Coriander is the king of the herbs in Burmese cooking. It goes in everything; Mohinga noodles in the morning, curry for lunch, fish for dinner. So it makes sense that we made a very smart home for our coriander plant at home. It pals up nicely with the parsley, mint, celery perhaps. Always within easy reach and always impossibly chic.
Pair with our pestle and mortar, and Mimi Aye's recipe for Shan Noodles, generously shared below. Mimi is partly from Shan State so these noodles are particularly special to her. The recipe comes from her wonderful book, Mandalay and is a standard in our house. We've noodled on about these noodles before, and will do so again, because they are quite simply the best. They are the ultimate people pleaser of a dish. Enjoy!
Shan Noodles (Shan khao swè)
For the noodles
- small bunch of spring onions
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 ripe tomatoes or 200g tinned plum tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons groundnut oil or neutral-tasting oil
- 15g dried shrimp
- 400g minced pork or chicken (ideally thigh meat), or a 50:50 mix
- 1 tablespoon ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon mild chilli powder
- 400g dried narrow flat rice noodles or rice vermicelli
- 4 tablespoons sesame oil
- Handful of preserved mustard greens, chopped (available from Asian supermarkets)
- Handful of coriander leaves, shredded
- 4 tablespoons salted peanuts, crushed (optional)
- Handful of Thai- or Filipino-style pork rinds (optional)
- Handful of white cabbage, shredded (optional)
- Chilli oil/chilli crisp
As Burma is made up of 130 different ethnic groups, it means many of us can lay claim to a number of different cultures and cuisines. A large part of me is Shan, so I consider this dish from the mountainous Shan State as one of my heritage recipes. I like to make Shan noodles with a tomatoey sauce, while others prefer a clearer broth, but it should always be rich, savoury and sweet. Some people like to garnish their Shan noodles with crispy pork rinds (the airy type known as chicharron rather than pork scratchings) and crushed peanuts, which add another crunchy dimension.
Shred the green parts of the spring onions and set to one side. Trim the spring onion bulbs and put these and the white parts of the spring onions in a blender or food processor. Add the garlic and tomatoes to the blender and blitz to a smooth paste.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over a high heat and sauté the paste for 5 minutes until it starts to smell fragrant. Set to one side. Heat a dry frying pan (i.e. no oil or water) over a high heat. Add the shrimp and toast by tossing for 8–10 minutes, until charred, blackened and smelling smoky. Turn the heat down to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil along with the mince. Fry for another 10 minutes, breaking up any clumps, until the mince is browned. Add this mince and shrimp mix to the pan with the paste. Mix well and then add the pepper, fish sauce, sugar, paprika, chilli powder and 1 litre of water. Mix again, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, put the noodles in a large heatproof bowl and submerge with just-boiled water. After a minute, untangle the noodles, then leave to soak for another 8–10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold running water. Set to one side in the colander to allow the noodles to continue to drain.
When you’re ready to serve, reheat the noodles by placing the colander in your sink and pouring a kettleful of boiling water over them. Divide the noodles between four bowls and add a generous ladleful of the meat sauce and a tablespoon of the sesame oil to each bowl.
Top with mustard greens, reserved spring onion greens and shredded coriander leaves. Add a teaspoon of peanuts, a couple of pork rinds and some shredded white cabbage to each bowl if using. Serve immediately, with chopsticks and metal Chinese/Thai spoons, and chilli oil on the side.