Cooking with the locals in Myanmar
Just as cross border influence is inevitable in economics and politics, it is clearly visible in Burmese cooking. China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and India all play their part. Any visitor to Myanmar cannot fail to come across food production and that locally produced food can be enjoyed in local restaurants and hotels throughout the country. The truly local restaurants can be very heavy handed on the use of dried fish paste which is too much for most Western palates and standards of hygiene are variable so on my recent visit we turned to one of the best ‘high end’ restaurants, The Green Elephant, to show us how great Burmese dishes are prepared. The chefs there use traditional Burmese recipes but have the experience of serving visitors to the country for many years to modify some of them.
Away from the temples and pagodas of Bagan, on the terrace of a stylish modern-built but traditionally influenced private house the chefs set up their wares and the ingredients. And in the shade, a table was prepared where we would eat.
Peanut oil is largely used in a wok as the starting point of many dishes with peanuts an important crop. The curries are mild as they are prepared more as masalas with the heat added later by the individual as a condiment added at the table to taste. The lentil soup (peh-hin-ye) sometimes other soups often with noodles and of course rice are the main accompaniments. Chicken and fish are the more common than goat, pork and beef partly due to Buddhist sensibilities and partly due to availability. Green tea grown predominantly in the hill country of Shan State is a good digestive.