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Monday, November 12, 2012


What's the correct term for something or someone with origins in Myanmar? Myanmari? Myanmarese? Myanmarian? Fortunately, Burma is still an acceptable name for that country.

I must admit, I know remarkably little about the cuisine of Burma. I know it has significant influences from both China and India, but you could say the same for Singaporean or Malaysian food, and those seem remarkably different from Burmese cooking. 

Khausa. From Nikoz Fusion Grill, Sugarland, TX.
I first encountered Burmese cooking in the form of curry khausa, which apparently a pasta dish with two sauces - and spaghetti or fettucine are acceptable. Fortunately, Naomi Duguid recently published her book on the cooking of Burma, and from there, I learned that the predominant dishes are salads called thoke. There are myriad variants of thoke, as these are prepared from whatever ingredients are available - unlike the pampered First World, people of Burma don't necessarily have the luxury of on demand produce.

For Foodapalooza 2012, I decided to prepare my version of thoke. Near as I can tell, thoke carries a refreshing range of textures, and a blend of flavors that range from spicy to savory and a hint of herbal aroma.

I based the thoke on daikon radish. I shaved the daikon with a vegetable peeler into long "noodles", and did a quick 15 minute pickle with julienned ginger, salt, vinegar and sugar. While this was marinating, I prepared the rest of the ingredients: chopped cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, pan toasted peanuts, and a bit of sesame oil. Drained the daikon, tossed these together, and topped with a healthy dusting of bonito flakes* (katsuoboshi), and a fried lotus root chip. Tangy, crisp and crunchy.

Daikon thoke. Foodapalooza 2012 style.
* I originally wanted to use small dried anchovies for the umami component, but was cautioned that the small fish heads may freak people out. Katsuoboshi was a compromise. 

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