We introduced you to these guys back in the summer, when salads were on the mind. Well, here we are in deepest winter and they're BACK to take you to Burma in your minds, and through your taste buds.
A quick reminder...Amy and Emily are "two greedy sisters cooking traditional Burmese food". Obviously, we have a lot in common. They were born and bred in England but have Burmese heritage and have been wowing the crowds across London with their supper clubs for years (pre-covid), and since last Spring with their eponymous cook book. And lucky us, because they have indulged Sophie with lots of greedy questions. Here goes...
10 minutes with the Rangoon Sisters
Sophie: Hooray for sisters! I’ve got 4 of them, and work with one, and feel lucky about that every day. Have you always been great friends?
Emily: I think when we were children, the age gap seemed a huge gulf, but as we have grown older we have become better friends. We must work well together as the Rangoon Sisters has been successful. That said we do have our fair share of shouting at each other during events! What do you reckon Amy?
Amy: We have that sort of relationship which all siblings tend to have, the time spent together enjoying shared interests but also having the ability to know exactly how to annoy the other. We are a close-knit family though, always doing things together prior to Covid and having an active WhatsApp group with our Mum.
S: How on earth did you write the cookbook, whilst in full-time (…and full-on!) jobs (both are doctors!), and running families with young children?
E: Haha! Well fortunately because there are two of us, we could split the work. I was on maternity leave with my second baby, so although I was definitely busy with the children at least I didn't have work to distract me too. It's been nice to have that other outlet away from the day job as we have always been really enthusiastic about food!
S: You were both born and bred in London, but obviously your Burmese heritage courses through your veins! Do you feel more British or Burmese?
A: We are also part Chinese from our Dad so we are actually even more of a mix! It's a difficult question to answer and perhaps Emily will have a different viewpoint but having been born here, gone to school and worked here most of the time I feel very British. But of course that is also heavily influenced by our mixed heritage, which has affected what we cook, eat and our attitudes to certain cultures.
E: Agree…I always pick "mixed Asian other" on those diversity sections in questionnaires. Food definitely enables us to connect to our heritage and has helped us connect to others in the East Asian and South East Asian communities in the UK.
S: And which elements of your Burmese selves do you hope your children inherit?
E: Enthusiasm for food and cooking! And sharing food. In Myanmar I used to love lunchtime in the clinic (when volunteering with Medical Action Myanmar) when all of us would share our packed lunches and you got to try a variety of different things.
A: When I do eventually have children I hope they will be up for eating or trying anything and will help out in the kitchen!
S: Obviously you’re known for your Burmese food, but as foodies you no doubt cook all sorts of cuisines. Do you cook Burmese food most often at home, or is it just as common to find a carbonara on your kitchen table?
E: We do cook lots of different cuisines at home. I normally batch cook at weekends because of juggling work and my two small children, so undoubtedly a week's meals will include a bolognese, an Indian style curry and a pie. And of course we do have Burmese food, probably at least once per week. I often whip up a fridge forage of whatever leftovers and bits and bobs we have into a Burmese style salad with garlic oil, lime, toasted gram flour etc.
A: Growing up we always had quite a varied cuisine at home with both mum and dad cooking roast dinners alongside food of their heritage. Nowadays I can struggle to eat the same genre of food in one week which does annoy my husband a lot.
S: Hahaha…sounds like me! Although we’re probably pretty rare having Burmese in the mix. What sort of reaction do people have to your food at your supper clubs? Which are the dishes which have the whole table cooing? And which ones do people make polite noises about, but push around their plates?
A: Our diners love mohinga, which is why we always tend to put it on the menu. The bowls always come back licked clean! Otherwise, the curries always go down well and the fried snacks…but who doesn't love something fried? Honestly I don't think there is a lot our diners won't eat.
S: It’s very Burmese to over-cater. Do you end up eating leftovers for days after your supper clubs?
E: Definitely true for the first few events we did! We have managed to estimate quantities a bit better as time has gone on, though for the last supperclub I managed to order double the amount of noodles that we actually needed. Fortunately as they were dried and not cooked they kept my family going for several months!
S: And coronavirus notwithstanding, how often do you manage to go to Burma?
A: Definitely not as much as we'd like. We were lucky to have been there at the end of 2019 before all of this started. It would be great to be able to return because we do miss the food out there and exploring different regions and trying new things.
S: Do you have a big family over there who greet you with elaborate feasts when you get back?
A: Sadly we don't actually have any close family there anymore. There are some distant relatives, but because of the many years that passed before we all visited for the first time, we don't know them that well. However, we have experienced the kindness and great generosity of the Burmese people in general whenever we've been there, ever eager to invite you in for lahpet or tea or a snack, whilst also sending you away with a load of other food.
S: Is there a dish which even you two can’t make as well as your mum/granny/aunt?
E: I still think Grandma's Mohinga far surpasses any that I make.
A: Grandma just had this way of effortlessly whipping up curries which always turned out absolutely delicious. I wish I had that skill.
E: Her kyauk kyaw (coconut jelly) would always separate beautifully into two layers too…mine is always hit and miss.
S: And how much of that do you think is to do with the environment that you eat it in over there?
A: It definitely makes a difference. Somehow that first bowl of mohinga eaten in a bustling teashop is so much more special. It's the whole experience of eating that dish in its place of origin with all the smells and sounds which bring it to new heights.
S: Eating out is a huge part of Burmese culture. Which are your favourite teashops/restaurants in Yangon, and what do you order?
E: I love Shwe Yee. I used to order their ohn no khauk swe (coconut chicken noodles) on a Saturday morning. Plus all the delicious sweets they make on a platter.
A: My local teashop Sky Line in Yankin where I was staying the last time I was in Yangon was great. It served everything. I would go there in the mornings for coffee and ee char kway (fried dough sticks), maybe pick up an egg palata (flatbread) for lunch and then have nangyi thoke (noodle salad) for dinner.
S: When you fly home, what are your suitcases full of? (foodie or otherwise!)
E: Lahpet (tealeaf salad), also our favourite green tea which we buy at Shwe Yee teashop. Oh and dried shrimp - the best!
A: Maybe a bit of a strange one but we like collecting t-shirts. I was pleased to pick up one from Maungmagan Beach... and of course Myanmar Beer t-shirts!
S: I love the idea of you wearing them with your PJs, slurping mohinga. Amazing guys – well thank you so much for letting me into your sisterhood for a few minutes, and everyone, order their recipe book… it’s SO brilliant.