Burmese Sweets

Burmese Sweets

Burmese meals do not include desserts, but fresh fruits in season are served after a meal. Between meals, however, sweets are eaten to satisfy a sweet tooth, or taken in the form of a cooking drink such as moh let saung. Then there is durian preserve - just as strong smelling as the fruit, and arousing as much passionate for and against discussion as the fruit itself, mango preserve, wild plums cooked in jaggery treacle and jaggery toffee.

Agar-agar is the base of many jelly preparations. They are generally much firmer than jellies served in the Western countries. The seaweed jelly are made by letting it drip through a jelly cloth all night (hurrying it at this stage would cloud the jelly). When finished it was cut into large diamond-shaped pieces as clear and golden as topaz with its texture soft like gelatin jellies, firm and crunchy.

There are also a number of cakes, fritters, doughnuts and steamed sponges made from finely ground rice flour and sweetened with jaggery. They may be served with jaggery treacle, freshly grated coconut, toasted sesame seeds and quite often a pinch of salt. The contrast is surprisingly pleasant. Unlike Indian sweetmeats, the Burmese specialties are only slightly sweet.

Most of them are prepared and sold by professional sweet makers, and each sweet maker specializes in only one variety. They are not made at home, for they require special equipment and hours of preparation. The very mention of moh sein boung (steamed sponge cake) is enough to make an expatriate Burmese go misty eyed. This is a beautiful light textured rice flour sponge steamed in a tall mould in two layers of white and brown. The brown portion gets its color from jaggery (palm sugar). Hawked through the streets at breakfast time, it is eaten off banana leaves with a sprinkle of grated coconut and mixture of crushed toasted sesame seeds and salt. Not very sweet or rich, but very satisfying.

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