Our favourite Burmese salads

Our favourite Burmese salads

Burmese food is ALL about texture. The best dishes have crunchy peanuts, chewy fried shallots, fresh coriander and tons of different  flavours. There are curries and noodles and soups, fermented tealeaves, exotic vegetables and unique ingredients. There are over 135 ethnic groups in Burma and each has its own dishes, so a culinary tour of the country is a wild adventure. 

During my seven years living there I ate all-sorts. I didn't love the crickets, the pigs ears or the spleen-on-a-stick. I adore the national dish - mohinga - a fish noodle broth usually eaten for breakfast. And find me a fresher, more delicious salad than those i've had in Shan State, because in my book they are unbeatable.  

If you'd like to wow your guests, or perhaps just your own taste buds, here are two of my favourites. The recipes come from the Rangoon Sisters, and where lots of Burmese recipes rely on ingredients which are hard to find in the UK, the below salads are very easy to make with nothing that Tesco can't provide. All you need is a sharp knife. Enjoy!

Serve with steamed rice or Burmese Nan Bya (or nobody will notice if you cheat and use Naan bread..). 

ONE | Khayan Jin Thee Thoke - Tomato and Crunchy Peanut Salad

“This salad contrasts crunchy peanuts with vibrant fresh tomatoes. Use the best-quality tomatoes you can buy to get the most out of this dish. It is best made fresh on the day, and can be served as a side with one of our curries or just simply with some rice.”

Serves 4 as a side

50g unsalted roasted peanuts
300g tomatoes, at room temperature, quartered
green finger chilli, deseeded (optional) and finely sliced
1 tbsp dried shrimps (optional)
1–2 raw shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3–5 tbsp garlic oil
juice of ½ lime
2 tsp fish sauce (omit to make vegetarian, then season with salt)
small handful of coriander leaves
1 tsp gram flour, toasted
crispy fried shallots (shop-bought or see the recipe in their book), to garnish

Crush the peanuts using a pestle and mortar or pulse a few times in a food processor (to the size of the nubs you get in a shop-bought crunchy peanut butter).

Place the tomatoes, chilli, crushed peanuts and remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Ideally, do this with clean hands to fully combine all the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more fish sauce or chilli if necessary.

Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the crispy shallots.


TWO | Kyet Thar Thoke – Spiced Chicken Salad

"Here we cook the chicken fresh for this salad, but you could always make it using leftover roast chicken. We would recommend keeping the skin on the thighs when roasting them, because it keeps the flesh moist and adds a wonderful crispy texture to the salad."

Serves 4 as a main

4 chicken thighs, skin on
½ tsp tumeric powder
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chilli powder
pinch of salt
½ medium-sized white cabbage (about 450g), finely sliced
juice of 3 limes
5 tbsp garlic oil
5 tsp fish sauce
1 tsp chilli flakes
4 shallots, finely sliced

To serve
coriander leaves
chilli flakes
crispy fried shallots (shop-bought, or make the ones in their recipe book)

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Coat the chicken thighs with the spices and the salt and place on a baking tray in the oven. Roast for 35 minutes (check they are cooked by piercing them – the juices should run clear), then set aside to cool.

Roughly shred the chicken with a fork and knife and place in a large bowl.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the garnishes, and mix well.

When ready to serve, divide the salad among four plates, then garnish each with the coriander, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and a teaspoon of fried shallots. Serve immediately.


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