After months of travel I have finally returned to my home kitchen. September saw me in Southern Florida and Thailand, while October moved me to Burma. November was an exploration of Thailand's Isaan region and a return to Laos, a country I visited and loved ten years prior. My last weeks in Asia were split between Taipei and Bangkok, two opposing but equally alluring cities. Finally, I spent the holidays in my native Maryland, holed up with family (save a night in Philadelphia to bankrupt myself at Vedge and V Street – worth every penny).
I'm trying to recount some of my favoured and most interesting dishes, and as usual my notes read like those of a drunk preschooler: "flavour of whatever it is...".
Myanmar is a salad-eating country, and among the most interesting is this simple yet flavourful concoction of pennywort leaves and a dressing typical of many Burmese dishes. Pennywort is a grassy and somewhat bitter leaf that my partner says reminds him of the smell of a florist shop. Not everyone will love it, but the flavour (which is balanced by the dressing) is unique enough to at least try it once.
In London you can find pennywort at Longdan Express supermarkets and many other Asian markets (such as those along Mare Street in Hackney). One 100 gram package will yield about 60 grams of leaves.
Ideally you will serve myin kwa ywet thoke, the Burmese name for pennywort salad, with a spread of other similarly sized dishes and a heaping mound of steamed rice for all.
Burmese Pennywort Salad (myin kwa ywet thoke)
This Burmese pennywort salad recipe, or myin kwa ywet thoke in Burmese, makes a single serving on its own, but it is meant to be served as part of a larger spread of Burmese dishes. The ingredients can easily be doubled and quantities are forgiving of inaccuracy – experiment and add more or less of the flavours you enjoy, but don’t skimp on the oil. If you don't have shallot oil, which is the oil left after deep frying shallots, simply use more garlic oil or toasted sesame oil.
- 30 grams (a good handful) pennywort leaves
- 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot, soaked in ice cold water for 10 minutes
- 1 teaspoon garlic oil with crispy garlic
- 1 teaspoon shallot oil
- 1 teaspoon crushed roasted peanuts
- ½ teaspoon thinly sliced garlic
- ½ teaspoon lime juice
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
- ½ - ¾ teaspoon Fermented bean paste
- ⅛ teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons fried shallots
- Salt or vegan fish sauce (optional, for extra flavour)
- Rinse the pennywort leaves and leave to mostly dry (or throw ‘em in a salad spinner). Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand (a technique utilised in Burmese salad-making), massaging the leaves until they are well coated with dressing.
- Author: Kip Dorrell
- Cuisine: Burmese