There are some great vegetable-only dishes in Burma, although sometimes – usually when you’re faced with a buffet of mystery meat curries – it feels as though they’re in hiding, which is a shame, because Burmese markets are just stuffed with beautiful fruit and vegetables…
The following dish became one of my favourites – which was fortunate, because it’s served almost everywhere. Most of Burma’s tomatoes seem to be grown in Lake Inle’s floating gardens – giving them a terribly picturesque start in life – before being trucked to markets around the country, where they lie in vast heaps, waiting to make it into your k’ayàn-jin-dhì thouq.*
Ripe tomatoes are mixed with smashed up peanuts, sliced shallots, hot peppers and coriander (cilantro), then doused in lime juice and garlicky oil. In some places it comes topped with crispy deep-fried garlic or shallots, and it lends itself to fridge-freestyling – go wild…
Burmese Tomato Salad
From the market
2-4 shallots (depending on size – mine were on the small side)
a handful of fresh coriander/cilantro, roughly chopped
80g unsalted peanuts (shelled weight)
From the cupboard
1 tbsp chili garlic oil (see cook’s notes below)
If your peanuts are still in their shells, roll up your sleeves and shell the little suckers, then remove as much of the papery skin as you can be bothered to. Heat some oil in a pan and fry until they’re just starting to colour. Drain and leave to cool in a bowl – my peanuts kept sizzling and darkened a little further even when they’d been removed from the pan.
Peel each shallot and chop in half, then slice finely. Place all the slices into a bowl of cold water for 10mins or so to get rid of the worst of the onioniness.
Slice the tomatoes into segments – I got six to eight from each of the small tomatoes.
Take half the peanuts and chop or pound into small pieces. I used the end of a rolling pin and a bowl to do this, but you could use a pestle and mortar if you’re fancy like that. Drain the shallots and mix with the tomatoes, coriander/cilantro and peanuts, then squeeze lime juice over everything and add the chilli garlic oil. Give it all a good stir and add salt to taste – if you’re using flavourless tomatoes like the ones we often get here in Hong Kong, then you can add a little sugar too, to ramp up the flavour.
- I make my own chilli garlic oil by pouring olive oil over peeled garlic and whole chillis, then leaving it to infuse for a week or two. It tastes amazing, but I’ll forgive you if that’s too much to be bothering with. For an almost-instant replacement, slice two cloves of garlic and a dried chilli, and sizzle in two tablespoons of olive oil for a minute or two, then leave it to cool while you prep the rest of the salad.
- Serve this as an accompaniment to a South-East Asian meal, eat it with plain rice or a crusty bread roll, or eat straight from the mixing bowl while you lean against your kitchen counter [ahem].