Why buy it?
Nested within three of Asia’s most gastronomically explored nations – China, Thailand and India – Burma’s lesser-known culinary terrain is given the floor in Naomi Duguid’s simply titled, Burma. Having co-authored six cookbooks, focusing on the food of the Indian sub-continent and China, Duguid is well-versed to lead us through the kitchens and market stalls of this fascinating country. More of a guided food tour and travel journal than a straight-up cookbook, the recipes in Burma are layered with the lively flavours and the warm humanity of this fascinating place and its people. Belying a country pockmarked by murderous politics, these dishes are animated with colour and spice, but it’s the symphony of texture that will see you reaching for your wok. There are salads scattered with crispy crackling, waxy peanuts and tender broccoli; chewy, sweet rice balls; and a bowl of coconut sauce noodles with soft egg and creamy soup topped with a crunchy jumble of noodles. Weaving the recipes into each other, Duguid positions them on her roadmap of Burma, signposted by eloquent tales of each place. From an encounter with an abrasive would-be tour guide to a starry evening with a monk in a rice field, and gathering leaves in a friend’s Rangoon garden, her experiences add extra depth and authenticity to the recipes, which have been harvested from the tip to toe of Burma. This is certainly one for both the cook and the traveller in you.
Simple and not too technical with mostly attainable ingredients. Flip to page 14 for ways to bring these recipes into your repertoire.
Magic rice balls. Gelatinous, chewy balls of rice dough concealing a palm sugar centre and topped with toasted coconut.
Most surprising dish
Chicken aloo. This usually Indian dish smashes up against Thai-style flavours, giving it a Burmese take. Cockle-warming and aromatic, it’s a perfect match.
Duguid quotes a friend who tells her that, “food is the last refuge”. It’s easy to see in these joyful dishes that the Burmese treasure each meal as a moment of pure pleasure, unimpeded by fear and hardships. So long as there is food to be eaten, it’s to be enjoyed.
Anyone embarking on a food tour of Burma, as there’s a lot of useful travel information in here, too. But this book is also for those who love to burrow down into the culture of a cuisine.
Burma: Rivers of Flavor, Naomi Duguid with photography by Richard Jung (Artisan, $55, hbk).
Don't miss Luke Nguyen's Greater Mekong on Thursday at 8pm on SBS ONE as he explores Myanmar.