Saturday, 13 October 2012

Burma: Rivers of Flavor

Rivers of Flavor
by Naomi Duguid

Hardcover, 384 pages

I absolutely love Naomi Duguid's cookbooks as they are as much about the place as the food. With Burma, we are introduced seduced by the exotic country that is nestled between China and India and shares a long border with Thailand. Its flavours are complex and compelling, and the book is filled with glorious photos of both the dishes and the people of Burma.

Chapters include:
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

Burma over Time
Traveling in Burma
Annotated Bibliography

It's more than a cookbook, it's an adventure. And it would make a wonderful holiday gift for anyone who has a love for the exotic.

Silky Shan Soup

as published in The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, Oct. 09 2012

At morning markets in Shan areas of Burma and northern Thailand, there is always at least one vendor selling this thick, smooth, pale yellow soup for breakfast, hot and enticing, often poured over fine rice vermicelli. On its own or over tender noodles, topped with chopped coriander or other fresh herbs, it’s comfort food par excellence.

Adapted from Burma, by Naomi Duguid.

    Servings: 4


1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
8 cups water, or more as needed
3/4 pound fresh rice vermicelli
1/2 cup chopped coriander

Optional toppings and condiments

About 1/2 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1/4 cup shallot oil (recipe below)
1/4 cup palm sugar water (recipe below)
2 tablespoons Red Chile Oil
1/4 cup Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce (recipe below)
1 cup or more chopped blanched pea tendrils
A handful of tender lettuce greens

Shallot Oil

1 cup peanut oil
2 cups shallots

Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce

1 cup packed dried red chiles
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup rice vinegar

Palm Sugar Water

1 cup water
3/4 cup chopped palm sugar (about 1/4 pound)


Soup: Combine the chickpea flour and salt in a medium bowl and add 2 cups of the water. Whisk well to blend and to get rid of any lumps. Set aside for the moment. Bring the remaining 6 cups water to a boil in a wide heavy pot, then lower the heat to medium-high. Whisk the chickpea mixture one more time, then, using a wooden spoon, stir continuously as you slowly add it to the boiling water; the liquid will foam at first. Lower the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring to ensure that the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pot. After about 5 minutes, the mixture will be smooth and silky, with a sheen to it, and thickened. Reduce the heat to low and continue stirring for another couple of minutes.

If serving noodles, bring a pot of water to a boil and toss in the noodles: Fresh ones will cook in 1 or 2 minutes; dried ones will take about 5 minutes. Lift the noodles out of the water and set aside.

Put out any or all of the suggested toppings and condiments. Serve the soup sprinkled with the coriander. Or, if serving the soup over noodles, place some noodles in each bowl, ladle the hot soup over, and sprinkle on the coriander.

Shallot Oil: Heat 1 cup of peanut oil over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Cook 2 cups of shallots slowly for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Drain shallots on paper towels and store shallots and oil separately in sealed containers.

Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce: Break the chiles in half, break off the stems, and empty out; if you wish, discard some or all of the seeds. Place the chile pieces in a small pot with the water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chiles are softened and have swelled up a little. If your garlic is young and fresh, add it for the last minute of cooking.

Combine the chiles and garlic with their liquid, the fish sauce, and sugar in a food processor, and process or grind to a coarse paste; scrape down the sides of the processor bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Add the vinegar and process again. Transfer to a clean, dry glass jar and store in the refrigerator, preferably for at least a day before using. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks. Makes about 1 3/4 cups

Palm Sugar Water:
Pour 1 cup water into a small heavy saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup chopped palm sugar (1/4 pound or so) and stir with a wooden spoon to help it dissolve as the water heats. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool, and store in a clean glass jar. Makes about 1 cup.

Photo credit: Dominic and Tashi Alford-Duguid
Naomi Duguid
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s four previous books have all been major award-winners. Flatbreads & Flavors and Hot Sour Salty Sweet both won the James Beard Cookbook of the Year Award (in 1996 and 2001 respectively). Seductions of Rice and HomeBaking, their most recent book, each won a Cuisine Canada Cookbook Award (in 1999 and 2004). Naomi and Jeffrey have written for all the major food magazines in Canada and the U.S., including Gourmet and Food & Wine, and also for the National Post. They live in Toronto with their two sons.