Foodie Friday: The truth about Burmese Khowsuey

It’s been a month since I moved to Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), former capital of Myanmar (erstwhile Burma). Eager on quickly getting a hang of the local culture, I’ve insisted on learning the language, picking up a few local habits, and of course, eating at a local restaurant to sample Burmese food. But the cultural adventures are for another day. This is about my first taste of authentic and famous Burmese khowsuey.

I love khowsuey and if it’s being served at a party in India, I make sure I have a bowl. I love the noodles mixed with yellow coconut-based gravy, the cute toppings, and the taste of course. It’s a meal in itself and absolutely delicious. So when I sought khowsuey at a Burmese restaurant, I was in for a big surprise. This is what it looked like:

Burmese khowsuey dish

To start with, let’s get the word right

The correct pronunciation for khowsuey or khowshwe or khawoswe is khauk-swey (with the KH sound not too hard and the second ‘k’ almost silent). It should sound something like khow-sway when you say it quickly. (I’m going to spell it the popular Indian way to avoid confusion).

STOP PRESS: Khowsuey is not a Burmese dish. It’s an ingredient.

Noodles!

Burmese khowsuey noodles

Khowsuey means “noodles” in Burmese / Myanmar language, and this ingredient is versatile and used in a variety of dishes. It is cooked in a number of ways with different ingredients, depending on the region you’re in.

So, asking for khowsuey in a local restaurant is as specific as asking for say, paneer or rice in an Indian restaurant. Do you want paneer makhanwala, paneer tikka or paneer bhurji? Or would you like mutter pulao, mutton biryani or steamed rice? Like paneer and rice, khowsuey is the star of a variety of dishes, but all cooked differently. I’ve eaten khowsuey at a couple of restaurants in Yangon, and they’ve always looked and tasted different each time I ordered.

Burmese noodles can be shan-style, or coconut noodles, or served as mohinga (thin rice noodles in fish soup) etc. As for the yellow coconut gravy we have in India? Not spotted it in Yangon yet.

A mini-history lesson and a theory about Burmese khowsuey

I’ve been reading up on the history of Myanmar (history was never so interesting in school!), starting with the wonderful book The River of Lost Footsteps by Thant Myint-U and the history I’ve read so far has given me a theory of khowsuey captured the Indian palate. When the British came to Myanmar in the 19th century, they opened the floodgates to trade establishing the major port at Rangoon. Thousands of Indians came to Burma to earn a living, while keeping in touch with their families back home. So the Burmese khowsuey may have made its way to India from our migrant ancestors, anywhere from the late 19th century to the early 1960s.

Burmese khowsuey is one of those early “fusion” dishes that we Indians loved and re-invented, strongly influenced by Burmese and Indian culinary traditions. So yep, we Indians made our own version of it, like we did with Chinese food! 😀 And this is the khowsuey in India!

Indian style Burmese khowsuey

Khowsuey toppings are aplenty, and they’re for real.

The Myanmar people garnish their dishes with all sorts of toppings. They love adding roasted peanuts, green chillies, dehydrated onion, chopped garlic and dried shrimp to dishes (thankfully I don’t have a nut allergy). And these are some of the toppings you see at khowsuey counters across parties and weddings. The lemons and fried noodles might be an Indian introduction, and we’re using fried onions instead.

Here’s a Burmese noodle soup with pork.

Burmese Myanmar khowsuey

Enjoy your khowsuey!

Okay, so what if the “Indian” khowsuey” isn’t 100% authentic? It’s still yum, so I’m going to eat it when I get the chance. But if you’re visiting Myanmar anytime soon, you won’t get the Burmese khowsuey you’re used to. And that’s because it’s not authentic Burmese cuisine. Or Myanmar cuisine, as they now like to call it. Instead, try the local khowsuey dishes. You’ll love them- I did!

