Curry Butter Roast Turkey this Thanksgiving, anyone?
D: Why don’t you do a curry butter?
D: Curry butter. Roasted chicken with Curry butter.
(using his hands to announce the new dish on the marquee in the air)
D: Make a compound butter with curry. Stick it in the chicken and roast it!
Me: Oooooooh!!! That's a great idea! Thanks, bro! I can take some spices and herbs and create a compound butter. This will be a great option to the already simple and amazing lemongrass chicken I already serve. I can make a compound butter out of that: lemongrass, garlic, cilantro.
Just a simple question can get my mind racing!
I was helping my friend David with a catering delivery when he suggested this idea. We will often talk shop in the car on the way to and from deliveries. I love asking him for advice and recipes. As a classically trained chef and a family trained chef he has the advantage of being able to refine and expand simple dishes.
As he posed his question, it got my heart and my mind racing. Wow! Just imagine the possibilities. Compound butter layered between the skin and meat on a chicken. A pat of herbed compound butter on a nicely cooked steak. Compound butter with flaky roti paratha or even a piece of any warm bread. Mashed potatoes with herbed compound butter. Spaghetti with compound butter sauce.
This is going beyond any interpretation of Burmese food, I could think of.
Here's my recipe for curry butter:
Kaffir Lime and Ginger Compound butter
1 stick unsalted butter room temperature
1 Tbsp minced kaffir lime (fresh or frozen)
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
combine all ingredients well
wrap up butter and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use
Watch how Martha wraps up her compound butter.
Anyone want to try this for Thanksgiving?
I just spent 2 hours this weekend practicing Mandarin at a Meetup. My jaw and my mind is tired. What a wonderful experience. So fun.
Learning a new language can be hard. Especially if you've never been taught. That was my experience with Burmese. My parents never taught me Burmese. It was their secret language. They would use it to talk in front of us kids without us understanding. They would use it to talk stink about Chinese people in front of Chinese people. Aren't they sneaky?
The secret language could only be kept secret for so long. They spoke Burmese with each other and to their siblings and friends. They taught us a few words here and there. Ohno kao swe, mohinga, tamin. All the words pertaining to food. You could never go hungry,am I right? Oh yeah, and also the word for hungry.
I remember one day, they were talking about having to go out but were worried about leaving my sister and I at home for a few hours. This conversation was in Burmese and in front of our faces. I understood them completely and I responded in broken Burmese using the words I knew. They were shocked and a little proud. From then on they told everyone to be careful because I could understand Burmese.
I never spoke Burmese with them regularly. Not like how my uncles and aunts spoke to their kids. Chinese was spoken at home. English outside the house. So imagine the trouble I had on my last trip to Burma visiting my parents. I got by speaking Chinese and English with my parents and their friends and family.
I was introduced for the first time to a “cousin” my age who didn't speak any kind of Chinese and wasn't confident in speaking English. Only Burmese for him. I spent a month hanging out with my cousin. He took me all over Yangon and all over Burma. He looked out for me and made me feel like I was at home.
Remember how I told you I was never really taught Burmese? It's true. I had the vocabulary of a child. I had to cobble together basic words to make sentences that hopefully he could understand. I used the simple words to describe more complex words that I didn't know. And I used English as a last resort. For the first week or so, my brain was fried after hanging out with my cousin. My brain would search every file to push out a word, then another until a whole sentence came out. Sometimes the word would be translated in my head from Hokkien to Mandarin to Cantonese to Spanish. And it still wouldn't come out! It was frustrating how I could recognize the word in Burmese if it were spoken, but the word could not be retrieved on command!
But with all things, practice makes perfect. Or makes it easier at least. My ease with Burmese would be put to the test over the next week. Towards the end of my stay, we took a trip up north on what I'll translate directly as a “pagoda pilgrimage.” It was the most economical way to tour Burma. It involved a 20 year old Japanese made tour bus and 50 or so Burmese from Yangon. I was quiet most of the time on the bus as to not give myself away. Although I'm sure they all could tell I wasn't a local. My cousin shielded me from most direct questioning especially by government workers at different checkpoints.
