Myanmar Markets and Meals

tea leaf salad
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I’ve finally dived back into the photos from my trip to Myanmar and Thailand last fall. In this post, I’ll be focussing on the food and markets of Myanmar.

Mandalay

We arrived in Mandalay via Bangkok, and the second-largest city in Myanmar gave me my first taste of Burmese food. It was here that I first noticed a beautiful quality to the light, and here that I first tried Myanmar’s famous tea-leaf salad. Verdict: unique.

Bagan

On the boat from Mandalay to Bagan, we happened to run into another Canadian. I asked what she’d be doing in Bagan, and she told me about a cooking class she’d arranged via Facebook. It was called Pennywort Cooking Class, and May, the owner/chef/teacher puts part of the proceeds toward a community library run out of her house. I was intrigued. Since my travelling companion Alex and I had some upcoming free time, we decided to look into the cooking class.

Am I ever glad we ended up doing this. Accompanying May to her local (tourist-free) market and then walking over to her home to cook up a feast with all the fresh ingredients we’d just bought was a highlight of the entire trip. The meal was full of herbs and vegetables I’d never tried before, including tamarind leaves, wing beans, pennywort, and custard apples.

The Market

The Class

The Library at May’s House

When I asked if the library had opening hours, May said that technically it did, but she’s never turned anyone away no matter when they showed up.

Inle Lake

A unique set of communities live on this lake in Myanmar’s Shan State, in stilted houses only accessible by boat. We had the opportunity to take another cooking class here, but this time in very different, more formal context: a resort chef guided us through making some local dishes, including delicious chunks of shan tofu – made from split-pea and chickpea flours, instead of soy.

Later on during our stay, we visited Thaung To market, part of Inle Lake’s rotating five-day market system. We arrived early since it closed at 9am, and I spotted no other tourists. What an incredible experience. Apart from all the cellphones, I felt like I’d gone back in time. I forced myself to take photos of people — which I’m usually too shy to do — and I’m glad I did.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with two more things I ate in Myanmar: one I’d love to have again, and one that I did not enjoy. I’ll let you guess which is which.

Friendly Printing

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I love cooking, and I enjoy trying out recipes I find across the Web. When I see a recipe I want to make, I print it out and file it in one of my binders. Tragically, many recipe sites – including one of my favourites, Chocolate-Covered Katie (healthy vegan desserts; check it out!) – don’t have a function that lets you print out a recipe without the unneeded images, comments, navigation, header, and other extraneous bits that use up ink and paper.

Until recently, I’d always copy-paste each recipe into a Word document before printing, formatting it in my beloved Gill Sans font, and adjusting margins and font size to get it onto one page. This took up a fair amount of time.

My online Print Friendly bookmarkletrecipe life changed forever when someone pointed out that Print Friendly – makers of a WordPress plugin – also offer a browser bookmarklet that can be used to easily print anything on the web. It lets you do things like automatically remove graphics, shrink the font size, and hide any text you don’t need. Mind = blown.

Print Friendly also makes a WordPress plugin and offers an option for WordPress.com – though if you’re adding recipes to WordPress.com, I’d recommend using the recipe shortcode instead, which comes with a built-in print feature.

Printing out recipes may sound old school, and perhaps someday I’ll go digital. But for now, the Print Friendly bookmarklet is just the ticket, and has made my online recipe adventures even more pleasurable.

Print Friendly Modal Window

Cindy’s Caribbean Chicken Curry

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As some of you know, I work on the Theme Team at Automattic, helping WordPress users with all things theme-related.

We recently rolled out a new recipe shortcode which lets you easily add nicely formatted recipes to a WordPress.com blog, complete with a handy print button. (Food sites without a clean print feature drive me nuts!)

All you need to do is put your recipe between a special set of shortcode tags and you’re good to go. There are optional settings for the recipe title, time, difficulty, and servings.

Hearty kudos to my colleague Michael Cain for whipping up this treat for foodies everywhere to enjoy.

