How would I describe Burmese food? To me, it’s an eclectic combination of South East Asian flavours with a notable Indian & Chinese influence. Take today’s recipe as an example. Let Thok Sohn – Burmese Rainbow Salad is a wonderful mix of flavours and textures that exemplifies food from Myanmar – to many, still a very mysterious land, thanks to the tourist embargo that seemed to have lasted a life time!
Rice (T’ămìn) is a staple in Burmese cuisine, as in many other Asian countries, and is served with a variety of dishes – curry, soup, salad & condiments. For example, a typical meal would consist of a plate/bowl or rice, accompanied by some curry, a vegetable dish or two and some salad, with perhaps a dip on the side. Your senses will be assailed by the hot, sour, salty and sometimes bitter that characterises much of Myanmese food, that can quite often be found in a single salad!
Let Thok Sohn is such an example; it’s a yummy, carb lover’s idea of salad paradise! The name means “by hand”, that is, each diner makes his or her own selection and mixes it all up by hand. Sometimes also called Rainbow Salad, for obvious reasons. In Myanmar, you often find this being sold on roadsides in convenient little “to go” pouches. I have also on many occasions, been served this accompanied by some soup and meat side dish.
To me, it’s a great, exotic party salad that never ceases to impress – I love serving all the ingredients separately on a large platter and letting my guests help themselves to the ingredients that they fancy, be it a little more beansprouts, chilli or the dried shrimp floss!
There is a little leeway here with the salad ingredients, you could omit the odd ingredient here like the beansprouts and tofu and replace them with some lettuce leaves or green beans, really, to suit your taste. See suggestions below.
One ingredient that most people will have trouble finding will be the flat fermented soybean disc/cakes called be bhok, also used frequently in northern Thai cooking. In fact, I have yet to come across it it here in the UK. So, what I’ve always done is used a mixture of peanut butter & sesame oil as a substitute; the oil simply for coating the cellophane noodles.
Eaten at room temperature but you can make everything ahead & place it in the fridge for a couple of hours but I much prefer it at room temperature.
On a side note, my husband, who refuses to eat anything at room temperature and hates cold food, simple adores this!
INGREDIENTS (serves 4)
150g rice, uncooked weight, white is traditional
pinch/quarter tsp chilli powder (mild or hot, to taste)
pinch/quarter tsp ground turmeric
2 medium potatoes, peeled, boiled & sliced in thick rings or cubes
100g mung bean noodles (cellophane noodles)
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 carrots, peeled & shredded into large strips
2 handfuls shredded white cabbage
2 handfuls beansprouts, blanched for a minute, then drained
1 tofu slab, cubed and lightly fried
2 tbsp dried shrimp
2 handfuls unsalted roasted peanuts
3 tbsp chickpea flour, dry toasted in a frying pan for 5 minutes on medium heat
crispy fried shallots (homemade or shopbought)
1 large handful of coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, to taste), lightened with 1-2 tsp tasteless oil
chilli oil or chilli flakes
Sauce – to mix together
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp tamarind paste/sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
pinch palm sugar
Optional/Substitute salad ingredients
Boiled Eggs – I love quail’s eggs for aesthetic reasons!
Cooked egg noodles
Blanched green beans
1. Cook rice, the usual way, adding the chilli powder & ground turmeric with a pinch of salt. Leave to cool to room temperature.
2. Soak the cellophane noodles in hot water for 5-10 minutes until soft. Length of time depends on the temperature of the water; the hotter the water, the shorter the time. Drain well & toss with the sesame oil & leave aside.
3. Zap the dried shrimp, unsoaked, in a food processor, until you have floss consistency.
4. Time to serve! Get a huge platter.
5. Arrange all the salad ingredients as you see fit, look at picture (which is missing the cellophane noodles).
6. I like to place the roasted chickpea flour and dried shrimp floss separately in a bowl.
7. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, it may not taste great now but trust me, it will when mixed in!
8. Place your condiments in little bowls with spoons for your guests to help themselves to.
That’s it! You’ll find that when you go for seconds, you’ll naturally adjust everything to taste – if there’s any left!
Perfect on a hot summer day as a complete lunch or part of a party spread.
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