots of turmeric, shallots and chilies. There are also some ingredients that are not so familiar, such as dried shrimp powder (I’ve used dried shrimp, but not cooked with the powdered form), toasted chickpea flour (apparently it’s used in salads for flavor and texture, and to thicken sauces and soups), and fermented soybean paste and soybean disks (used as a flavor base for curries and soups, in salads and vegetable dishes, and as a condiment for rice).
The food seems to be a mix of Indian and Thai food in certain respects, with curries, coconut milk, cilantro and lemongrass in a number of the dishes. A few recipes especially intrigued me, including Silky Shan Soup (made with chickpea flour), Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, and Fried Rice and Peas and Shallots, which is often eaten for breakfast with various toppings (cooked beans, poached egg, fresh coriander leaves, hot sauce, fried shallots and lime wedges). The light brothy soups also interest me – fragrant with lemongrass, lime leaves, shallots and cilantro.
I’ve made all three of these dishes so far and am looking forward to learning more about Burmese food in the coming weeks.