Cindy's Caribbean Chicken Curry

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

This is an original recipe from my friend Cindy. She’d never written it down before, but kindly put it together after serving me this yummy dish one night. I knew I’d be getting cravings for it – it was that good.

The stew is delicious with plain white rice but I like to serve it with coconut-scented Jamaican rice and red beans – Skinnytaste has a tasty version.

Hearty comfort food for a chilly night!

Step 1: Wash Chicken

3 lbs. chicken
Juice from one lemon

  • Make sure the chicken is skinless. Breast, leg, thigh, bone in, boneless, doesn’t matter. Personally I prefer leg and thigh, as the meat will not dry up as easily as with breast meat.
  • Wash the chicken in a colander until the water runs clear.
  • Squeeze the juice from one lemon over the chicken, and rub everywhere. Rinse chicken again in water, and then pat try with paper towels. (Don’t know why this step is done. Could just be a remnant of what people before refrigeration did. I did it once without the lemon step and it tasted different. So I continue to do it.)

Step 2: Make Marinade

1 medium onion
6-8 cloves garlic
1 tomato
Handful of cilantro
1 tbsp. black pepper

  • Process everything in a food processor until it’s a thick paste.

Step 3: Prep Chicken

1 tsp. yellow or dijon mustard
Salt and pepper

  • Put chicken a large bowl.
  • Salt chicken (don’t skimp) and pepper everywhere.
  • Add mustard and mix.
  • Add the marinade to chicken and toss to coat.
  • Take a knife and kinda stab the chicken in several spots to get the marinade in there.
  • Either cover bowl with plastic wrap or put chicken in zipper-lock bag.
  • Put chicken in fridge and let it marinate for at least 2 hours, or overnight if possible.

Step 4: Curry Slurry

2 heaping tbsp. curry – gunpowder, madras, or Jamaican curry powder if you can find it
1-2 tsp. turmeric – use more if your curry powder has less
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1 tbsp. mustard seeds

  • Heat large pan to medium heat.
  • Mix curry and turmeric in a small bowl and add enough water to make a thin paste. Mix well to create your curry slurry.
  • Add oil to hot pan.
  • Add fenugreek and mustard seeds.
  • When mustard seeds start popping, add the slurry.
  • Cook and stir the slurry until most of the water evaporates and the curry is darker in color. This may take a while.

Step 5: Preppin Mo’ Spices

1 tbsp. ginger paste – pound ginger in mortar and pestle or finely grate
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 chopped onion
Salt
1 hot pepper, finely chopped – traditionally it’s a scotch bonnet pepper, but jalapenos or another type of chili would work (optional)

  • Add ginger, coriander powder, and onion to slurry.
  • Add salt to taste.
  • Add a few drops of water if spice mix becomes too dry.
  • Add finely chopped hot pepper. Be verrrrrrrry careful when chopping them and use gloves if you have them, and be prepared to wash your hands a lot. If you are making this for people who don’t like spice, you can add the whole pepper (unchopped) to the stew while it’s cooking.

Step 6: Putting It All Together

Potatoes & carrots, chopped into chunks (optional)
Whole scotch bonnet or other hot pepper (optional)

  • When onions are soft, add chicken and toss all ingredients together. Cook for a few minutes with the lid on. The chicken will start to create its own juice within about 10 minutes.
  • Boil 2 cups of water.
  • Add potatoes and carrots if desired.
  • Add whole pepper if using.
  • Add enough boiling water to barely cover the chicken. You may not need all the water.
  • Once water comes to a simmer, put on the lid, and lower hear to medium low. Cook for 25-30 minutes, until vegetables are done.
  • When the chicken is tender, you can increase the heat to boil off some of the water, or if you’re good at mixing cornstarch to sauces, you can thicken up the gravy. I’ve never done it, cause I’m too scared.*

And you’re done!!

*Note from kp: if you try this, first mix 1-2 tsp. cornstarch well with cold water, then add the mixture to the pot.

If you blog on WordPress.com, feel free to give the recipe shortcode a whirl and let me know what you think. And if you try Cindy’s chicken, I hope you enjoy it!