Area: Over 675,000 sq km; 40th largest in the world
Slightly smaller than Texas
Population: Almost 54 million; 24th most in the world
People living with HIV/AIDS: 240,000; 25th most in the world
Name: Military authorities in Burma promote the name Myanmar instead
Diplomacy: The US and Burma do not have ambassadors to each other
Per capita income: $1400; 203/228 in the world
Source: CIA Factbook
When I e-mail the embassies, I have no idea what will come back. It is often an "address not found" or "mailbox full," but usually just nothing. So I was pleasantly surprised when I received this from Burma (I have edited only some of the spacing):
Dear Mr, Danielle,Different from the other embassies in that it does not include a recipe or even a specific dish, but a wealth of resources in the restaurants around. I had no idea there was so much Burmese cuisine in the DC area.
Thank you for interesting our Myanmar food recipes. We have four or five Myanmar restaurants around Washington DC. Here are the list and address –
Even though these are Myanmar restaurant, they tend to make the taste for local people.
Try to go there and taste our food. You can also asked them about recipes.
1) Myanmar Restaurant
7810 Lee Hwy
Falls Church, VA 22042
2) Burma Restaurant
740 6th St NW
(between N G Pl & N H St)
Washington, DC 20001
3) Mandalay Restaurant & Café
930 Bonifant St, Silver Spring MD20910 38.994131 -77.024837
(Btwn Fenton St & Georgia Ave)
4) Burma Road
617 S Frederick Ave
Gaithersburg, MD 20877(301) 963-1429
5) Taste of Burma
126 Edds Lane
Sterling, VA 20165
Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S St NW Washington DC, 20008
And yes, I was aware that they were also called Myanmar. I am using the Wikipedia list, however, and there it is under Burma.
I started looking up the restaurants on yelp and the general interwebs. There wasn't time to go to any of them before cooking, but I could see what people mentioned in the comments and what foods seemed universal. The first thing that caught my eye was Burmese Khao Suey. This is just one of many versions out there. However, many mentioned that this was the Indianized version of the Burmese dish. It was hard to tell what was authentic and what was just labeled "Burmese" the way we label "French" fries.
Then I found this recipe for Ohn-No-Kauk-Swe (Burmese Chicken Soup). It had similar ingredients to the Khao Suey, and at least this was from someone who said they lived in Burma. It was reverse engineered, and therefore perhaps lost something in translation, but it was supposed to taste like the real thing. I had my recipe!
Now...the ingredients. Some of them were a bit hard to find. Fish sauce. Chickpea flour. Coconut cream. I eventually found the first in Giant. In the comments, someone mentioned using hummus and corn starch for the chickpea flour, so I did that. I went to at least three stores looking for coconut cream. I found coconut water, coconut milk, coconut juice, coconut, coconut drink, and cream of coconut (sweetened version). No coconut cream. I decided to go with the milk, because Wikipedia told me that they were closely related. Recipe full of compromise.
On top of everything else, my parents and brothers were visiting! This seemed like a good meal to feed to a crowd, so it worked out. I doubled the recipe to accommodate everyone. I also had plenty of help. I started with the noodles and chicken while Kevin and Patrick handled the food processor.
|This was the closest I could find to "thin egg noodles."|
|Look at Patrick go!|
|Spelled differently than I am used to...|
|Tesla's new favorite place was under my mom's wheelchair.|
|Curie really likes small enclosed spaces.|
|Tesla wants to know why he can't join.|
|Kevin was slicing and dicing away.|
|Our solution for not being able to find the right lid.|
|Patrick wanted everyone to know how helpful he was.|
|Patrick even made us all try...something.|
|Super-full table, after adding all of the salad fixings.|
|Most of us didn't end up eating at the table.|
It didn't end up mattering, as everyone was pleased. The soup was delicious. It was full of rich flavor, and the ability to customize with the sides made everyone happy. Personally, I liked adding some lime, crushed red chilies, eggs, and a bit of fish sauce. Everyone had their own way.
My mother commented that it reminded her of Mrs. Grass's Noodle Soup, which I would have to agree. And since that was one of my favorites growing up, I can't complain.
The only change I would make is to add more chicken, but that may be a result of some of my substitutions. With the real ingredients, it would have been thicker, richer. Without that, it needed something to fill it out more. As it was, after a few rounds of leftovers, there was mostly just broth left because we had eaten all of the meat.
This dish definitely gets a high grade from me. So far I have been very lucky when cooking for other people. Will that continue? Only time will tell.
I plan to visit at least one of these restaurants, and perhaps try some more authentic Ohn-No-Kauk-Swe. This experience definitely makes me want to plan for this meal out soon.
Next time: Burundi