We’ve mentioned before that by total fluke, during this challenge we’ve cooked Welsh food on St David’s Day, Irish for St Patrick’s Day and Chinese just in time for Chinese New Year. Well, for this Easter weekend, we’ve ended up ‘in’ Myanmar. ‘What does that have to do with anything?’ you may ask, which would be a fair question, but hopefully the answer will become clear when we tell you that the key ingredient of our Burmese dish was eggs, which seemed very fitting for the occasion.
When we first researched Burmese food, we found that the national dish was some sort of catfish stew, which, honestly, didn’t excite us. Nor did the fact that it involved ingredients we weren’t sure we’d be able to find: not just catfish, but also banana trunk – we’re not even sure exactly what that is, let along where to get it. Fortunately, we were able to turn to our trusty Bought, Borrowed & Stolen by Allegra McEvedy, where we found not only a recipe for Duck Egg Curry, but also Tin-Baw-Thee Thoat (feisty pickled cabbage salad). We’ve never made a bad recipe from this book, so knew we were in safe hands.
Tin-Baw-Thee Thoat (feisty pickled cabbage salad)
(The original recipe also made crispy deep-fried shallot rings, which we’d already chosen to omit, but then realised we had so many leftover from the duck egg curry we used some of them anyway.)
125ml rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
3 bird’s eye chillies, seeds in and sliced
350g fresh white cabbage, cut into thickish slices
3 spring onions, sliced diagonally
1/3 cucumber, diced
Handful of mint, roughly chopped
Big handful of peanuts, finely chopped
Soy sauce (optional)
1. Put the vinegar into a wide pan over a high heat and add 60ml of water, the sugar, chillies and a pinch of salt. Cover and bring to the boil.
2. Add the cabbage, replace the lid and bring back to the boil. As soon as it begins to bubble, remove the lid and cook for 2-3 minutes (though we found it took longer), stirring occasionally until there is just a little bit of liquid left. Tip the lot onto a tray/plate to cool down.
3. Once the cabbage has cooled, toss all the ingredients (including any remaining liquid) together and taste for seasoning: we added a splash of soy.
4. Scatter with crispy shallots, if using.
Duck Egg Curry
6 duck eggs
125ml light oil (we used groundnut)
4 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 bird’s eye chillies, sliced very small
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 thumb of ginger, washed but not peeled, finely chopped
1 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp curry powder
250 okra, trimmed and cut into thirds/halves
3 medium tomatoes, chopped large
1/2 tsp shrimp paste (or add some more salt if you want to keep it vegetarian)
1. Boil the duck eggs for 4-6 minutes, depending on size, then run them under cold water before carefully peeling.
2. Heat the oil in a wide saucepan and fry the shallots until they are a deep golden brown (5-8 minutes). Use a slotted spoon to transfer them on to kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.
3. Put the peeled eggs into the hot oil and lower the heat. Fry them for 3-4 minutes, turning them to brown on all sides, then put them on kitchen paper too.
4. Keeping the pan on medium heat, add the onions, turmeric, chillies, garlic and ginger and fry for a few minutes, until it all starts to soften, then stir in the tomato puree so that the onion is well covered in it. Cook for a minute or two before adding the curry powder and then stir that in well, too.
5. Add the okra, followed by the tomatoes, and give it all a good stir.
6. Dissolve the shrimp paste in 500ml of hot water, pour it into the pan and bring to a fast simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes, uncovered, then lower the eggs back into the pan, submerging them as much as possible. Put the lid on and simmer for another couple of minutes to warm the eggs through, then turn the heat off and rest for 3 minutes.
7. Serve sprinkled with the shallots, alongside the cabbage salad and rice.
Having eaten this for dinner on both Saturday and Sunday, we’ve commented a few times that we’d definitely make this again. It was both simple (with no hard-to-find ingredients) and tasty, which are pretty much our only criteria for making something again! We were slightly horrified by the amount of oil in the curry, and ended up skimming a few tablespoons out before adding the onions etc, but it didn’t taste greasy in the end. Other top tips would be: roll the duck eggs, which are a bit trickier to peel than hen eggs (especially when they’re soft boiled like these ones), to ensure the shells are well cracked before gently peeling them; you don’t need that many shallots (even used to garnish two dishes it was too much – although they are a tasty chef’s snack…), and you might want to decrease the number of chillies if you’re not as iron-stomached as we claim to be!
On a note completely unrelated to Myanmar but very related to Easter: I would totally recommend following this with a hollow Easter egg filled with chocolate Baileys.
Happy Easter everyone! See you next time for something Laotian!