MONDAY MEAL: Gourmet biryani that’s fit for a king

It’s hard to believe that a biryani delivery service uses the very expensive and exotic saffron as a standard ingredient in their dishes. But I believe it, because I saw plenty of saffron at Biryani360’s kitchen in Bandra last week. A dozen glass bowls of soaked saffron strands lined the counter and aroma of the fragrant spice wafting through the office was quite a royal welcome!

A glimpse of their clean kitchen:

Biryani360 Bandra Mumbai kitchen

About Biryani360

Biryani360 is a newly-launched gourmet biryani delivery service in Mumbai. The owners claim the dish is made without preservatives, and is cooked and delivered the same day. So you get fresh biryani delivered to your doorstep, prepared with premium ingredients and whole spices (rather than the powdered form):

Biryani360 kitchen spices

First impressions

Biyani360 Mumbai pack

Biryani360 single pack

The biryani comes neatly packed in a cardboard box with machine-sealed packaging. A lot of effort has been put in to make your biryani meal a gourmet experience, from the quality of the cardboard box to the soft yet thick tissue that comes with the biryani. And of course, the biryani looks great too!

The True Taste Test (and Mom knows best!)

So does Biryani360 pass the Taste Test?

YES, with flying colours.

Biryani360 biryani dish

In just the first bite, I could feel the freshness of the biryani with the zing of the whole spices and the pleasantly thick yoghurt (brownie points for that right!). The uneven yellow-ness of the rice comes from the saffron and not artificial colours, so that’s comforting! And you may get a saffron strand or two in your biryani pack, like I did. Raisins were a surprise ingredient in my veg biryani, but they quickly turned out to be a pleasant one. That little burst of sweetness balances out the other spices that you experience.

While the flavours, textures and colours are a delicious mix, the almost-zero oil makes Biryani360 a hands-down winner. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been appalled by the sight of the shiny oil in the biryani delivered by “biryani centres” and local restaurants.

Biryani360 veg rice biryani

The best North Indian home cook in the world (my mom) also gave a thumbs-up to the veg biryani and yoghurt. She was already curious about when the Biryani360 guys would open kiosks in multiplexes and malls, or deliver to her place in town.

 

Why Biryani360 is cool

You only need to visit the Biryani360 website to know why the service is so cool. The website is a fun place, so read the FAQs and watch the video. Also, when you get your biryani pack, there’s lots to keep you interested and entertained and smiling! Take a look:

Biryani360 box pack

 

Biryani360 only offers veg and “unveg” biryani, with a serving of yoghurt. A single pack of veg or unveg biryani (serves one) is priced at Rs 360. Delivery is across Mumbai or you can order takeaway (they’re located very close to Bandra station). Visit https://www.biryani360.com/ to order.

#CCDSummerSlam’s delightful flavours and colours

If you’re bored of chugging down only nimbu pani or aam panna this summer, it’s time you tried the brand-new Summer Slam drinks at your friendly neighbourhood Café Coffee Day. #CCDSummerSlam is a range of ultimate summer refreshers- a mouth-watering (and colourful!) mix of chilled smoothies and slushes with some great flavours.

CCD Summer Slam drinks glasses

These delectable smoothies and slushes not only look good (fuchsia! canary! violet!), but several of them are winners- you’d want to have them again and again.

CCDSummer Slam drinks

There are some innovative drinks on the #CCDSummerSlam menu, the more unusual ones being Rasmalai Smoothie (a burst of sweet rasmalai in your mouth) and the Tropical Spice Slush (a fruity drink with a touch of jalapeño).

(Below: Mango Peach Smoothie and Rasmalai Smoothie)

Rasmalai Mango Peach smoothie

I sampled all these lovely drinks and here are my favourites. I took the liberty of naming their colours:

Pink Lemonade: My absolute favourite from them all! It’s a lemonade slush with the right amount of sweet touch of pink grapefruit. (Colour: Misty Rose)

Mango Peach Smoothie: True to its name, the drink’s a mango overload with hints of peach. A delicious combination! (Colour: Golden Yellow)

Strawberry Blast Slush: I’m partial to strawberries and this drink reminded me of the pink slush we had in our school canteen, but way better. (Colour: Hot Pink)

CCD Summer Slam pink lemonade

The Summer Slam range of beverages is available at all Café Coffee Day outlets across India.

