From Myanmar to Philippines
This is the fifth and the last part of my gastronomical journey through Southeast Asia, bringing to you some of the most popular, delicious and easy-to-make recipes of the region. In this instalment, we are going on a journey to Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the Philippines.
Cambodian cuisine, like in most countries in Southeast Asia, is a conglomerate of influences from the surrounding neighbours and evidence of its history of foreign occupation. Influences from China, France and India are evident along with borrowed methods and dishes from neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam. The staple foods in Cambodia are, of course, rice, freshwater fish and seafood.
In the Philippines, people greet others with ‘Have you eaten?’ rather than ‘How are you?’. Filipinos tend to eat heavy, with all three meals being quite extensive. They also have several snacks in between. They consume a lot of fish and other seafood and are extremely fond of eating with their hands.
Burmese (Myanmarese) cuisine is typified by a wide array of dishes, including curries, salads and soups traditionally eaten with rice. They also use noodles in many forms. The country’s diverse religions influence its cuisine as Buddhists avoid beef and Muslims pork.
I have chosen the recipes very carefully keeping in mind our Indian taste buds and availability of ingredients. So let us enjoy Cambodian, Filipino and Burmese dishes in the comfort of our own homes.
Buddha’s bowl is native to Cambodia and its empire — Khmer cuisine. It is the land of the monks and home to the world’s largest Vishnu temple. The star ingredients in this are coconut milk, peanuts and a medley of vegetables.
#For the sauce
Peanuts: ½ cup
Coconut milk: 1 cup
Red bird’s eye chillies: 3
Garlic: 4 cloves
Soya sauce: 2tbsp
Sugar: 2tsp, or according to taste
#For the stir fry
Broccoli florets: 1 cup
Green beans: ½ cup, chopped to
Onion: 1, chopped or sliced
Bell pepper: 1, diced
Edamame or peas: ¼ cup
Soya sauce: 3tbsp
• Heat 1tbsp oil and saute the tofu until brown on all sides. Remove and keep aside.
• Add a little more oil to the pan and saute onions for 2 minutes.
• Then add the beans, bell peppers, broccoli and peas. Saute for 2 minutes.
• Add the tofu, soya sauce and sugar and mix well.
#For the sauce
• Dry roast peanuts and red chillies on low heat. Cool. Put in the blender with garlic and a little water and blend to a coarse paste.
• Heat oil in the pan. Add the peanut mixture and cook on low flame for 2 minutes.
• Add coconut milk, soya sauce and sugar and cook for for 4 minutes till it becomes little thick.
• Add the peanut sauce to the vegetables and give it a good stir. lWarm it on a low flame for not more than 2 minutes. Serve with rice or noodles.
CAMBODIAN PINEAPPLE RICE
This is a very popular dish in Cambodia and can be made with any seafood of your choice or chicken. You can make it pure vegetarian also. Here, I am using prawns. It’s a very delicious and delicate dish.
Pineapple: 1 whole, cut into two halves
Cooking oil: 3tbsp
Prawns or shrimps: 350g
Salt and black pepper: To taste
Minced garlic: 1tbsp
Bird’s eye chillies: 3, chopped fine
Onions: ½ cup, chopped
Tomatoes: ¼ cup, chopped
Bell peppers: ¼ cup, chopped
Ginger: 1tbsp, minced
Fish sauce: 1tbsp
Chicken ham or pork ham: 2 slices, cut into strips
*Cooked rice: 3-4 cups
*Pineapple chunks: 1 cup (scooped from the halved pineapple)
*Cashews: ½ cup roasted
• Save any juices when scooping the pineapple. Cut the pineapple into chunks.
• Heat oil in a wok. Add prawns. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Stir fry till it changes colour. Remove and keep aside.
• To the oil in the wok, add ginger, garlic, chillies, onions, tomatoes and bell peppers. Add fish sauce and stir fry for a minute. Then add ham and stir fry for ½ minute.•lAdd rice and the pineapple juice. Stir fry for a minute.
• Finally add pineapple chunks, prawns and cashews. Stir fry for a minute. Adjust the seasonings.
• Ladle the rice into the hollowed pineapple halves. Sprinkle with green spring onions chopped fine.
CAMBODIAN PRAWN AMOK
This prawn curry known as amok, hails from Cambodia. With a home-made curry paste and coconut milk, it is super fragrant and extremely tasty. This dish can be made with fish too.
#For the curry paste (blend fine)
Lemongrass stalks: 2, finely chopped
Garlic: 4 cloves
Lime zest: Of 1 lime
Onion: 1, chopped
Red bird’s eye chillies: 2
#For the curry
Pak choi: 1, stalks and leaves separated
Coconut milk: 1 tin
Fish sauce: ½tbsp
Prawns: 500g uncooked
Mint leaves: A small handful, chopped
Basil leaves: 25g
Jasmine rice: To serve
• Heat oil in a wok. Add the curry paste and stir fry for 1 minute.
• Add the cut stalks of the pak choi. Stir fry for 1 minute.
• Pour the coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes on low flame.
• Add fish sauce, sugar and prawns. Cook for 5 minutes until the prawns are done.
•Then turn off the heat and add pak choi leaves, mint and basil.
• Serve the curry with rice.
OHN NO KHAUK SWE (Chicken with noodles and coconut)
This Burmese dish is comfort food for the people of Myanmar. We are all familiar with the very popular Burmese khowsuey. (I have given the recipe earlier and it is on YouTube also.) This dish is not soupy, but somewhat similar to it and with fewer ingredients.
