More akin to polenta than tofu, Burmese tofu is a naturally vegan, sturdy non-coagulated cousin of soya tofu that is made from gram (besan) flour. This dish originated from the Shan state of Myanmar and is popular throughout the country today. This yellow tofu can be made with or without turmeric, and in this recipe is left to cool and set into a block.
Use the tofu in salads, either as is or deep fried. When fried, it is an excellent bar type snack with a sweet and sour tamarind dipping sauce. Right off the hob, while still hot, the silky mixture can be made into a thick noodle soup (my favourite breakfast in the Thai-Shan town of Mae Hong Son).
The difference between gram flour and chickpea flour
Confusion is in abundance with regards to the various forms of chickpea flour. This recipe utilises gram flour, also known as besan, which is comprised of finely ground chana dal. Chana dal are hulled and split kala chana, also known as Bengal gram. Kala chana are different than the chickpea variety that probably originated in the Middle East, the type we use to make hummus or that are otherwise known as garbanzo beans.
So, in short, the chickpea flour used to make dishes like farinata and socca is not the same as the gram flour in this recipe. Both are technically made from chickpeas, only from different varieties. This might seem confusing given how little categorical consistency even well known chefs maintain (ditto Western cookbook authors) when discussing recipes containing chickpea flour. If food authorities are mixing this up, it is no surprise that most English food and recipe website resources do the same.
Shan Burmese Chickpea (chana dal) tofu from Myanmar
- 115 grams besan/gram flour
- 8 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ⅛ teaspoon MSG (optional)
- 5 millilitres (1 teaspoon) vegetable or peanut oil, plus extra to grease dish
- 600-700 millilitres water, divided
- Grease a small rectangular heat proof dish.
- Whisk the flour, salt, MSG, and turmeric together in a medium sized bowl. Add 300 millilitres of the water as well as the oil and whisk into a uniform slurry. Try to get as many lumps out as possible, but a few baby lumps are fine.
- Bring the remaining 300-400 millilitres of water to the boil in a medium saucepan and pour the flour slurry in, whisking the whole time. Continue to whisk for about a minute before turning the heat down to medium. At this point the mixture will thicken considerably. You may wish to switch to a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula for stirring.
- Keep stirring for between 5-7 minutes. The contents of the saucepan will have a consistency not dissimilar to cooked polenta and will develop a slight sheen. Pour into the greased pan and leave to cool for 1 hour before refrigerating.
- Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least one hour before use, but overnight will yield the most firm texture.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Serves: 2-3 in a salad
- Cuisine: Burmese