Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Myanmar Curry

One of my main goals in Myanmar/Burma was to get a chance to cook with locals, and taste the food that people eat in homes and is traditional in the part of the world I was in. This is the best way to get to know ingredients, flavors, and people. The family which allowed my into their kitchen was so friendly and open and interested to talk about food and ingredients that I learned a lot. 

Guess which one I am!
They showed me the local varieties of common foods which are shown below, tiny little buds of garlic and pearl onion sized and shaped shallots. He is a professional tour guide and as such one of the more prosperous people in Myanmar, outside of the ruling elite.  He has a lovely family and a beautiful home.

I had the opportunity to go to a friend’s house and learn to cook a few different traditional Myanmar dishes. This menu included a pork curry, a beef curry and a few salads. I’ll be detailing these recipes over a few blog posts.

Myanmar curries are very lightly spiced and very heavily oiled. Although Myanmar is sandwiched between India and Thailand they don’t use very many spices in their curries. Myanmar is a very poor country and has been for the last 60 years. The effect this has had on their cuisine cannot be overlooked. Very oily curry provides the densest calories and best extraction of flavor from foods. It also can be used to spice a lot of rice and feed a larger number of people.

The recipes for pork and beef curry are almost identical until the last few minutes so I’ll be writing them both up in this post. A twofer! 

The first step is to season the meat. Burmese red chili powder, salt, pepper, fish sauce, 1/2 cup of oil and turmeric are all added to the meat, along with a huge handful of garlic and ginger which has been pounded in a mortal and pestle. I find adding a tablespoon of water can help getting a fine crush on the ginger garlic paste.

Whole shallots are added to the meat. This mixture is fried over high heat until everything has gotten a light caramelization. A cup of water is added to the pot and the curry is boiled over high heat until all of the water evaporates, the onions are softened and the oil gets infused into spices. A cup of water is again added and the water is boiled off again until the onions are starting to fall apart, the gravy continues to leech flavor into the oil. Once again a cup of water is added then allowed to boil off until the gravy has thickened and the onions have dissolved into a paste.

At this point a teaspoon of dark soy sauce is added to the pork curry to finish it. Serve it over rice.

For the beef curry the exact same ingredients and techniques are used with beef substituted for pork. Instead of soy sauce a teaspoon of Garam masala is added at the last minute. Serve over rice.

Myanmar Curry
2 lb of Pork or beef cubed
2 t Myanmar sweet red chili powder
1T fish sauce
½ t Turmeric
¼ C Ginger garlic paste
4 large shallots
1/2 C Peanut oil
1 t dark soy (pork) / 1t garam masala (beef)

I have cut back on the oil a bit here, this will still make a very oily curry, but it isn't quite as much as would be used in most restaurants. The real key here is to spoon the curry onto your rice, or you'll get a lot more oil then most westerners are used to.


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