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Myanmar salad recipe for flowering salad leaves.
In February I went to visit my youngest daughter who is teaching in Myanmar for a year.
Before we went I was told by foodie friends that the stars of Burmese cookery were perfect for people wanting to eat in a more plant based way (though not vegetarian/vegan as you will see from the recipe below)
The thing that struck me most is that many of the salads were made from things that I would have regarded as either 'past it' or 'not edible'. The flowering stems - the 'gone to seed' stage - of mustards and kale were regarded as the best bit, the leaves and trailing vines of courgettes and pumpkins harvested as much as the fruit.
These are all things which I have plenty of in the garden, too much at times, but which I have never used for cooking.
Tourist travel within Myanmar is restricted but we visited Shan state, to the beautiful area around Inle Lake. We were able to visit markets and then to cook our produce at the wonderful Bamboo Delight Cookery School in Nyaung Shwe. The top photo shows a market stand - one of dozens selling the same home grown produce - here a flowering mustard green.
This photo is of a very similar bunch from my garden - one which I would have composted or fed to the rabbits. Now I make the following recipe.
Myanmar Greens Salad with crispy fried shallots.
This can be made with any tender greens - purple sprouting broccoli, kale, pumpkin leaves or any cabbagey green that has started flowering (mizuna, mustard, pack choi etc)
Burmese recipes use a few ingredients which we do not tend to have to hand - but which are easy to make and store.
1. Toasted chickpea flour - heat up a frying pan, add 8 table spoons of chickpea flour, reduce the heat and stir continuously until it begins to change colour. Make sure all the flour begins to toast. Do not let it burn. Leave to cool and put in a jar.
2. Crispy shallots/shallot oil - these are basically the same recipe separated out. Slice 5 or 6 shallots very finely and fry in 1 cup of peanut oil (or another flavourless vegetable oil) - you want them to gradually go brown and crispy, but not burn.
Take the shallots out of the oil and drain, store in a jar or storage box, then cool the oil and put into a different jar.
1 lb greens cut into manageable pieces that will fit in pan.
2 tbsp chopped peanuts (blitz in a food processor or chop very very finely)
1 tbsp toasted chickpea flour
1 tbsp shallot oil
1 tbsp sliced shallots soaked in water and drained
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp shrimp paste/1 tbsp shrimp powder - (powder more authentic but I had paste for Thai curries in the house already and it worked fine)
Fried crispy shallots
Bring a pan of water to a fierce boil - add the greens and cook very briefly - 3 minutes should be fine for most things, and fine stems take only a minute.
Drain, then when cool enough to handle, cut greens into 5 cm pieces and arrange in a shallow bowl.
Add the raw sliced shallots to greens.
Sprinkle on the shallot oil, lime juice, the chopped peanuts, the shrimp powder/paste and the chickpea flour and use your hands to massage them evenly and lightly into the greens.
Add fish sauce to taste then sprinkle with some crispy shallots to serve.
This can be served as a side dish or with rice as a light meal.
If I was going to alter this to make it vegetarian/vegan I would replace the fish sauce and shrimp with a mix of shiitake mushrooms, fermented beans and miso using this recipe from Alice Hart (it is in her New Vegetarian cookery book)