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Holy Snake Approved Roasted Eggplant Salad

Passport & Plate - Holy Snake Approved Roasted Eggplant Salad

Myanmar | Friday, 6 March 2015 | 7 photos

- 2 large eggplants
- 1 medium red onion
- 1 cup of toasted peanuts
- 2 table spoons of peanut oil
- 2 table spoons of sesame seeds
- salt
- wood charcoal (not briquettes and without igniting fluids)


How to prepare this recipe
1. Set the charcoal on fire, let it burn and then spread the coals.
2. Place both eggplants directly on top of the hot coals.
3. While they roast, peel and julienne the red onion as thin as humanly possible and set aside.
4. Keep an eye on the eggplants, keep rotating them once the bottom becomes burnt.
5. Toast the sesame seeds on medium heat with a sprinkle of sesame oil until they turn brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
6. Once the eggplants are blackened on all sides, remove them from the fire and let them cool.
7. Set aside about one third of the penuts. Coarsely grind the rest with a mortar or simply crunch them with the side of a knife.
8. Once cool, hold the eggplants by the stem and manually peel off the burnt pieces. Remove the stem.
9. Combine the peeled eggplants, sliced onions, crushed peanuts, two spoons of peanut oil and a dash of salt.
10. Mix until homogeneous and decorate with the whole peanuts and sesame seeds.


The story behind this recipe
After a hot morning in the summer heat riding bikes through the back roads of rural Bago, Myanmar, armed with only a hand drawn map dotted with scattered temples, we have finally found the temple that brought us to Bago in the first place. Legend tells of a holy snake that was once a wise monk but now grants wishes for money and eats mice. Inside the temple, a gigantic Burmese python laid on a bed littered with money, much like a scene from Indiana Jones.

Our offering was a crumbly $1 bill that was turned down by money exchange places before. We skeptically wished for "good things to come" as chances were something good would eventually come and that could be attributed to her holiness the snake, thus reaffirming it's mystical powers and most importantly, justifying our investment. Sure enough, good things came.

Stomachs growling, we asked around for a place to eat and were herded to a random house with a table outside, a pair of charcoal stoves and a wrinkly faced lady. Looking at us, she inquisitively opened her mouth and shoved an imaginary fork into it.

After a few smiles and nods, the chopping and grinding started. Two large eggplants were thrown straight into the charcoal fire, peanuts crushed on a mortar and onions sliced. She would eventually poke the coals, flip the eggplants, stir a big pot, shove away chickens and smile at us.

Along with a pot of rice, a bowl of raw vegetables and a chicken neck curry, we were served the most delicious and original dish we've eaten: a silky mix of smoky eggplant with crunchy peanuts, red onion slices and toasted sesame seeds. We ate it all and would have eaten more. This was exactly what we asked the holy snake for.

We later discovered the name of the dish: khyan dhi pope thote - a Myanmar salad usually made in the northern Shan state, where we headed next and took a cooking class specifically to learn how to make it.

We've since cooked it many times and became devouts of Bago's holy python.

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