Rice cultivation has been practised for centuries in Myanmar (formerly Burma) owing to the presence of three major rivers, the Irrawaddy, the Chindwin and the Salween River, which have been an important source of irrigation throughout the central region and was a staple for early settlers. These rivers and the coastal areas also provided fish and shellfish as important protein in the early diets. In the forested highlands where the climate is dry and little arable land available, the people traditionally relied on a mixture of hunting, gathering, and dry-rice farming and practiced “slash-and-burn” cultivation.
With the colonisation by the British in the mid-19th century, and the incorporationof the country into British India, Indians arrived and established firm culinary traditions in the area. At the same time, Chinese settlers came, bringing their own influences on the cuisine. These are still evident today in the use of noodles and soy sauce and the making of curries, albeit less spicy than the Indian varieties. Thai influences can also be seen in the use of lemongrass, fish sauce and coconut.
A cross between Chinese and Thai food with some Indian influence is probably the best way to describe the cuisine of this land; richer than Chinese but not as spicy as Thai or Indian. The country’s major agricultural staple remains rice, which is servedat every meal, usually boiled. Beans, pulses and noodles are also frequently visitors to the table. Common ingredients are garlic, ginger, turmeric, chillies onions and shrimp paste.
Today’s recipe is a snack which is easy to make and can be altered to suit your taste. It could be used as part of a main course and although not strictly Burmese, it is delicious with a sweet chilli garlic dip.
What you need
225g cup split peas (I used chickpeas but other types could be used)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped, or ¼ teaspoon chilli powder (more if you like it spicy)
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp salt
Oil for deep frying
Sliced onion and lemon wedges to garnish
How to make it
Soak split peas in water overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
Drain, grind to a paste in blender or put twice through fine screen of mincer.
Mix remaining ingredients except the oil.
In your hands make small balls of mixture then flatten to about 10mm thickness.
Heat oil in deep frying pan or wok and fry the fritters one at a time until golden brown.
Drain on absorbent paper.
Serve garnished with sliced raw onion and lemon wedges.