5 must-have dishes to try in Singapore

My husband and I had an unforgettable five-day Singapore holiday last August. From Gardens by the Bay to Universal Studio, we enjoyed every moment of the trip. The husband (Mr S) went crazy about the food he got to try in the wonderful country- it was easy on the pocket, delicious and drastically different from what we get in India (me being vegetarian didn’t go as ballistic about the food).

And here’s a meme about Singaporean food I made:

Takeaway Level Singapore meme

Here are the top Singaporean dishes we loved (the non-vegetarian ones are obviously his picks). All pictures below are clicked by me in Singapore (except for the meme):

First… my favourite- Ice cream sandwich!

Yep- desserts first! When a friend told us about Singapore’s sandwich ice cream, I assumed he was talking about the sandwich we get in India- a slab of vanilla ice cream held between two chocolate biscuits. But the Singaporean ice cream sandwich actually had bread! So a large slice of a special (sweet) bread was wrapped around a ice cream slab of our choice (we chose chocolate chip). That sandwich is among the most interesting food experiences I’ve ever had. Yummmm!!!

Singapore icecream sandwich

Singapore icecream sandwich

Spiced Prawns

This dish was a relatively simple one- prawns were cooked with oil and spices and served with a spicy paste on a leaf. S commented that the prawns seemed super fresh and the spices were a delight. BTW, we had this at the Singapore Food Trails at Singapore Flyer.

Spiced prawns Singapore

Chilli Crab

When you’re in Singapore, you cannot miss the Chilli Crab- S tried this at one of the restaurants at Bugis. He opines that the huge helping of crab cannot be finished by one person, and the sweet-and-tangy sauce is a wonderful play on your taste buds.

Crispy Duck

The Singaporean version of fried chicken, this dish was succulent and had just the right texture. After drizzling the accompanying sauce on the bird, S declared it was the among best duck dishes he’d ever had.

Singapore food menu

Singapore Sling (a no-brainer)  

This famous cocktail is Singapore’s “national drink”. Made with gin and a fix of juices, we had this drink at a local Singapore bar during Happy Hours. Needless to say, we loved it!

PS- Discover Far More Singapore on this droolicious website.

Foodhall: Where I got started on my “diet”

It’s embarrassing to say this on a public platform (I REALLY shouldn’t be saying this), but I’ve put on a LOT of weight over the past few months. But since the past couple of week, I’ve been on a mission to eat healthy, since I believe that exercise is only part of healthy living, and most of your health comes from what you eat. I don’t believe in counting calories as such, but eating the right food at the right time. But hey, that doesn’t excuse munching on French fries or digging into chocolate cake.

Anyways I headed to Food Hall @ Palladium last week to shop, and they are running a healthy food festival this month—they’re calling it “100% Healthy”. The store is putting the spotlight on various healthy foods across cuisines and courses, and there was plenty to choose.

Foodhall Healthy Snacks 1

Hot from the pan

The live counter near the entrance was up and running when I came in, and I tasted the dips (hummus, kale and pine nut pesto, Greek dip) and whole wheat pancakes with maple syrup. There were sin-less desserts too, but I skipped those. Further down on the left, there were plenty of awesome healthy options laid out ready to tempt me.

Yes, you can eat healthy from a packet

The packaged snacks had the usual suspects of whole wheat and roasted snacks, but with some interesting additions thrown in. There were baked nachos (yay!) and the very interesting sweet potato and beetroot chips (not fried, of course!).

