Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tart and Tangy Burmese Cole Slaw

As promised, here is the fantastically tasty Burmese cabbage salad recipe that I served with the Hainanese chicken. I found the recipe on this beautiful site, hsa*ba, which features dozens of Burmese recipes that I can’t wait to try out. Warning: do not view on an empty stomach!

This salad is so, so simple, and yet the combo of flavors is completely exotic and surprising. The twinned tartness of tamarind and limes in the dressing is offset by fish sauce (my favorite) and shallot and garlic-infused oil. The resulting slaw manages to be both bright and smoky at the same time. I could eat it every day.

Burmese Cole Slaw  (adapted from hsa*ba)
Serves 4-6 as a starter

1 head of savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons of tamarind liquid (I soak seedless tamarind pulp in warm water for 10 minutes. Then, because I’m too lazy to push it through a strainer as all my cookbooks recommend, I throw the whole thing into a blender. Seems to work).
2 limes
2 shallots (one for pickling and one for frying)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Tablespoon of shrimp floss (Mine was labeled "shrimp powder," but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing)
2 tablespoons of roasted, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped or crushed
Fish sauce to taste
Small handful of mint
Small handful of cilantro

1. Shred the cabbage finely.

2. Wash, dry, and chop the mint and cilantro (I cheated and used my food processor).

3. Slice one shallot lengthwise and soak in the juice of half a lime.

4. Slice the other shallot into paper-thin rings. Slice both cloves of garlic, also paper thin.

5. Heat the olive oil in a small(ish), heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the shallots and stir for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly brown, then add sliced garlic. Fry shallots and garlic until they turn crisp (about another minute and a half).

6. Remove shallots and garlic and set aside.

7. In a small bowl, combine shallot/garlic-infused oil, two tablespoons of tamarind liquid, juice from the remaining one and a half limes, and fish sauce to taste (I used a little over a tablespoon).

8. In a large bowl, place the shredded cabbage, chopped mint and cilantro, pickled shallots, crispy shallots and garlic, shrimp floss, and crushed peanuts.

9. Toss well with dressing just before serving.

Variations: A chopped Serrano pepper would add some welcome heat to the dressing. Some halved cherry tomatoes might be nice in this salad as well.

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