At one stop, while we were waiting for the guides, a woman was speaking directly to me. My cousin wasn't right there to answer her. The woman repeated herself a few times because I didn't even realize she was talking to me. She must have thought I was deaf because I didn't understand what she was asking me. Finally she asked me if I spoke Burmese. A question I did understand and could answer.
We made it up north to Shan state and back. It only took 2 extra days with the old bus breaking down so much. I had plenty of practice speaking Burmese on that trip and throughout my stay. I wonder how long it would take me to become fluent if I lived there? If I took some classes, I'm guessing less than a year. How long for these circles, lines and dots to make sense? I need a little more time.
Anyone want to learn a secret language with me?
Now that Fall is in full swing, our days are shorter and the weather is colder. As the seasons change, we change with it. Our daily routines change. We get to sleep an hour more. Just at a time when our bodies naturally want to stay in bed an hour longer and go to sleep a little bit earlier.
As night comes sooner, it becomes so much easier to just Netflix and Chill. (Even if it's just chillin by ourselves.) It’s starting to get dark by the time most of us get home. No one wants to cook in the dark. But everyone wants to eat food that will keep the cold out. Hearty soups with crusty bread, casseroles and chunky stews. Now is the time to stock up. Stock up on the things that allow us to enjoy our time in the house. It’s time to stock up on snacks and other essentials.
5 Ways to Make Cooking in the Dark Easier:
Shop, prep and cook on weekends/days off and during daylight.
Your slow cooker is your friend. Think: Chili, Stews, Curries, Braises.
Make big pots of a lot of things. (soup, stock, stews, sauces) Make a day of it. Then freeze them in smaller portions.
Roast seasonal veggies once a week. In season now: all Squash, pumpkin especially, leeks, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, root vegetables (turnips, radishes, sweet potato)
3 Ways to Step Up your Snack Game
- Make your own popcorn and seasoning mix.
- Have 2 flavors of ice cream in the freezer. Make one you want to make hot chocolate floats with.
- Freshly. Baked. Cookies. Make the dough ahead of time and in large batches to freeze. Dark chocolate chips are my new fav! Or just keep some store bought cookie dough in the freezer.
As the holidays approach, I hope you can take some time out for yourself. There's nothing as meditative as cooking. It's also a great way to catch up with friends and family during this busy holiday season. Let me know how it goes.
Lately, I've been searching for meaning and value and purpose in my life. Heavy stuff I know. But for me 40 has a foot in the door ready to come in. I can't deny that turning 40 is a big deal for me. It is. I've been grappling with my self worth + value. My accomplishments and failures and failures to act. Of all 3 categories I’ve had a lot.
All this year, I've been slowly kicking around the questions: what is most valuable to me, where do I find joy, what makes me excited, what is fun, what comes naturally and easily? Of all the things I've done so far this year, I love teaching cooking classes. Yes, I've only been teaching a short time, but each time I teach a class, I feel great! I love sharing my story, sharing my life with others. I love getting to know people in an intimate setting. I love the casualness of our environment. I love sharing this food that reminds me of home and family.
From here on out, I will be focused on building up my cooking classes. I will be introducing recipes and different classes. The first class is Ohno Kao Swe / coconut curry chicken noodles. The feedback I’ve gotten so far has been positive. I will be putting together a vegan cooking class as well. The vegan class will include 2-3 dishes that I've made vegan or was originally vegan. On the meaty side of the menu, I will put together a roasting and braising class for stews and curries. I hope to have you in one of my classes because I want to share Burmese food with you. I look forward to seeing you soon.
The first time I went to Burma was when I was about 15 years old. The second and last time I went to Burma I was about 30. I’d like my next trip to Burma to be much sooner than every 15 years.
