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Swe's Salad

Passport & Plate - Burmese Tamarind Leaf & Peanut Salad

Myanmar | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 5 photos

Roasted Peanuts
Peanut Oil
Tamarind Leaves
Chili Powder
Soy sauce
Chicken Powder


How to prepare this recipe
Blend peanuts in a blender.
Chop onions and fry them in oil, then add chopped garlic and tomato and peanuts.
Add chicken powder, salt, chili powder, soy sauce. Mix it all, then add chopped tamarind leaves.


The story behind this recipe
In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Myanmar and tour the ancient city of Bagan. My first day there, I walked by countless food stalls displaying dishes that were new to me. I must have looked incredibly curious because within minutes a soft-spoken gentleman in his early 40s approached me and began explaining what I was looking at.

“Burmese peanut salad, with fresh tamarind leaf”, he said.

It looked incredibly fresh and smelled tangy and sweet. He continued explaining the other dishes on display and before I knew it, I was getting a breakdown of a variety of local dishes and their preparation in detail.

His name was Swe and his English was really impressive.

Swe went on to suggest that all of these foods are best enjoyed under the cool shade of a tree, which in Bagan, Myanmar’s most arid region, are somewhat sparse. One thing led to another and before I knew it I was signing up for a picnic date with Swe and his associate.

The next day Swe picked me up in a mini van and for 30 minutes we bumped our way along dusty roads through fields of tall grass with ancient pagodas in sight all around us. We approached a clearing with a big shade-bearing tree and unloaded the van. He laid out a picnic blanket and meticulously placed all the dishes out ornately. Once everything was set, he began to describe all the meals and how they were prepared with a dignified sense of pride. What struck me most about this experience was how genuinely excited Swe was to show me “the Burmese way” of relaxing and enjoying a fresh meal. The detail in his presentation was lovely and every bite was a whirlwind of delight for my taste buds. But my favorite dish was what I remember as “Swe’s Salad”; tamarind leaves, peanuts, onions, garlic and a whole bunch of other mouth watering spices. I later researched the ingredients of this dish and in Burmese it is called “Maji-yweq Thouq”.

Swe was also curious to know about Panamanian and American foods (my mixed nationalities) and as we exchanged our tastes in different cuisines, I made a new friend.

One can be a tourist anywhere in the world, but when you are able to really learn about a person, place and ritual and relate to someone new with this kind of cultural exchange, it’s truly memorable.

I’ve since made this salad for my friends in Brooklyn, New York and it’s been a hit! But most importantly, it has a story.

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