Sunday, November 11, 2012

Burma, Burma, Burma and a little Smitten


"This is one of the most unusual and delicious dishes I have ever come across," writes Naomi Duguid in the preface to her recipe for Kachin pounded beef with herbs. 

And this is now one of the most unusual and delicious dishes I have ever come across, as well. I hadn't been madly in love with anything I'd cooked from Burma until Tuesday night, when I served the Kachin pounded beef. You need to make it. The recipe is here.

I'd never cooked meat this way before and you probably haven't either, which is part of the magic. Easy magic, though; don't be intimidated. You cut beef chuck into cubes, braise it, saute it, and then pound it to shreds in a mortar with ginger, garlic, Sichuan pepper, cilantro and salt (I recommend a bit more salt than she calls for.)  If you don't own a big, heavy mortar you could probably use a mallet and a cutting board to get the job done. As you pound you're simultaneously tenderizing the meat and pummeling zesty flavor into every morsel, a technique that makes our crude chunks and rectangles of pot roast and steak seem primitive.

I made Duguid's Mandalay carrot salad that same night, another recipe that entails pounding, but here it's carrot shreds that get the treatment. After you pound them with fish sauce and lime juice, you toss the tart, salty shreds with roasted peanuts, toasted chickpea powder (which makes everything mellow and starchy -- I adore this condiment), dried shrimp powder, and caramelized fried shallots.  Serve with rice. I have not cooked a better dinner in ages.

A few nights later, I made Duguid's silky Shan soup which was equally interesting to make and almost as fun to eat. I would call this "velvety porridge" rather than "silky soup" but whatever it's called, it's tasty. You mix chickpea flour with boiling water and cook until it's thick and shiny then pour this rich porridge over tender white vermicelli noodles and blanched greens. Serve in individual bowls and dress it up, congee style, with chile oil, shallot oil, roasted peanuts, cilantro and any other assertive garnishes that appeal.

I could eat this every day and lately do.
My kind of food.  I ate leftovers for lunch on Friday, for lunch and dinner on Saturday, and for breakfast this morning. I should tell you, though, that the reason there was so much left over was that no one else liked it. We don't have a tradition of savory porridge in this country and my family found it "too weird." I have to agree that the texture of this dish takes a little getting used to. It took me about 4 seconds.

On another subject, The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook landed 10 days ago. I admire Deb Perelman tremendously. I'm both jealous and in awe of the way she has kept that blog fueled, week in, week out, never missing a beat. It can't be easy. She is a pro and I had to own her book.

And I'm glad I do. Smitten Kitchen is both a supremely polished production and a labor of love. Really, the best kind of cookbook. While I'm not as charmed by Perelman's stories as some readers are, no one is going to force me to read them all. While I'm not personally drawn to 100% of the recipes, I know that they will all work perfectly. I can't wait to bake the S'more layer cake and the deepest dish apple pie and I have already tried her recipe for buttered popcorn cookies. These were so sweet-salty-buttery-delicious that my nephew Ben ate a dozen or so and then cried when he found out there were none left. I wanted to cry, too!

7 comments:

  1. We made the overnight cinnamon French toast from the SK cookbook and it was great.

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  2. Hi Jen. Ever tried “haleem”? Pakistani traditional dish with similar technique for the meat (in this case lamb); u pound it into a paste together with pulses and bulghur. Waiting for my break to start with Burma.

    Oz

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  3. I got through the breakfast chapter and I wanted to cook almost everything in it. I am looking forward to making the cheese buns but I keep telling myself I need to pick an occasion where I'm serving to to several people because I know if I make 12 buns for my husband and myself I will eat 6 of them.

    I was at a book signing for Deb. She seemed super nice but the line was so long I couldn't even stomach waiting in it.

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  4. I could eat the heck out of that porridge....

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  5. Just wanted to say hello & that I love your book! We've made several of the recipes, and right now our Canadian bacon is brining away;-)
    Peace,
    ~Michelle

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  6. where are you, Tipsy? MIss you.

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  7. Over ten days without an update - TIPSY THE TORTURER!!!

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