Despite of living in one of the Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia, and the fact that ten countries in Southeast Asia – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam are united under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or known as A.S.E.A.N, I have to admit that I haven’t tasted the popular food in some of the other Southeast Asian countries. So, I’m very excited to embark on another one of our kitchen journey to Myanmar or known as Burma.
Burma is bordered by India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. So, I guess you can imagine already how that geographic location has impacted the cooking in Burma. Burma is populated by myriad of ethnic minorities and that offers wide range of regional flavors as well. Burmese categorize their country into three different regions: Lower Burma, Middle Burma, and Upper Burma. Each region’s cuisine is also affected by its geographical location.
Mandalay is the second-largest city and the last royal capital of Burma. It is the economic hub of Upper Burma. Mandalay meeshay is a specialty of Mandalay. This noodle dish combines meat sauce with noodles and lots of garnishes on the side. There are several different type of meeshay, however, the most popular is the Mandalay meeshay, which is more elaborate compared to other meeshay.
What really stood out to me of this Mandalay meeshay was the addition of the cornstarch jelly as one of the garnishes for the meeshay, which was made by simply mixing cornstarch and water and cooked them until they turn translucent and jelly-like. I usually use cornstarch as thickener for sauces. So, this is definitely new to me, but in a good way. The cornstarch jelly just pick up the taste from all the sauces you put on the noodle. The star anise also really flavor up the noodle. One star anise definitely goes a long way and sometimes it can overwhelm the whole dish if you put too many, but this is a good balance. I like noodles with lots of “sides” and when you stir to combine everything before you eat, every ingredient work together to deliver you a wonderful meeshay!!!!! Recipe is adapted from The Food of Burma by Claudia Saw Lwin Robert.
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 star anise
- 4 Tbsp sliced onion
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 lb (450 g) lean pork, diced
- 1 small tomato, diced
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup cornstarch powder
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup beansprouts (blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds and then run through cold water)
- 9 oz (250 g) medium-thick rice noodles (soak for 2 minutes then boil until soft)
- 4 Tbsp fermented bean paste
- 4 tsp soy sauce
- 4 Tbsp fermented mustard leaves, chopped (substitute with Korean kim chee if you like)
- 4 Tbsp ground roasted peanuts
- 3 sprigs chopped coriander leaves
- 3 Tbsp red chili flakes
- Fish sauce
- Heat oil in pan and saute star anise for 2 minutes. Add onion and garlic to the oil and saute for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add pork, tomato and salt. Stir-fry for 5 minutes then add water, cover and cook over medium-low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Have a taste and add more salt if needed. Remove the star anise prior to serving
- Prepare the garnishes by mixing the cornstarch powder with 2 cups of water. Put them in a small saucepan and cook under medium to high heat until mixture becomes translucent jelly. Set aside. Blanch the beansprouts in boiling water for about 30 seconds
- To serve: Place 1 Tbsp beansprouts, 1 tsp fermented bean paste, ½ tsp soy sauce, ½ Tbsp fermented mustard leaves, ½ tsp of fish sauce and ½ tsp ground peanuts on each individual serving platter. Add the noodles in and stir everything to combine. Add in about 2-3 Tbsp of the meat sauce over the noodles and 1 Tbsp cornstarch jelly. Sprinkle fresh coriander, chili flakes and fish sauce over the noodles. Mix well just before you ready to eat. You can also have all the garnishes on the side and let your guests dress their own noodles