Nachos Healthy Snacks

Fresh food is always high on taste

And right opposite the packaged goodies counter, there was a delightful range of freshly-made food to take home. Salads, no-sugar desserts and fruits were the usual suspects in this range, but I also loved the idea of including sushi and dips in this spread. And there was a wide variety of cheeses, with helpful nuggets of information about them.

Sushi at Foodhall

Fruit Platters at Foodhall

In my shopping bag

After tasting the dips at the live counter, I chose the fat-free caramelized onion and balsamic dip, to be eaten with the baked nachos. And for my on-the-go snack, I chose sweet potato chips. I’ve been munching on them on and off, and they are great for curbing those crazy sugar cravings. As for the dip and baked nachos, I haven’t spotted a drop of oil in them. The dip stayed perfect in the fridge for three days, and I had the two as a between-meal snack. The caramelized onion was a tad sweet, but filling enough to satiate my hunger, and the nachos were crunchy.

Signing off now, time for my mid-afternoon snack. A healthy one, of course! 🙂

In Mumbai, Food Hall is at Palladium (Lower Parel, Level 3). Food Hall is also at Bengaluru, New Delhi, Pune and Gurgaon.

My Beautiful Food!

How cool is it to get a wonderful hamper of dishes that are great for baking, heating, serving and look great on the table? The team at Borosil sent me a set of dishes last week, soon after I wrote my blog post The Perfect Spanish Meal. So this blog post is all about the lovely Borosil dishes that came in the hamper. The yummy meal I cooked was second fiddle to the dishes.

Borosil is known for its oven-safe dishes (my mom and rest of the women in my family swear by their Borosil glassware). So the best way to showcase the dishes was to – of course – BAKE with them. I chose not one but two such dishes- my all-time favourite jacket potatoes and a baked version of my husband’s weakness- spaghetti!

Both dishes spent a good amount of time in the oven, and looked divine when I brought them out. Our table setting was a reminder of our memorable vacation in Italy last year, with the Firenze calendar, Tuscan wine… the works! 😉

To complement them, I tossed up a simple salad with a dressing I shook up (literally!) in a Borosil glass jar that came in the hamper. (The dressing is now safely frozen in that jar, since it is freezer-safe.) The cute squat glasses may be meant for juice but I froze jelly in them!

Anyways, here’s what we had on the table after a couple of hours slaving in the kitchen on a rainy Sunday morning.

TA-DA!!

Borosil beautiful food

Here’s the baked spaghetti with tomato pesto… Don’t miss the jelly in the background!

Baked spaghetti

Spaghetti dish

And cheesy jacket potatoes with baked beans. Drool much?

Jacket potatoes in Borosil

Baked potatoes with beans

And here are the salad greens and croutons with the Caesar-inspired dressing. I [heart] the freezable jar!

Lettuce salad with dressing

Lettuce salad

Now if this isn’t making your mouth water, wonder what is? Nevertheless, the star of the afternoon was Borosil, because I wouldn’t be able to cook without them. And they are attractive for serving too!

This blog post is a Round 2 entry for the Borosil My Beautiful Food contest. Check out their website— they’ve got oven- and microwave-proof glassware that’s excellent for cooking and serving. 🙂

The Perfect Spanish Meal

It was a very special evening two weekends ago. My husband and I had been married barely six months, and had finally settled down into a new home of our own. That Saturday evening was the first time close friends were coming over, and the husband and I had decided to make it Spanish night! Food, drinks, décor—it was all muy español!

The menu was a carefully-selected spread of quintessential Spanish dishes—in name, taste, falvours and aromas: an olive dip and the very famous patatas bravas for starters, an elaborate vegetable paella with mushrooms side dish for the main course. The drink of the evening was very special home-made Spanish sangria!

To start with, the potatoes had been roasted to perfection in my convection microwave for around 45 minutes. I topped them off with the right mix of herbs and a tomato-based sauce– true Spanish style! And voila, the patatas bravas were ready. The mild crunchiness of the potatoes, paired with the tanginess of the herbs and the sourness of the tomatoes were a potent combination in this dish. The olive dip may have been quick to make, but the results were mind-blowing. The mixed and mashed olives just melted in my mouth when I tried the dip with pita bread.

