CULINARY TOUR OF MYANMAR
BURMESE RECIPES FOR TRADITIONAL FOODS
Review by Barb & Ron Kroll
Burma: Rivers of Flavor
(Random House Canada) ISBN 978-0307362162 0307362167
Whether you plan to travel to Myanmar, or you just want to learn about Burmese cuisine and food specialties, Naomi Duguid's cookbook is a must-read.
Her culinary tour of Myanmar immerses you in Burma's culture, history and food traditions, while providing recipes, cooking techniques and photos of ingredients, the country and its people.
Naomi Duguid organizes her 372-page book by meal courses (soups, salads, fish, meat and vegetarian main dishes and desserts), as well as ingredients (noodles, rice and sauces). She introduces each Burmese recipe with cooking tips, culinary history and serving suggestions.
For example, Duguid explains that peanut and rice porridge is a favorite of the Tai Koen people in the eastern Shan State. Burmese people like to eat it with cilantro leaves, chopped roasted peanuts, blanched pea tendrils, toasted sesame seeds and red chile oil.
Duguid's cookbook also includes information about how cooking and foods vary between regions in Myanmar. At the beginning of the chapter on chicken, the author notes that recipes come from Rakhine State (minced chicken with galangal and tomato), Shan State (chicken in tart garlic sauce) and Kachin State (chicken curry).
Other chapters feature Burmese recipes for traditional foods from Inle Lake (rice with garlic oil), Central Myanmar's Bamar majority (family ngapi shrimp paste sauce) and Karen State (hearty pork and vegetable soup). A map makes it easy to find the places where these delicious recipes originated.
Burma-Rivers of Flavor includes descriptions of regional cooking styles (e.g., Kachin people in northern Burma steam food in leaf-wrapped packages, while Rakhine cooks use more chiles to make spicy dishes).
In Myanmar, additional flavor is added to dishes with sauces (tart-sweet chile garlic sauce), oils (fried shallots and shallot oil), powders (toasted chickpea flour) and chutneys (tamarind chutney with shallots and dried chiles).
During her many Myanmar trips, the author collected recipes for the food specialities of Burma. The national dish is fermented tea leaf salad (laphet thoke). The recipe combines chopped tea leaves, cabbage, toasted sesame seeds, roasted peanuts and soybeans with garlic oil, soy sauce and lime juice.
Duguid also provides recipes for mohinga (West Coast mohinga and Rangoon mohinga). Part-stew, part-soup and made from rice noodles and beef or fish broth, mohinga is the traditional Burmese breakfast.
Stalls, tea shops and cafés serve mohinga, as well as other noodle dishes (egg noodles with pork and coconut sauce and seafood noodle stir-fry). Duguid's Burma book also includes other street food recipes, such as rice ah-boh crêpes with coconut milk filling, fried sesame seed bananas and donut rings in palm sugar syrup.
A glossary defines ingredients used in Myanmar's cuisine, such as ngan pyar yay (Burmese fish sauce), hog plum (a tart green fruit) and morning glory greens.
Herbs and spices
For hard-to-find ingredients, Naomi Duguid suggests substitutes. In her recipe for new potatoes with spiced shallot oil, she recommends substituting sorrel leaf, chopped tomatillos, green tomatoes or fresh lime juice for hibiscus buds.
Her cookbook also includes recipes for homemade five-spice powder and fermented soybean disks (tua nao), which are used to flavor curries, soups and salads.
Photos by Richard Jung and Naomi Duguid depict Myanmar's food, cooking techniques, markets, people, temples and scenery. This book entices you take your own culinary tours to enjoy Burmese cooking on location. A list of Burma books and travel information inserts (e.g., Chin State, a Mrauk U boat trip and Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State) help you plan your trip.
The Place and the People
Flavors and Dishes
- Burma Basics
- Mostly Vegetables
- Fish and Seafood
- Beef and Pork
- Condiments and Sauces
- Mostly Rice
- Sweet Treats
Travelling in Burma
Naomi Duguid is the author and co-author of several cookbooks, including Flatbreads & Flavors and Hot Sour Salty Sweet.