Time to convert to Burmese food

in Food & Wine · 09-10-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
Time to convert to Burmese food

Showcasing Burmese food might be a side-hustle for sisters, doctors and cooks Emily and Amy Chung - but it's proving a hit.

Salt, sweet, sour, spice, umami and crunch - Burmese food has it all, and yet it's still relatively unknown in the West.

However, it's hardly going to stay this way for long, particularly with the help of Emily and Amy Chung and their new cookbook, The Rangoon Sisters. The Chungs have Burmese parents and their nickname comes from the largest city in Myanmar - Yangon - which is also known as Rangoon.

Most people still aren't really familiar with Burmese cuisine, which Amy drily describes as "absolutely delicious, obviously". So, what sums it up?

"It does have influences from neighbouring countries, like Thailand, China and India, so there might be some familiar flavours and spices - and there's lots of onion, garlic and ginger," explains Amy. "But Burmese cuisine has a lot to offer as an individual cuisine as well; it has curries which tend to be more mildly spiced and aromatic after slow cooking, and you also have lots of vibrant fresh salads, which are more substantial than your average salad. It's full of textures and different condiments."

Emily says her favourite thing about Burmese food is "the extra bits you can add onto your plate, to make each mouthful a different flavour". She associates an "intensity and saltiness" with it because of the prevalence of "shrimpy, fishy flavours". This, coupled with all the dips and sauces that tend to feature, means "you can make your plate your own", she adds. "So if you'd like lots of chilli flavour, you can have that, and you can alter the sourness as well - there's something for everybody."

Coconut chicken noodles recipe

Ingredients:

(Serves 6)

5tbsp oil (vegetable, sunflower or peanut), plus extra for browning the chicken

5 medium onions, chopped

10 garlic cloves, peeled

2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, peeled

8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 3cm pieces

2tbsp paprika

1tsp turmeric powder

2tsp chilli powder

100g creamed coconut (the solid block type), or 200ml coconut milk would work

2tbsp gram flour, sifted and evenly toasted in a dry frying pan

600ml chicken stock

2-3tbsp fish sauce

400ml cold water

To serve:

6 nests (450-500g) dried chow mein or egg noodles, cooked

3 limes, cut into wedges

6 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half

Coriander leaves

4 shallots, thinly sliced

200g crispy fried rice noodles

Chilli flakes or chilli oil

Fish sauce

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish set over a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook slowly, turning down the heat to low-medium and stirring every four to five minutes until softened and starting to lightly brown in colour and become oily but not crispy - this should take about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, crush the garlic cloves and ginger to a paste using a pestle and mortar, or blitz in a food processor.

3. Once the onions are ready, add the garlic and ginger paste and fry for two minutes to release the gorgeous flavours. Add a splash more oil, then brown the chicken pieces with the onion/garlic/ginger mix. Add the spices and creamed coconut, breaking it up into smaller pieces as you stir - it should melt. Stir in the toasted gram flour, followed by the chicken stock, fish sauce and the cold water. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer, uncovered, over a low, gentle heat for about 30 minutes. If the broth is too thick, add some water.

4. For the crispy fried rice noodles, pour vegetable, sunflower or peanut oil into a wok or deep saucepan to a depth of 5cm and set over a medium-high heat. Line a large bowl with kitchen paper and have a heatproof strainer or sieve ready for fishing out the noodles. Test the readiness of the oil by popping a piece of dried noodle into it - it should instantly sizzle (rice noodles will curl up and turn opaque and bubbly). Separate the nest of noodles and add a handful to the oil, frying for a minute, then scoop up with your chosen implement and drain on the kitchen paper. Continue to dry the remaining noodles in batches as above.

5. Serve the broth hot on a bed of cooked egg noodles. Add a squeeze of lime juice and top with boiled eggs and the remaining garnishes in little bowls for everyone to help themselves to.