My home-made Spanish sangria is the most on-demand dish or drink at home. This special evening, the red wine of the sangria swirled in my mouth as the liquor-soaked fruits added the right amount of kick, and the refreshing mixers I used created a tasteful dance of sorts in my mouth.

My centre table looked beautiful when the first course was served- decked in a variety of colours, textures and aromas. The bright red of the patatas bravas was muted by the dull maroon of the sangria, while the moss green olive dip added another colour to the mix. Served on the Indigo melamine quarter plates and serving dishes, the primary colour circle was complete, and our small table was a feast for the eyes. While the sour olive dip balanced out the sweet sangria, the strong flavours of the patatas bravas tomato sauce made a delicious combination, exercising all possible taste buds on the tongue.

For the main course, the table had been set with a floral blue placemat set that I had bought in Spain that complemented the Indigo dinner plates and printed blue paper tissues. The brown rice paella had been slow-cooked with herbs, spices and beans with some vegetables, so the aroma of the bay leaf and cinnamon stick lingered in our dining area for a long time after serving. This was a contrast to the sharp garlic-and-fresh-herbs flavour of the mushrooms I had cooked in a jiffy. Together, the combination was pure gold! On the Borosil plate, the earth-toned mushrooms and brown rice seemed to be part of a rustic meal, but looked very inviting with the brightly-coloured veggies and the contrasting aromas. The raw flavours of the mushrooms worked in tandem with the lemon zest of the paella, while the red and yellow peppers added the Spanish flag colours to the plate. Gorgeous!

With sangria in our Endessa glasses, we began to eat. It was the perfect meal for a lovely monsoon evening.

This blog post is part of the My Beautiful Food contest sponsored by Borosil. Visit their lovely website My Borosil to check out their range.

Restaurant Inspiration: Palak (Spinach) Chaat

(Note: This is my first food post!)

The first time I went to Veda for a meal (a restaurant at Palladium in Mumbai), I ordered the palak (spinach) chaat. It was yum- a great fine dining touch to street food. Since then, it’s been a must-repeat dish for me, and while the restaurant’s food quality is inconsistent, this dish is always par excellence.

Last weekend, Indian street food was my “theme” for Sunday night dinner, so chaats were on my menu. After debating between the classic Papri Chaat (another restaurant special) and this one, I opted for the latter. And the result?

Ta-dah!

spinach or palak chaat- Indian street food

My palak chaat recipe is adapted from various sources. Family members provided the pakora recipe, while the toppings were inspired by the original restaurant dish.

As with all things fried, the hubby took charge of the slotted spoon while I did the rest. There’s something about frying I just don’t like, mostly to do with the copious amount of oil that is used!

Enjoy the chaat!

Ingredients for palak pakora:
1 cup gram flour (besan)
10 spinach leaves (stalks removed), washed thoroughly and dried
3/4 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1- 1.5 cups water
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Ingredients for chaat topping:
1 potato, boiled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 – 1 cup curd
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp red chilli powder
Handful of sev

Method:
Mix all the ingredients for the pakora to make a batter. Keep it aside. Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan.  While the oil gets warm, dip a spinach leaf in the batter until the leaf is fully coated. Check if the oil is hot by dropping a little batter into the oil- it should sizzle. Add the batter-coated spinach leaf and fry. Repeat this for the rest of the leaves. Place spinach pakoras on paper napkins to absorb the oil.

Making the chaat:
Arrange the pakoras on a large plate or tray. Top off each spinach pakora with some chopped potatoes, tomatoes and onions, curd, chaat masala, red chilli powder and sev.

Tips for making palak chaat:

  • When shopping for spinach, look for a bunch with small leaves so the pakoras are easier to handle.
  • You can use less curd and skip the tomatoes to let the crunchiness of the pakora come through.