Ginger salad, noodle salad, spiced vegetable soup ... these are Burmese surprises.
If you're familiar with Indian, Thai, and Chinese cooking, you may recognize their influence on Burmese cuisine, but its flavor combinations are unique. Burmese food is less fiery than some Southeast Asian dishes; the primary seasonings used are dried shrimp, fish sauce, garlic, lemon, and ginger.
The ginger salad is an appealing combination of crunchy and sweet-hot ingredients. In rural Burma, it's a post-harvest, festival-season specialty.
Together, the cold noodle salad and spiced vegetable soup are a typical Burmese breakfast, but we suggest them for a Western supper with the first-course ginger salad to add substance.
All three recipes call for cabbage; red provides more color contrast for the salads, and green looks better in the soup, but you can use just one type. You'll find raw peanuts and flaked coconut in healthfood stores. Look for the fish sauce, dried shrimp, and black fungus in Oriental markets or well-stocked grocery stores.
Burmese Ginger Salad
3/4 cup yellow or green split peas
3/4 cup blanched (skinned) raw
3/4 cup slivered fresh ginger
(matchstick pieces 1/16 to 1/8 in.
thick, 2 to 6 in. long)
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2 tablespoons sesame seed
1/3 cup salad oil
2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla or
nuoc nam) or soy sauce
11/2 cups finely shredded red or green
1or 2 fresh jalapeno chilies,
stemmed and thinly sliced
1/3 cup slivered onion
3 tablespoons small dried shrimp;
whirl in a blender until powdered
2 limes or 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Place peas and peanuts in separate small bowls and cover with warm water; let stand at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Drain well and pat dry. Also, place ginger and vinegar in a small bowl, then cover and chill at least 2 hours or up to 2 days; drain and discard vinegar.
In a 10- to 12-inch ftying pan over medium heat, stir coconut often until golden, about 8 minutes; pour out and set aside. Repeat with sesame seed, 3 to 5 minutes. Add oil to pan. When oil is hot, add split peas and stir often until deep golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with peanuts, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add garlic to oil in pan and cook, stirring often, until golden, 1 to 3 minutes, Lift from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let oil cool. Stir fish sauce into oil; set aside. (At this point, you can cover coconut, sesame, peas, peanuts, garlic, and oil mixture separately; store at room temperature up to 1 week.)
On a platter, arrange ginger, coconut, sesame, peas, peanuts, garlic, cabbage, chilies, onion, and shrimp in separate piles. At the table, pour oil mixture over salad, squeeze limes on top, and mix ingredients. Makes 6 first-course servings.
Per serving: 396 cal.; 14 g protein; 27g carbo.; 28 g fat 7.2 mg chol.; 2 79 mg. sodium.
Cold Noodle Salad Spiced Vegetable and Prawn Soup 8 ounces dry vermicelli or linguini 1/2 cup dry black fungus (cloud ears) 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed 7 cups regular-strength chicken broth 114 cup salad oil 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed 1/2 cup lemon juice 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla or 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla or. nuoc nam) or soy sauce nuoc nam) or soy sauce 1 teaspoon ground pepper 1 medium-size cucumber, thinly 2 cups thinly sliced small pattypan sliced squash 3 tablespoons small dried shrimp; 2 cups finely shredded green or red whirl in a blender until powdered cabbage 2 cups finely shredded red or green 1 pound large shrimp (31 to 35 per cabbage Ib.), shelled and deveined
2 boiled medium-size thin-skinned
potatoes, peeled and cut into
Fresh cilantro (coriander) springs
In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring 3 quarts water to a boil over high heat. Add vermicelli and cook until barely tender to bite, 6 to 9 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again.
In a large bowl, mix garlic, oil, lemon juice, and fish sauce. Add vermicelli, cucumber, shrimp, cabbage, and potatoes; mix well. Spoon onto a platter and garnish with cilantro. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 280 cal. ; 7.3 g protein; 41 g carbo.; 9. 8 g fat; 7. 2 mg chol.; 189 mg sodium.
In a small bowl, soak fungus in warm water to cover until soft and pliable, about 20 minutes. Work with fingers to loosen any grit, then lift from water (discard water). Cut out and discard hard knobby pieces. Slice fungus in 1/3-inch-wide strips. Meanwhile, in a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring broth, garlic, fish sauce, and pepper to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add fungus, squash, cabbage, and shrimp. Cook, covered, until squash is tender-crisp to bite, about 4 minutes.
Makes 2 quarts, 6 servings.
Per serving: 133 Cal.; 17 g protein; 9.3 g carbo.; 3.8g fat, 93 mg chol.; 674 mg sodium.