This is the first of a series of Guest Blogs. Each Guest will contribute an occasional posting to MYANMORE.
We thank them very much for their contributions. Our first guest blogger is Juan Gallardo, from Seville, Spain, who is a passionate travel photographer and food blogger. He presently resides in Yangon and runs the website Myanmar Travel Essentials.
If Asian food is one of the best and most varied in the world, imagine a country with its own delicious cuisine plus a healthy dose of Asian ingredients and cooking styles. Burmese cuisine is also very healthy, favouring fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as fish products like fish sauce and fish paste and fermented seafood.
Shan State is one of the most popular States in Myanmar for tourists, not only because of its cuisine, but also because of the different attraction it offers. It is located in the Middle Eastern part of Myanmar, and its capital Taunggyi is famous for the Hot-air Balloon Festival.
For adventurers, Hsipaw and Kalaw are two great cities to be in touch with nature and do trekking while Kakku Pagodas are the must see religious site.
Back to the food, here are 3 of the most popular and authentic Shan State dishes:
1- Shan Noodles
Shan noodles are one of the most popular dishes in Myanmar. You will find them in every teahouse and restaurant. You can have them either as a soup or as a salad, and in both cases the sauce is the same. The noodles are different. The ones used for the soup are sticky and flat rice noodles, whether the ones used for the salad are thick and round rice noodles.
To prepare the sauce, they blend tomatoes and then add salt, sugar, oil, sugar cane sauce and paprika. Then everything goes in a pot to boil.
The ingredients for the soup are: Boiling water, flat sticky rice noodle, tomato sauce, salt, sugar, sugar cane sauce, fermented soy bean powder, oil-garlic-turmeric sauce, spring onions and coriander.
The ingredients for the salad are: Thick rice noodle, tomato sauce, salt, sugar, sugar cane sauce, cooked bean powder (Dah), oil-garlic-turmeric sauce, spring onions and coriander.
2- Shan Yellow Rice Cake with Tomato Sauce
This is one of the dishes I tried on my first visit to Myanmar. It stuck with me and I definitely had to learn how to cook it. It’s so good!
For cooking the rice there is no trick, just wash it, add water, turmeric powder for the yellow colour, salt and a little bit of chicken powder.
There are two different tomato sauces, one to mix with the rice and another one to put on top of the rice cake.
For the first one, cut tomatoes in half, add salt and cook them in a pot until you have a sauce. Leave to cool. Remove the tomato skin. Then you stir the yellow rice to make it a little bit sticky and mix it with this tomato sauce. Before pouring all the tomato sauce, separate some in a bowl and add turmeric oil. Use this mix to wet your hands and season the rice cake while you shape it.
The second tomato sauce to add on top of the cake is the key. To prepare it, heat oil and add onions, garlic, fermented soya bean powder, dried chilli powder and turmeric powder. Then add grained tomatoes, salt and chicken powder. At this point you can also add coriander or spring onion and chicken or pork.
There is always another side sauce to add on top of the cake, turmeric and garlic sauce. Just heat oil, fry garlic and then add turmeric powder. I love this crunchy-garlic touch! And any cracker like pork skin, bean or rice goes perfectly with this dish.
3- Black Sesame Seed and Sticky Rice Cake (Khor Poat)
This is a very traditional snack in Shan State made with purple rice, black and round sesame seeds and salt.
It is really interesting to see how they prepare it. They place the cooked rice into a stone “bowl” situated in the ground and add black round sesame seeds (already mashed) and salt. Then there is a “wooden machine” that will smash and mix it making a dough. And this is it.
To sell it, they separate the dough into small portions of the same size and wrap it in banana leaf so it doesn’t dry.
The most popular and tasty ways of having it are fried or barbequed, although you can also eat it raw. It is usually eaten in winter and served with brown sugar or jaggery on the side. It only costs between 100-200 kyats ($0.1 – 0.2).
Next time you are in Shan State, don’t forget to try these delicious dishes and enjoy them as I did. And if you love food and Myanmar as much as I do, check out my book Delicious Myanmar to discover this amazing country through its People and Food.