The foundation of a Burmese food is, as
anywhere else in Asia, a meal of flawlessly prepared, steaming hot and
fluffy rice. This is delivered to the dinner table right before or after
guests are seated in order that it will be hot. The soup also is usually
steaming hot, but for the rest, the dishes are positioned on the table
in advance and most of the accompaniments are usually offered at room
A table set for a meal is a vibrant sight. Browns, greens, reds and
yellows feature in curries, veggies and accompaniments. The different
dishes served should complement or contrast. Simple soups with rich, as
well as oily curries or perhaps stronger soups with moderate dishes.
There will most likely alwaysbe one chili condiment, one raw salad of
leaves, fruit or vegetables, one soup, one, 2 or 3curries of meat, fish,
shrimps or eggs. Perhaps a bowl of lentils, a home-made pickle, and more
often than notthat Burmese favorite balachung. There is absolutely noset
rule regardingwhich dishes ought to beserved together, so a limitless
number of combinations may be possible.
The table is set with plates for the rice, bowls and porcelain spoons
for soup. It is customary to enjoya Burmese meal using thefingers, but
nowadays dessertspoons and forks will also beused. There are a few
Burmese meals, though, that really must be eaten using thefingers like
lethoke dish. In this instancea bowl of warm water, soupand also atowel
are put on a side table for hand washing before one is seated.
When one does start, it is courteous to begin with small portions.
Little rice initially, then one small helping from one of the dishes to
be mixed with the rice and tasted, after that something from another
dish, and so forth. Once all the dishes are already sampled, the choice
is made whether to stay with a particular dish or to mix different
tastes. Second or third helpings of rice are offered. It is quite in
order to ask for a dish which is not even considered. Spoonfuls of soup
are taken between mouthfuls of rice and curries.
After the meal, the hands are washed again. In Burma, warm water, soap
and towels are brought around by a servant. Fresh fruit or a cooling
sweet and cups of steaming hot tea follow.
There are specific Burmese meals where a one-dish specialty is included,
for instance moh hin gha, kaukswe, kyazan or htamin lethoke. They are
do-it-yourself specials where rice or noodles is dished up with a myriad
flavorsome accompaniments and you make your own masterpiece.
Whenever you sit down to this kind of meal, there's no assurance that
your food will taste just like the next person's. Actually, it's
extremely unlikely. You will help yourself from the same dishes, but
from there on, it becomes a no-holds-barred improvisation.
Do you want a lightseasoned meal? Or one so hot it brings tears to your
eyes? Is it pungent herbs and garlic that send you on a taste trip? With
a Burmese meal of this sort, you'll please yourself. Add a little of
this, a lot of that. There will be chopped fresh coriander leaf, garlic
slices fried crisp and golden, piquant tamarind liquid, hot chili powder
or fried whole chilies, brilliant red chili oil, rich brown fried
onions, sliced spring onions and nutty-flavored roasted chick-pea
powder. Depending on the proportions in which you add these, you'll
create a taste sensation made to order - just as you like it.
These are fun meals. If you feel you need help, it is considered quite
the thing to do as to ask someone if you can taste their meal or ask
them to taste yours and advise on what is needed, or even to mix your
portion for you....all delightfully informal.