Chicken: 1 whole, cut into bite-size pieces with bone
Flat rice noodles: 500g
Onions: 3, chopped
Ginger: 1tbsp, chopped
Garlic: 7 cloves, chopped
Turmeric powder: 1½tsp
Chilli powder: 1tbsp
Fish sauce: 2tbsp
Chickpea flour: 2tbsp
Diluted coconut milk:
2 cups (1 cup coconut milk with 1 cup water)
Thick coconut milk: 1 cup
Shrimp paste: 1tsp (optional)
Lemon juice: Of 2 lemons
Coriander leaves, chopped
Crispy noodles (Boil egg noodles. When cool, coat it with white flour and then deep fry.)
• Boil the noodles. Rinse it and then oil it.
• Marinate chicken with turmeric and fish sauce.
• Blend onions, garlic and ginger with 1tbsp fish sauce, shrimp paste and 1tsp turmeric in a blender to make a smooth paste.
• Heat ½ cup oil in a pan and put the blended ingredients and cook till golden.
• Add chicken and saute till nice and brown. Then add chilli powder.
• Put chickpea flour in diluted coconut milk and put it in the pan. Stir well. Cover and simmer till the chicken is cooked.
• Now add the thick coconut milk and give it a nice stir. Cook for another few minutes.
• To serve, in a bowl put the noodles first. Then put the chicken over it. After that add the condiments. You will have a perfect bowl of chicken noodles.
Filipino Chicken Adobo is the national dish of the Philippines. It must be made with chicken thighs only. No other cut would be authentic enough. The sauce is sticky and amazing with a burst of flavours. You can substitute chicken with pork or beef.
Chicken: 750g, thighs, boneless
#For the marinade
Garlic: 4 cloves
Light soya sauce: 1/3 cup
White vinegar: 1/3 cup + 2tbsp
Bay leaves: 4
Garlic: 4 cloves, minced
Onion: 1, chopped
Water: 1½ cups
Brown sugar: 2tbsp
Black pepper: 2tsp coarsely cracked
Green onions: 2, chopped finely for garnish
Red bird’s eye chillies: 2, chopped for garnish (optional)
• Combine chicken and marinade in a bowl and marinate it for at least 20 minutes or overnight.
• Heat 1tbsp oil in a skillet over high heat. Remove chicken pieces from the marinade (reserve marinade) and place in the pan. Sear both the sides until browned. Do not cook the chicken all the way through. Then remove the chicken and keep it aside.
• Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add garlic and onion. Cook for 2 minutes.
• Add the reserved marinade, water, sugar and black pepper. Bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
• Add chicken and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. After 15 minutes turn the chicken. Cook till the sauce reduces down to a thick jam-like syrup.
•Sprinkle spring onions and red chillies over the chicken. Serve with hot steaming rice.
BURMESE SPICY FISH CURRY (Fish Seebiyan)
This Burmese fish dish is bound to tickle your taste buds. It is commonly made in most households and is comfort food at its best. It has few ingredients but lots of flavour. You will want to make it again and again.
Fish: 500g, of your choice. I have used rohu.
Red chilli paste: 3tbsp (Soak 6 dry red chillies in water and then blend to a fine paste. You can also use ready chilli paste according to taste.)
Garlic paste: 2tsp
Onions: 2, chopped
Tomatoes: 4, chopped
Coriander leaves: 1 medium bunch chopped
Salt: To taste
Red chilli powder: 1tsp
Turmeric powder: 1tsp
Salt: To taste
• Marinate the fish with red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt.
• Heat about 2tbsp oil in a pan and shallow fry the marinated fish for 2 minutes. Do not cook it fully and keep aside.
• In the same pan add the garlic and saute for a minute and then add the onions and cook till it becomes light golden.
• Then add the red chilli paste according to how much heat you can take.
• When the oil surfaces, it’s time to add the tomatoes. Stir-fry nicely till the tomatoes and onions are blended well. Now add 1½ cup of water and cover and cook for about 7 minutes on low heat.
• The gravy by this time will be nicely blended and slightly thick. It’s time to add the fish pieces. They should be submerged in the gravy. Do not stir. Cover the pot and cook for 5-7 minutes on low fire till the fish is cooked through. Garnish with a good amount of coriander leaves and serve hot with steaming rice.
BURMESE PRAWN CURRY
Extremely delicious and quick to make, this Burmese prawn curry will be a hit with your family. You just can’t go wrong with this recipe.
Onions: 3 medium, chopped
Garlic: 10 cloves, minced
Ginger: 1-inch piece, minced
Coriander stalks and leaves:
½ bunch, chopped separately
Chilli powder: 2tsp
Fish sauce: 2tbsp
Coconut milk: 50ml
Prawns: 600g, peeled and deveined
• Heat oil in a wok or pan over medium-high heat and saute onions till they become light golden.
• Then add ginger and garlic paste. Add stalks of coriander and fry for a minute or so. Then add paprika, chilli powder, turmeric and coconut milk. Finally add the fish sauce and the prawns.
• Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until the prawns are cooked through.
• Serve hot on steamed rice and garnish with coriander leaves.
Durri Bhalla is a cookery expert and author of Indian Bohra Cuisine and Inner Truth To Good Health And Weight Loss. You can find her at @DurriBhallaKitchen on Instagram, Durri's Kitchen on Facebook and Durri Bhalla on YouTube