Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sovereign State: Burma


The Menu:
Ngapi Kyeik (Shrimp paste condiment with fried garlic, scallion, and green chilies)
Thanhat (Cold cucumber salad with sesame and lime)
Ohn-No Khao Swè (Spicy coconut chicken curry over egg noodles)
Jet-U Jhet (Blistered hard-cooked eggs with chilies, tomato, and fish sauce)

Okay I'm skipping quite a few countries on my super fancy, new and improved Sovereign State tour fun time show for this one here. It was time sensitive and we'll be returning to your regularly scheduled program shortly (aka don't get your undies in a bunch). As a wise man named Frankie once said: "Relax". See this: Sovereign States

My best friend Lucille is Burmese. Her parents were Burmese rebels who along with many other students, scholars, and free thinkers fought back against the tyranny of the military dictatorship that has ruled the country for decades. Long story short, they fled being captured and killed by walking through the mountains and escaped into Thailand. (Flash forward 20+ years later.) A few years back, my wife and I met the charming little creep called Lucille at her work while shopping for spooky monster dresses. She was sad but cheerful at the same time and apparently surviving off of undercooked lentils and Batman cartoons. She realized that I made tasty food and had a steady supply of vodka and before we knew it she was at our flat everyday, just in time for dinner. Not long after that she brought over everything she owned and happily formed a nest in our dining room. We've all become a very close little family. Her mother always says "Without Violet, you dead." Life can be very strange sometimes.

Sadly, when you say the word Burma, most people have no clue what or where it is. It's a whole country. In South-East Asia. Between India and Thailand. People need to look at a map once in a while. It's a big world we live in. There's more than "Merica and that country below us with the tasty tacos and that country above us with all the hockey.  Burma has officially changed it's name to The Republic of Myanmar to escape the ill thoughts of bloodshed that people associate with Burma. The government may have changed the name but most of it's people haven't.

Anyways, this year on the 8th of August we decided to celebrate Burma and to pay homage the brave people fighting for freedom in the infamous 8888 Uprising and still today. I researched as much as possible on Burmese cuisine and racked Lucille's brain for her mothers recipes. I cooked a feast and made her a t-shirt based off the 8888 protest flags and then we watched the amazing film The Lady (2011) based on the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the Burmese National League for Democracy. I cooked all day in the sweltering summer heat and we ate until our stomachs nearly exploded. After dinner Lucille got teary eyed and said "It tasted like my mom's cooking." I was so glad everything turned out delicious. Not that I enjoy making Burmese girls cry (well, maybe sometimes) but I was excited to help her connect to the country that runs through her blood. Okay enough with the sentimentality. Let talk food, shall we?

I always cook with a martini in hand. Just in case.

Ngapi Kyeik (Shrimp paste condiment with fried garlic, scallion, and green chilies)
I was seriously surprised how much I like this condiment. It's salty and sour and not fishy at all. Hell, I'd put it on everything. Pizza, cheeseburgers, ice cream. Everything.

Thanhat (Cold cucumber salad with sesame and lime)
This salad was probably my least favorite dish I made. It was tasty but a little too sweet for my palate. Plus I hate when sesame seeds get stuck between my teeth. Then I spend the rest the night picking my at my mouth with a steak knife. It's dangerous. It was nice to have a cold refreshing bite while eating the other hot salty foods though. 

Ohn-No Khao Swè (Spicy coconut chicken curry over egg noodles)

My favorite dish of the night. It was super velvety and savory like a cozy poultry blanket. I kept calling it coco-sghetti (coconut spaghetti, get it?) because it was comfortable and familiar like a bowl of spaghetti but with Burmese flavors. Sourness from the lime and fresh coriander, salty from the fish sauce and chicken stock, spicy from the paprika and chili flakes, chickeny from the yummy chicken thighs, and a hint of sweetness from the coconut milk. I wanted to eat it forever until I die. So good.

Jet-U Jhet (Blistered hard-cooked eggs with chilies, tomato, and fish sauce)
Hardboiled eggs deep fried until the whites get all blistery and then simmered in a salty spicy tomato sauce. Hell yes. Sign me up. This was a perfect accompaniment for the Ohn-No Khao Swè. I loved the crackly skin of the eggs soaking up all the salty goodness. Yum.

So yeah, Burma is freaking delicious. I have a feeling I'll be cooking a lot more of it in my future.

Ohn-No Khao Swè (Coconut Chicken Noodle)
1 large white onion, halved and sliced
1 inch chunk of ginger, peeled & minced
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 shallots, minced
2 spring onions, sliced
16oz package egg noodles (I used these)
2lbs de-boned chicken thighs, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
14oz coconut milk
3 tablespoons chili flakes
3 tablespoons paprika
1 lime, sliced into wedges
2 eggs (I just used the eggs from the Jet-U Jhet)
2 cups chicken stock (or bouillon)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
crushed peanuts
peanut oil

Heat a 1 Tbsp peanut oil to a large saute pan over medium high heat,.

Add the white onion, garlic, ginger, and spring onions to the oil and cook until translucent (5 mins or so).

Transfer to a blender or food processor and pulse until it forms a paste.

Add another Tbsp of peanut oil to the hot pan and saute the chicken thighs (season with a little salt) until cooked through and slightly browned.

Stir in the chili flake and paprika and stir until fragrant (1 minute).

Add the onion paste and stir.

Whisk the chickpea flour with the chicken stock and then add to the pan. 

Add the fish sauce and coconut milk. 

Bring to a simmer and turn down the heat to medium. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour uncovered. Add water if it thickens too much. Season with more fish sauce if needed.

Meanwhile in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the noodles until soft. Drain.

Thinly slice the shallots and soak in a little cold water. Drain.

To serve place the egg noodles in bowl, then ladle the coconut chicken over. 

Top with the sliced shallots, Hard cooked eggs (cut in half), crushed peanuts, fresh coriander and lime wedges. 

Kan kaung ba zay! Good luck. xoxo