It may be just a coincidence, but none of Burmese dishes I’ve tried have set off any multiple-alarm fires in my mouth. And that’s just fine by me.
Because even though I love me some heat, I also appreciate letting folks tailor their plates to their individual heat tolerance or preference. It’s just plain awkward for everybody when guests are breaking a major sweat at your dinner table and you have to replenish their water glass after every bite. The win-win solution? Hot chile sauce on the side.
I love my Sriracha as much as the next girl, but I’m all for making my own homemade hot sauce, especially when it’s this easy. Red chile peppers are simmered with water and garlic and the processed with some fish sauce, sugar and rice vinegar until it hits that magic sweet spot between smooth and chunky.
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Although we’re experiencing a minor cold snap out here in Hawaii, it seems like the rest of the country is finally starting to warm up. So it’s a good bet that many of you are starting the transition from hearty soups and stews to lighter spring and summer fare.
Some of my favorite warm weather dishes are Hawaiian poke, Peruvian ceviche or Tahitian poisson cru, but if the idea of eating raw fish gives you the heebie jeebies, then you might want to try this light and refreshing Burmese fish salad instead.
Your favorite filet of fish is poached in lemongrass-infused water (or if you’ve got some leftover fish to use up, feel free to use that instead), flaked, and then combined with plenty of shallots, chile pepper, and herbs. The mixture is then tossed in a shallot and lime juice dressing. It’s refreshing, lightly spicy and filling without being heavy.
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My first experience with carrot salad? The grated version that’s loaded with raisins and walnuts and drowning in a super-sweet dressing. It was perfect for my tween palate, which hadn’t begun to appreciate most vegetables, but these days I’m looking for more depth and balance than that overly sweet, kid-friendly dish.
In this Burmese carrot salad, a mound of grated carrots is dressed in fish sauce and lime juice and tossed with crunchy peanuts, golden crispy shallots, and minced Jalapeno. A hefty amount of cilantro provides that ubiquitous Southeast Asian pop of freshness while toasted chickpea flour and shrimp powder adds plenty of savory umami.
For fans of Thai or Vietnamese green papaya salad, you might be surprised to hear that this carrot salad has a very similar texture and flavor. That’s great news for any of you who love the taste of green papaya salad, but don’t have an extremely well-stocked Asian market where you live. No green papaya? No problem.
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So I was jazzed with the idea of making non-soy tofu, but wasn’t quite sure what I was going to do with it. So I turned to Southeast-Asian food expert and cookbook author extraordinaire Naomi Duguid (her gorgeous cookbook has pretty much become my Burmese cooking Bible over the past couple weeks). I chose her tofu salad recipe because it reminded me a bit of Hawaiian tofu poke, one of the only dishes that can get me excited about tofu.
It’s not a complicated recipe… cubes of chickpea tofu are tossed with a hefty amount of cilantro, toasted sesame seeds and a garlic and shallot oil dressing, but it was devoured within minutes… just about the same amount of time it took to throw together. So, so good.
Duguid’s original recipe called for soy sauce, but I don’t think I’ve ever found a recipe where I preferred soy sauce to fish sauce; I just love the depth and funkiness that fish sauce adds in stir-fries and dressings. But if you’re vegetarian or vegan, definitely feel free to stick to soy sauce, Bragg’s liquid aminos or even coconut aminos to make this special diet-friendly.
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