Tomato and crunchy peanut salad

Ingredients:

(Serves 4 as a side)

50g unsalted roasted peanuts

300g tomatoes, at room temperature, quartered

1/2 green finger chilli, deseeded (optional) and finely sliced

1tbsp dried shrimps (optional)

1-2 raw shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

3-5tbsp garlic oil (see instructions below)

Juice of 1/2 lime

2tsp fish sauce (omit to make vegetarian, then season with salt)

Small handful of coriander leaves

1tsp gram flour, sifted and evenly toasted in a dry frying pan

Crispy fried shallots, to garnish

For the garlic oil:

3 bulbs of garlic, peeled

400ml oil (vegetable, sunflower or peanut)

1tsp turmeric powder

Method:

1. For the garlic oil, separate the garlic cloves and slice them as thinly and evenly as you can. Make yourself comfortable, maybe sit yourself in front of some mindless television, as it will take time. It can also make your fingers feel a bit burny, so you might want to put on disposable gloves for this. Line a plate with a few sheets of kitchen paper. Heat the oil in a deep, medium saucepan or wok set over a medium-high heat. Do not leave the pan unattended. Have a heatproof strainer or sieve ready for fishing out the garlic pieces. Test the readiness of the oil by placing a piece of garlic in it; if it sizzles and comes to the surface within a few seconds, the oil is ready and you can add all the garlic at once, turning the heat down to low.

Keep a close eye on the garlic, turning the pieces regularly in the oil, being careful not to splash hot oil on yourself. Turn the heat down if the garlic is colouring quickly - we sometimes remove the pan from the heat completely for a minute or so if it's doing this. Once the garlic pieces are golden brown and crisp, take the pan off the heat. Scoop out the crispy garlic pieces using a heatproof strainer or sieve and transfer them to the plate with the kitchen paper, to stop them cooking further. It doesn't matter if a few pieces remain in the oil. Stir the turmeric into the oil and leave to cool. Once cool, pour the garlic oil into a clean, sealable bottle

2. Crush the peanuts using a pestle and mortar or pulse a few times in a food processor (to the size of the nubs you get in a shop-bought crunchy peanut butter).

3. Place the tomatoes, chilli, crushed peanuts and remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Ideally, do this with clean hands to fully combine all the ingredients.

4. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more fish sauce or chilli if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the crispy shallots.

Mango, lime and coconut meringues recipe

Ingredients:

(Makes 8)

For the meringues:

3 egg whites

170g caster sugar

For the lime curd:

Zest and juice of 2 limes

3 egg yolks

25g unsalted butter

50g caster sugar

For assembly:

50g unsweetened desiccated coconut

300ml double cream

200g mango, stoned, peeled and diced into 1cm pieces

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2.

2. In a clean and dry mixing bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric whisk. Start on a low speed and gradually increase the speed over the next two to three minutes to the highest setting until the egg whites are stiff peaks, then stop. Add half the sugar to the egg whites and whisk at high speed, then add the remaining sugar until the meringue is glossy and firm - this usually takes two minutes.

3. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Spoon four mounds of meringue onto each sheet, spaced out evenly. Using the back of a spoon, make a shallow dip in the centre of each meringue, where the topping will sit once they're cooked. Place the trays in the oven for 35 minutes; once that time is up, switch off the oven and leave the meringues to cool and dry in there overnight.

4. While the meringues are cooking, prepare the lime curd. Make a bain-marie with a heatproof bowl set over some simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water, though) and add all the ingredients for the curd to the bowl. Stir to dissolve the sugar and melt the butter. Making the curd requires a bit of patience, as it will take anywhere between six and eight minutes to thicken: it should coat the back of a wooden spoon when it is done. We then strain it through a sieve, to get rid of the zest, and let it cool before refrigerating overnight in a covered container.

5. For the assembly, toast the desiccated coconut in a dry frying pan on the hob, stirring throughout - watch it carefully and don't let it turn brown, it will only take a minute. Whip the double cream until it's thick.

6. Plate up the meringues, then top each one with a spoonful of cream, a dollop of lime curd, some mango pieces and finally a sprinkling of toasted coconut. Serve immediately.

The Rangoon Sisters: Recipes From Our Burmese Family Kitchen by Emily and Amy Chung, recipe photography by Martin Poole, is published by Penguin.


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