I have no connection to Burma only that my parents were born and raised there. Burma was a far off mystical land. It was used as a threat. As in, we were threatened to be sent there as punishment. It was as elusive and mysterious and poor as the commercials charities in America use to depict the entire continent of Africa. (Not a fair comparison.) Burma was our Africa. Finish your dinner, there are kids starving in Burma….and in Africa!
When my parents announced that we were going to Asia for summer vacation, we were thrilled! First time to Taiwan. First time to Thailand. First time to Burma. Excitement, fear, hope, wonder, surprise. All emotions I was feeling getting on that first transpacific flight.
What did I expect on this trip? I don’t know. What I experienced was….
Hot. Hot and more hot. Taiwan was so hot. Why do I feel like I’m melting? Thailand was hot too. Tom yum on the street. Spicy, sour, hot and delicious. Smells of car exhaust and grilled meat swirling in the air together. You've never experienced traffic like Bangkok traffic. Manhattan traffic is a breeze compared to Bangkok.
Growing up in California, where humidity does not exist, we did not know how to deal. How do you breathe in this thick hot air? After years in NYC, I'm ready for any weather now. But back then, humidity + high temperatures + walking anywhere outside = not happy travellers.
Compared to Taiwan and Thailand, Burma was hot and under developed. Like a sleepy medieval village in Provence in the summer. Both had gorgeous landscapes and friendly, gracious people. Burma had a bustling city in Rangoon. It had thousands of pagodas on deep red earth in Bagan. It had cool mountain towns in Shan State.
A lot of firsts on that trip. First time using a squat toilet. First time taking a bucket shower. Where a huge container is filled up with trickling water. You bathe by pouring bowlfuls of water over you. First time using an outhouse in the countryside. A little scary when you’ve just learned the squat toilet and the drop below looks at least four feet down. First time sleeping inside a mosquito net. Doesn’t work that well when there is a mosquito on the inside of the net. First time in a Buddhist temple. So much gold! First time wearing a longyi. (Burmese sarong) Gotta master the cinch at the waist! First time meeting “aunties” and “uncles” who never left Burma. First time eating the best Burmese food ever. I still remember eating the tastiest curried shrimp of my life. They were so big only 2 shrimp came in one order. First time eating mohinga from a roadside stall. That’s when my sister and I were going to dump the hard boiled egg from our bowls because it had too much cholesterol. But the eggs were intercepted by our day trip driver who looked at what we were about to do in disbelief.
Looking back on our first Asia trip, I was humbled and awed and awaked to how we lived and grew up compared to how others in the world lived. There’s always an appreciation for life and the way of life of others and our own after spending time abroad. I’m always grateful for the opportunity to travel and to experience how others live.
Hey there! It's Eugene at Burma Noodle Bar. I'd like to announce the launch of Burma Blog. I'd like Burma Blog to be a place that you and I can get to know each other. A place where I share my thoughts with you, and you share your thoughts with me. Thoughts on recipes, upcoming events, projects, new dish ideas, hosting ideas+design.
We are social creatures who need the companionship of others. At Burma Noodle Bar, our entire existence is to "bring people together over Burmese food." With this blog, I'd like to encourage you to bring people together at your house, over your food. (It would be cool if the food was catered through Burma Noodle Bar sometime.) However you choose to host a gathering is up to you. I'd like to help make hosting, planning and cooking as easy as possible.
For those of you interested in cooking and want to learn some Burmese dishes, I will be sharing recipes with you. These will be the same recipes that I use in house here at Burma Noodle Bar. For those of you who are interested in joining me for cooking classes, I will be making them available for purchase through the website soon. For those of you who can't join us, I will be making cooking videos. This way you can still join us no matter where in the world you are.
I hope you will join me as I post some thoughts, ideas and suggestions. I look forward to getting to know you. Please send me your questions, wishes and wants in the comments section or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org