Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a Southeastern Asian country that is found beside Thailand, Laos, China, Bangladesh, The Bay of Bengal, and Andaman Sea. The country is well known for following the Buddhism religion and its vast collection of pagodas (pictured below), there are over a whopping 10,000 throughout the country. Lesser known about Myanmar is the 130 ethnic groups that reside here. The government has sorted these groups into 8 ‘races’, Bamar making up 70% of the population. With the numerous ethnic groups there are over 60 languages spoken.
Burmese cuisine is as diverse as its ethnic groups going back to the longstanding agricultural practices and trades with neighboring countries. Traditionally when in Myanmar you would eat sitting on a bamboo mat and food would be served on a low table known as a daunglan. Staples of a Burmese kitchen include rice and rice noodles, fish and soy sauces, tomato, a large variety of warming spices, fresh and dried seafood, meats (beef is less likely), ginger, and an array of fresh vegetables to name a few. A phrase used to describe the food of Myanmar is “chin ngan sat” which means sour, salty, and spicy.
The dish we made for Myanmar is called shan noodles, a meal of noodles as the name implies with chicken or pork with a tomato-based sauce. It originated in Shan state which is located in the eastern part of the country and is often served at breakfast time. Sometimes you will find this meal served over broth.
I enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe and the ingredients. We always have rice noodles in our pantry since Asian cuisine is common in our weekly rotation. I prepared my dish with more of a chopped approach were as the original recipe recommended finer preparation (i.e. the peanuts and onions). This was easily made during the week.
This dish is all about balance- sweet to spicy and textures. The peanuts brought a great salty crunch. The ginger gave the dish a nice kick and we found the tomato sauce very unique. I would be curious how this would have been with a chicken broth, let us know in the comments if you have tried it in soup form. We rated our Myanmar meal 8.5/10.
A well balanced sweet and spicy noodle dish that is easy enough to make in your week night rotation.
Place the dried noodles in a bowl of cold water, bring a large pot of water to a boil and place the noodles in. Turn off the heat.
Heat the vegetable oil up in a wok or large fry pan. Fry the garlic, ginger, and onions for 6-8 minutes on medium/low heat.
Add chili powder and mix well. Then add chicken/pork, tomatoes, and tomato paste stirring to combine. Then add the soy sauce and sugar increasing heat to medium. Allow to cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The tomatoes should be crushed and juices released.
Drain the noodles and serve a "handful" sized amount for each person. Top with chicken/pork mixture and garnish generously with peanuts and scallions. Enjoy!
Bringing us to our 106th country is Malta, a small country situated in the central Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Sicily and North Africa. Prior to its’ independence in 1964 Malta was apart of the British Empire. Malta is approximately 121 sq miles with a population of just over 500k people spread across 3 islands. On the island Gozo there are ancient ruins that date back to 3,600 B.C, which is older than Stonehedge! The country is full of history and delicious food.
Maltese cuisine is influenced by several surrounding countries including Italy, Spain, Provence (France), and other countries of the Mediterranean. Since Malta is a small network of islands it relies on importing the majority of its goods and with its location the country receives goods from its’ neighboring countries. The national dish of Malta is rabbit stew or stuffat tal-fenek, but since there is no rabbit in the grocery stores we made another dish that is special to Malta.
The dish we will be making today is a Maltese omelet or as it is known in Malta as froġa tat-tarja. It shows its influence from the Italian frittati di pasta which has the core ingredients of egg, parmesan, and pasta. I was unable to find a back story to the dish but I believe a good possibility could be someone mixing together leftover ingredients and voila an inexpensive dish was born. The recipe I used as a guide can be found here.
Preparation didn’t take long, just simple cooking skills were required- I hope you all know how to cook pasta and beat eggs! I was able to get some farm fresh eggs from my coworkers farm, this makes all the difference. While the pasta was cooking I beat the eggs, cut the parsley, and grated the cheese. This meal a good one to try during the work week since it isn’t time consuming. Another bonus is the simplicity of ingredients which many have as staples in their home. One thing that was a little difficult for me was flipping the omelet. Due to its heft and my lack of flipping finesse I placed a plate on top of the skillet so that once I flipped it over it was on the plate and I slid it back to the skillet. The omelet wanted to break apart so make sure to take care when plating!
This was truly unique and was actually recommended by a fellow Instagramer who shares the same passion for food as I do. He is from Malta and said this was a dish we had to try! The flavors of the parsley, parmesan, and egg was nice and light however without sauce it was more on the dry side. With addition of classic tomato sauce it was like a crunchy spaghetti! Although it looked really pretty on the plate we rated it 6.25/10 on average. We appreciate trying a dish that is so different than the rest!
Welcome back to The Messy Aprons, a place where you can travel by taste buds! Today we are heading to Taiwan to try a fiery dish.
Taiwan is situated in the East China Sea south of Japan and South Korea, East of China. It is slightly larger than Maryland/ half the size of Scotland. Only 3% of the population is native to the region, the vast majority being Chinese. Because of this a lot of their culture is influenced by the Chinese. Taiwan sits in the “ring of fire” which makes it very prone to earthquakes. There is controversy over the current status of Taiwan and depending on who you ask the answer could differ. As far as I know some see Taiwan is independent from China, others say they are a providence of China and also referred to as The Republic of China. Nonetheless Taiwan is a beautiful place with unique buildings, wildlife, and noteworthy cuisine.
Taiwanese cuisine as some may have guessed has heavy Chinese and Japanese influence filled with the savory flavors of soy sauce, sesame oil, cilantro, and chili peppers (to name a few). As most countries do they take advantage of local resources such as seafood which is the primary protein of their diet. Rice often is at the root of the meal. Today I made a spicy noodle soup known as niu rou mian.
The dish has roots in China, however it was brought from China to Taiwan by refugees that fled China after the Chinese Civil War. Prior to this beef was not eaten on the island due to lack of resources and it was once illegal to kill cattle in China. Taiwan even has a saying that roughly translates to “don’t eat beef and dog and prosperity follows; eat beef and dog and hell is inevitable.”
So back to this dish.. this hearty yet spicy soup has a bone broth base (which was not included in this recipe- this cuts down the cook time) that gets its spice from several ingredients besides the chili bean sauce. Over time ingredients are added to form a savory soup that warms you inside and out. The recipe can be found here.
I did not have the rock sugar (substituted brown sugar) and I couldn’t snag chili bean paste in any of the local stores so I used leftover Thai chili sauce instead. This fast paced recipe over all had no mishaps, prepping ahead of time is always a way to prevent skipping steps as you go. Ian’s mouth was watering the whole time, he is a sucker for ramen-esque foods!
This was spicy enough to be noticeable, however the broth was insanely savory. The beef was nice and tender, but the bok choy should have chopped up finer. Like ramen eating this dish was a little tricky (we are not chop stick savvy) but found a big spoon helped us slurp it all down. We thought the dish was worthy of 8/10 average.