Aug 6, 2012

Myanmar-style Tomato Salad

My husband, John, and I have been to Myanmar several times. The country has a plethora of interesting sites including Bagan, Mandalay and Lake Inle but it is beautiful Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal that draws us back year after year. Ngapali Beach is a 40-minute plane ride from Yangon, the former capital.

Ngapali Beach, lapped by the warm and gentle sea, is a long sandy stretch that is virtually deserted. We stay at Amazing Resort and even though we were skeptical about the name “Amazing” the resort is truly amazing. We usually stay in the middle room on the top floor of a two-story, six-room chalet with a porch perfect for watching the sunset on the Bay of Bengal. All the rooms have a bay view. The waters of the bay are warm with gentle waves. The beach is virtually deserted with soft sand that is perfect for walking or even bike riding.

One of the things that endears us to Myanmar is the kind, gentle people who are warm and welcoming. Also, due in part to international sanctions that limits foreign influence, they have retained their much of their culture. Most men and women still wear longyi, the long, wrap-around skirt that is perfect for Myanmar’s hot and humid weather. People often have yellowish-white paste called thanaka on their face. It protects them from the sun, absorbs moisture, and is a skin softener. Charger plates, pagoda-shaped serving dishes, and other items are beautiful, locally-made lacquer ware including the sink in our accommodation.

However there are some things we have to take into consideration. The internet does not work all the time and, when it does, sites like Yahoo are not easily accessible, but we have seen improvements. Plus, all transactions must be paid for in pristine US dollars without the slightest blemish. There are no ATMs and credit cards are not accepted.

There are no fast food chains in Myanmar but a chef quipped, “All Myanmar food is fast food. It takes very little time to prepare.” The food at Amazing Resorts is great and the staff is more than willing to share their recipes. Chicken Curry is one of my favorite Myanmar dishes. It is a thick, comforting stew usually served with rice and tomato salad. Even though the chef is willing to share his recipes often times the ingredients are nearly impossible to get in Central New York. However, the Tomato Salad is one of those recipes that is easy to make when I am home and lends itself to interesting variations. And, it is fast to prepare.

Tomato Salad- Rakhine-style
4 tomatoes, sliced julienne-style, remove seeds
1/2 red onion, sliced julienne-style
1/2 cup finely shredded cabbage (optional)
2 tbsp peanut powder (or finely minced peanuts)
1 tbsp peanut or sesame oil
2 tsp chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
4-6 leaves of lettuce

Options: This recipe can be spiced up a bit with a few finely sliced red chilies. Other ingredients can also be added such as diced chicken. In the Northeast portion of Myanmar, the Shan people make the salad using green tomatoes.
Just before serving mix all ingredients except the lettuce in a bowl and toss. Place 1/2 cup of the salad mix on a lettuce leaf and serve.