Monday, September 25, 2017

The flavour of Inle

I’m a big fan of all types of Shan food, and among my favourites is Inle-style Shan tamin, consisting of rice and potato cakes mixed with fish and tomato salsa.

By wrapping the rice packs in banana leaves and heating them, you can infuse the rice with the aroma of the leaves. The texture of the fluffy fish will melt between the spicy and tangy tomato salsa, further enhancing the flavours.

Inle-style Shan tamin

INGREDIENTS

(6 servings)

2 cups of Shan rice

8 big ripe tomatoes

4 big potatoes

300-400g of carp fish (nga gyin)

2 plants of Shan coriander

2 spring onions

¼ cup of chopped coriander

5-6 small green chilies

12-14 cloves of garlic (crush two; slice the rest evenly)

½ teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/8 teaspoon of paprika

1¼ cup of vegetable oil for garlic oil

11/3 tablespoons of fish sauce

PREPARATION

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or by using the evaporation method. I suggest adding ¼ cup of extra water to make the rice a bit mushy. When cooked, transfer the rice into a big bowl and allow to cool.

Marinate the fish with ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1 teaspoon of fish sauce.

Wash and boil the potatoes until they are cooked through. Cool them, peel the skins and set aside.

Make the garlic oil (si chet) by heating 1 cup of oil in a wok over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, add ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder and 1/8 teaspoon of paprika. Stir until the aroma is released. Add the garlic slices and fry until they turn golden brown. Separate the garlic from the oil and allow both to completely cool, then mix them together again.

Pour ¼ cup of garlic oil into a big metal bowl; add 1/3 of the rice, 1/3 of the potatoes and another teaspoon of garlic oil; and mash them together. You can use your hands or potatoes masher.

When all the ingredients are well-mixed, add another 1/3 of the rice and potatoes and mix again, and repeat the process until everything is mashed together. Salt to taste. The ingredients should be well-combined and sticky.

Lay out 2 banana leaves as a cross (at least 20cm by 16cm) and brush si chet on them. Take a handful of the rice and potato mixture, form it into a ball and place it into the middle of the banana leaves.

Fold the edges of the banana leaves into the middle and wrap them as a parcel, securing it with toothpicks on the top. You should get about eight parcels. (For detailed instructions on making the parcels, visit the “Phyo’s Cooking Adventure” page on Facebook.)

Cook the fish in a saucepan with 1 cup of water, Shan coriander and a couple of spring onions. When cooked through, allow to cool, remove the bones and mash the fish. Discard the coriander, fish skin, spring onions and bones. Set the fish aside.

Add ¼ cup of vegetable oil into a frying pan, and fry the fish with the crushed garlic. Break up the fish with a wooden spoon and stir well. It should be soft, fluffy and moist.

Boil the tomatoes, removing the skin and finely dicing them. Cook the tomatoes in a saucepan — along with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, chopped coriander and green chilies — until the liquid evaporates.

Heat the banana-leaf rice parcels over medium-to-low heat. Don’t burn the banana leaves, but allow them to change into a darker colour so their aroma seeps into the rice.

Place the rice on a plate and sprinkle the fish and tomato salsa on the top. Garnish with fresh chive roots (juu myit), coriander and fried red chilies.

Serve with fried Shan tofu, pickled tofu (si tofu), spicy soybeans chips, roasted peanuts and mixed pickled vegetables (sone tha nat).

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