Vibrant textures and flavors come together harmoniously in this Burmese tossed noodle salad from The Food of Myanmar. A copy of the book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review. Affiliate links were used to link to items being discussed in this post.
I tried to take the tip of my thumb off last night, so this post might be a little on the short and sweet side. And that is all I will say about it (in case it makes you squeamish) other than I think someone could make a fortune selling bandages shaped like little mittens for fingers (think finger puppets). Is there anything more annoying than trying to bandage the end of your finger? Drives me crazy!
Anyway. This salad evokes a moment of maternal pride for me. It was about 2 weeks ago, and Sammy had requested noodles for her birthday dinner (the dinner with just our nuclear family). I asked her if she could please help me out and choose a noodle dish from a cookbook I had been waiting to review, Claudia Saw Lwin Robert’s The Food of Myanmar: Authentic Recipes from the Land of the Golden Pagodas. Being an adventurous good sport, she she carefully studied the entire cookbook (!) and decided on this recipe.
And darn if she was not devastated when we ran out of leftovers!
Now I did make a few adjustments, some out of necessity and some for Sammy. The first and most important was I just roasted pork instead of using the fried tofu because Sammy begged me for pork, and I figured that would work ok. Second, while I did use cucumbers, green papaya (both pictured) and shredded cabbage (accidentally left out of photo), I forgot to get tomatoes and decided to add some shredded carrots for color and texture. I also left out the potatoes. The dish called for rice and egg noodles (both starchy) as well as glass noodles (made from mung bean threads) and I just could not see my family eating that much starch. So I left them out. I also could not find bean sprouts at the grocery store (if you are wondering I had coincidentally purchased the green papaya the week before at Jungle Jim‘s). I added lime wedges just because.
The noodle salad was very good. I would say the pulverized dried shrimp might be an acquired taste, so you might serve that on the side. The fish sauce my entire family finds delicious. The glass noodles were the biggest hit–from a health perspective I would only use them next time. If you cannot get green papaya, try for green mango. If that is unavailable also, I would aim for shredded Granny Smith apples since they are also quite tart.
The cookbook is also wonderful, full of exotic recipes. I have only been to one Myanmarese (as far as I can tell, both Burmese and Myanmarese are used to refer to the cuisine of Myanmar) restaurant in America, so it is not a cuisine that gets a lot of play here, although I wish it would. Some recipes I have bookmarked include: Pumpkin Soup with Basil; Coconut Noodles; Rice Noodle Fish Soup (Sammy and I both thought this looked wonderful but we were missing too many of the ingredients for it); Prawns in Tomato Curry; and Bachelor’s Chicken Curry. Just to name a few! And the key to enjoying these recipes? Do your best to get the ingredients, but ultimately do not let a lack of them stop you from trying the various dishes. And common sense substitutions–like tart green apples for green papaya–are fine.
- 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 2 firm beancurd cakes, about 300 g/10 oz, soaked
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) oil, for deep-frying
- 1 finger-length red chilli, finely chopped
- 85 g (1/2 cup) cooked rice
- 200 g (7 oz) fresh egg noodles, blanched
- 90 g (3 oz) transparent vermicelli, soaked 2 minutes and boiled for 3 minutes
- 50 g (1 cup) shredded cabbage
- 80 g (1 cup) beansprouts, blanched
- 150 g (1 cup) shredded green papaya
- 1 tomato, peeled and chopped
- 160 g (1 cup) peeled and shredded cucumber
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion, finely sliced
- 12 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 2 tablespoons chilli flakes
- 2 tablespoons (125 ml) tamarind pulp soaked in ½ cup water
- 3 bird’s-eye chillies, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon sugar syrup
- 4 tablespoons dried shrimp, soaked and blended to a powdery fluff
- 4 tablespoons roasted pea flour
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 25 g (1/2 cup) chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
Boil the potatoes till done.
Drain the beancurd cakes and pat dry with paper towels. Slice each one in half then cut each half into 9 pieces to yield 36 cubes. Heat the oil, add the beancurd and deep-fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes till golden on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Knead the chilli into the cooked rice to color it.
Prepare the Garnishes by heating the oil in a pan and stir-fry the onion and garlic till crisp. Remove and set aside, retain the oil.
Stir-fry the chilli flakes by spooning the retained hot oil onto the chilli flakes in a separate bowl and set aside (if chilli flakes are placed directly into very hot oil, they will burn immediately).
Stir and strain the tamarind water, discard the solids. Add the bird’s-eye chillies and sugar syrup to the tamarind water and set aside.
To serve, arrange all the main ingredients on a large plate. Place each of the Garnishes in individual bowls. Take a small handful of each item from the main ingredients. Then sprinkle on a little of each of the Garnishes and mix thoroughly by hand.